We all know the gay stereotypes right? The sensitive guy so in touch with his feelings that he connects more with women? The emotionally fragile guy who gets into the arts (bonus points if they’re into theater and show tunes)? The ones who cry or get upset and offended really easily?
Frankly, my experience with others has shown these stereotypes very true — including among yours truly. I’m certainly not saying that all gay or SSA (same-sex attracted) people are like this, as I’m sure there are some exceptions out there — though, admittedly, I have yet to meet them.
All my life, I have been very emotionally sensitive. Yes, my feelings get hurt very easily. From my blog drawings, yes, I’m an artsy type. I am a big follower of the arts and into movies and theater. Yes, I cry and get upset and offended easily.
Boom, boom, boom, and I fit the stereotype! Go me!
I guess this is inevitable as an INFP. I’m definitely on the “feeling” side rather than the “thinking” side. I don’t just feel; I DEEPLY feel.
Basically, the phrase “don’t take it personally” is not in my emotional vocabulary. Oh, how I wish it were. If I ask a friend to hang out and they say they can’t because they have perfectly understandable reasons, I still feel the sting.
Oh, I’ll completely understand intellectually why they can’t hang out. But my emotional side won’t want anything to do with it. It pretty much goes like this:
I’ve often felt it better to avoid any of the pain rather than take the risk of asking friends to hang out, even if there’s a chance they’ll say yes. It just . . . stings . . . if they say no.
The sad thing is, I really do want to be more socially proactive and involved. Taking the initiative, however, is just so emotionally draining, no matter what. I really can’t help it.
When I do socialize, even in the best social outings, I often leave feeling very exhausted and drained.
My fear of rejection lingers over me like a heavy haze, and it’s not just born out of insecurity. I have gone through long stretches where I did take the leap asking other guys to hang out. The responses I got were often . . . silence. Met with great indifference, flakiness, or as I’ve previously blogged about, flat-out rejection.
Of course, I’m not going to act like everyone but sensitive gay/SSA guys are fine with rejection, but it can be a knife to my heart, taking me weeks to recover.
No one likes it when other people get mad at you. I’ve always assumed most people take that in stride quite easily; I cannot. If someone gets mad and scolds me, it leaves me feeling terrible for the rest of the day and for days and even weeks afterward. It’s very hard to recover from.
Once rejection happens, it completely zaps me of energy and I’m pretty much dead for a long time.
I’ve often felt great shame over being highly sensitive. I thought I was the only guy who cried or got his feelings hurt so easily while the other men took life’s unpleasantness in masculine stride.
In the past year-and-a-half, I’ve been making friends with other men in this community, and I find I click with them much easier because they are often as sensitive as I am. That can be a good and bad thing.
On the one hand, I can relate to these men and click with them so much easier, showing and receiving empathy and affection from them; on the other, I often have to be careful what I say and how I interact with them.
Many times, I’ve unintentionally hurt others’ feelings by things I’ve done or said. It’s gotten to points where even I’m like, “Really?! You were hurt by that?! Seriously, get a grip!”
So, why does God inflict such a pain on me? I long for relationships and community, but reaching out to others is like walking barefoot across a field of gravel — for others, maybe more like a field of sand. Why does he have to make finding the simple pleasures of life so hard to get to?
Believe it or not, I see some pros to my sensitivity.
Joy #1 as a Highly Sensitive Man: Empathy
As already mentioned, I’ve enjoyed the connections made with other SSA/gay men. Since we have similar temperaments, we intuitively GET each other so much more easily.
It’s not simply because we have similar stories with sexuality; we get each other emotionally.
Whenever other guys tell me their stories, I can just feel their pain. And thus, I know how to comfort them and empathize deeply. I don’t even need to think about it; I just feel.
Joy #2 as a Highly Sensitive Man: Art
My deep sensitivity also often leads to my being a more effective artist. Creating a piece of art does require a bit of thinking in terms of execution and getting the technicals down. At the same time, though, it also requires pure emotion to get the feeling across strongly.
