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Is the gay scene destroying your self-esteem?

By Will Stroude

Let’s Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs – Worth

My hairline is severely receding on one side. I first noticed when I saw a picture of myself on Facebook two years ago, when I was 27, and since then I’ve always worn my hair down and strewn to the right. Although this year it’s become noticeable on the left side too, and overall my hair is thinning, I’d like to say I’ve learnt not to overdwell on it, but in fact sometimes it fixates my thoughts with stress and anxiety.

The weirdest thing is I’ve tried to pretend