Art is something you can’t just think about; you have to intuitively feel it. Others have told me that my art strongly conveys my feelings and emotions.
Joy #3 as a Highly Sensitive Man: God
Lastly, I feel like my sensitivity helps me maintain a strong connection to God. No, I’m not saying that folks who are deep feelers have a closer connection to God than folks who are thinkers. I’ve had times on my own, off in a quiet place, where I can simply feel the presence of God.
It’s hard to explain. Just seems like the connection is easier at times.
So, yes, being sensitive is a blessing and a curse. Does the good outweigh the bad? I’d say so. It keeps life interesting and less bland, at least. I do thank God for my sensitivity — even with the hardships that come with it.
To those of you reading who can relate, you are not alone! Yes, there is hurt, but there is so much joy at the same time. It’s just a balance of keeping the good and bad in check.
Are you a highly sensitive person? How have you interacted with other highly sensitive SSA/gay men? How do you handle the harder aspects of your male sensitivity, and what blessings has your sensitivity given you?
I’m like never the 1st guy leaving a comment but I’m thinking if you’re the sensitive type, that there’s no comments isn’t good. Gosh, maybe that makes me sensitive too.:)
It’s a good post Eugene. Usually I’m not offended easily because whatever someone thinks badly of me, i know myself well enough to know it’s usually worse, just not what they’re thinking. Where sensitivity trips me up is when it gets me self-focused and self-centered. But sensitivity directed outward to others and to God, man, I wish I was moreso. Isn’t another word for that awareness, and discernment?
Following Jesus has meant learning to not be so sensitive about myself and what others say or do to me, bad and good. Isn’t the point that we get out of our own heads and out of ourselves, lose our self and find what it is to live in Christ? The sensitivity that can plague me is a prison. Live free in Christ.
That last paragraph sums it up perfectly! SO very true. We are to live for Christ and overcome the crippling obstacles that the bad side effects of sensitivity can do to us. While embracing the good side too of course.
Ah, Eugene, Eugene. We deep-feelers are the heart that the world so desperately needs. But I am a paradox of sorts. Because I am both a highly-sensitive person AND a deep thinker. I instinctively feel. I instinctively think. Through some management assessments at work, I learned that I am a DC on the DiSC profile, while at the same time Harmony is one of my top 5 strengths in the Strengths Finder assessment.
What does this all mean?
Basically, that I am a no-nonsense person who likes to get things done, but at the same time I am trying to maintain good feelings and harmony with everyone in the process.
You talk about emotionally exhausting!
I love deeply, and I believe deeply. And I’m intensely loyal. That’s just me, and there is no sense in apologizing for it.
That’s interesting. I’d say I’m something of a deep thinker too. Or at least I feel like I have a massive intuition that really guides me through my interactions and friendships with people Sometimes I feel a relationship is working great and other times I feel its on rocky territory. But that’s great you have all that Kirk, it all sounds great. Can be such gifts!
You expressed yourself so eloquently! I can see those traits in you as shared in the last sentence!
I ~resonate~ with this more than I’m comfortable admitting. Initiative is so hard for me. Especially with other guys. Especially OSA ones. Especially ones I find attractive, strong, superior, etc. It’s rough. Hoping to build some confidence as I talk things out in counseling for the first time, but I do believe we have a lot to offer this world of men. Sensitivity is a strength. The ability to empathize. To be emotionally available. I believe this now more than ever.
Also I can’t wait to see how Matt responds to this post. 🙂
Timing’s everything. . .
Uh oh, should I be scared about what Matt has to say? lol
But yeah I’m so glad it resonates with you! So true, the more attractive a guy is the more hurt I can feel from a rejection. Superficial yes, but true. But its important to use it as a strength and as an advantage.
Amen Tom…I too see sensitivity as a strength and the ability to empathize, to be emotionally available as you so wonderfully stated. God has brought me through some rough times in life so He could teach me some of these very things…and I am still learning. We live in a cold, cruel world at times…and having compassion, empathy etc. are really beautiful things that allow people to get a glimpse of Jesus, I think.
I am usually very calm and remain in control over my emotions (I love to laugh however). I cry with those who cry. I get angry with someone who is angry. I try to be a voice of reason to the irrational. I listen and offer my opinion when warranted. I am usually very even with my emotions – until the topic of David comes up. It’s been about three years since the memory came back, and only now am I not hysterical about his dying. My therapist calls it ‘onset post traumatic stress disorder’. Last Monday was the anniversary of his death, and I spent most of that day sobbing. I’m fine today, yet this could happen anytime and triggered by anything (Back to the Future, birthday cake, cello, Baptist, whatever).
I’m not crazy, and am usually pretty calm. I can sense the tension when my friends try not to trigger me (Back to the
Future was a weird one). After 34 years you would think this would be over; but then again I didn’t start to grieve till September of 2016, a very long time. So why do I get to be the voice of reason when others are falling apart, when I just want to scream too?
That sounds similar to me. Its like I can still deeply feel but have adamant control over them .I’ve met other sensitive guys that completely go crazy and do very bad things for themselves like withdrawling.
I love the way you break down the joy and strength you’ve seen in being sensitive! God gave us a gift–it’s there for us to enjoy and make use of. I feel like one aspect of my emotional sensitivity that’s been a strength is that it leads me into deeper and fuller friendships.
I certainly feel more emotionally sensitive than the average man in the broader US culture I’m a part of, but within the YOB community I actually feel like I’m on the low end of the spectrum. Which is fine! It’s just been a funny shift in experience.
Also, as long as you keep posting art I will keep saying I love your art. I hope we see more YOB comic strips! I feel like there’s a ton of untapped potential there!
Yeah you’re exactly right Ryan. It definitely leads me to deeper friendships as well which I have enjoyed immensely. Maybe I’m more on the moderate end of the sensitivity scale, or at least I have a much better ability to control it. I’ve met guys who will go completely into irrational hysterics when they feel like they’ve been wronged.
And thank you very much! I’ve enjoyed making the drawings for my blogs. And yeah a YOB comic strip would be cool. Bit of work on my end by I’d enjoy making it.
Interesting. So you see yourself more sensitive than the straight world but noticeably less so in the gay/SSA one? Very fascinating shift, indeed. You should blog about that, yo.
Oh, I don’t think it’s so much that I turn off the sensitivity around non-straight community but rather that where I fall relative to everyone else is different. Like how I might be tall in one country but short in another.
I definitely relate to what you are saying in this blog. I never thought of it this way and it has helped to open my eyes to my personality. The main things that resonate with me are rejection, and also spending time with God( mainly praise and worship)
Hey Mannie C! I’m glad you could relate to it all. Its always good to know that other people struggle with similar things and that its not like just you going through it all like you’re some strange anomaly.
Yes! To realize others feel the same way is great because it takes me out a place of isolation. I will also say this has helped me to verbalize a lot of my feelings/perspective on things.
Yes I am more sensitive than the average man. I do feel joy and emotional pain more intensely, but God has helped me to be self disciplined enough to not let that disable me. I still reach out to people even though it hurts when they reject me. I may feel terrible but I will be outwardly calm and rational.
I do have some straight male friends who are sensitive. One of them was telling me how hurt he was when a girl rejected him. He asked her why and the answer hurt even more: “You are not enough of a leader. I want an alpha male…”
I was glad to show him empathy when he said that. One blessing of sensitivity is being able to help others who are hurting!
Hey Marshall, that’s so true that its very important to be able to be self disciplined to not let sensitivity disable you. I do try my hardest for my own sake too but its VERY hard. Like I’ve mentioned in other comments, I’ve met many other super sensitive SSA guys who let it disable them and they respond in very irrational and self harming ways.
Yikes, that would hurt me immensely too if I were your straight friend. Honestly though, I think it would show that she was an incredibly shallow person to begin with who would probably make a terrible gf. But yeah, I know there are straight men out there who are sensitive. I just haven’t met any though.
And yes, I feel like I can be such a soft presence to those who are hurting. That can be such a great gift so I would say super sensitivity can be a greater gift than curse.
This hits me exactly. I think for me, sensitivity often manifests as either fear or clinginess in relationships. I fear to tell people I want to spend time with them because they may view me as clingy. Or I do get genuinely clingy in a desperate attempt to try and take the relationship further than it has organically formed. I want a Level 10 friendship when the other person is only at level 1 or 2. I suppose that comes from losing friends and wanting to know early on if the other person is actually going to stick around. Let’s force relationship to be super deep… right now!
[…] “The Joys and Sorrows of a Highly Sensitive Man” by Eugene […]
Eugene, I can relate to this post quite well! Thank you for sharing both the good and bad of being so sensitive. When I was a teenager, I either heard or read this truth that has stuck with me since: “You aren’t too sensitive. You are as sensitive as you are supposed to be. You must learn how to channel your sensitivity for the good of others and yourself”. This truth has been immensely helpful to me. As with other areas of life, I find the emotions/desires I have are generally good (at least at the core), they simply need harnessed to truth and acted on in a way that is honoring to God.
One difference I see between us is that I am an initiator, but I still feel the pain of rejection when friends say “No”, even when it is valid (as your comic humorously portrays!).
I find that my sensitivity frequently makes me a safe person for others to talk to. As a health care provider, this is an asset! It amazes me how much different a person can respond to you if you listen and enter in to their journey. There are many. many people who are aching to be heard.
Thank you for sharing part of your experience Eugene!
[…] being sensitive can be a very hard thing, especially when we live in a society where men are told to hide their feelings. When people are […]
I like this A LOT! Thank you, Eugene!
Personally, I am not a sensitive gay. In fact, some have accused me of being too insensitive. I respond to situations using cold, hard logic. This has caused me a lot of grief in life, probably as much grief as your sensitivity has.
Though I am not sensitive, many of my gay friends are (not all though, there’s an even 50/50 split between emotional gays and ones that are logic based like me.) I often respond to my sensitive friends like you do sometimes, “ Really?! You were hurt by that?! Seriously, get a grip!” That’s totally me, but because I’m insensitive I actually vocalize that thought, sometimes just as bluntly, other times more tactful.
When my sensitive brothers are getting hysterical about a thing I’ll often ask them questions like, “why does that matter?” or “what upsets you the most about that?” and my favorite, “who F’n cares!? F’ em!” Ha! Savage, I know, but effective in helping my brothers re-center their emotions. At the same time, their sensitivity helps thaw my icy heart. We need both types of people. I value the sensitive men in my life.
At one time I sought help for my SSA with a Side X ministry. Their explanation of why men become homosexual is based on a sensitive vs “rough and tumble” dichotomy. They posit that all gay men are extremely sensitive, and it is this sensitivity that gives rise to SSA. Something about that explanation didn’t sit well with me. It doesn’t describe my life experience with other gay men. It may describe a portion of the gay men I know, but not all of us.
The more I thought about this supposed dichotomy, I noticed that some straight men in my life are very sensitive, too. Sensitive straight men may express it differently than a gay man would, but the emotions behind the sensitivity are the same. I started taking note of the straight men in my life that I considered more sensitive than the average man. One thing I learned is that ALL of them are enneagram 9’s. Many of them are artistic, like my brother who is straight with kids and can be a total cry baby about the littlest things.
Another example is my close straight friend that is the picture perfect man’s man, but yet he cries when he loses a basketball game. He’s almost 30 years old!
I guess the point I’m trying to make is, perhaps we are all sensitive, gay and straight. Every human is deeply sensitive. There is no dichotomy, there’s only different ways of expressing our sensitivity. Some people bury their sensitive parts as a way to protect themselves, others let the sensitivity rise to the surface. For those men that are able to let sensitivity rise, also comes beautiful creativity and profound emotional intelligence. I shutter to think what the world would be like without sensitive men!
When is your book coming Eugene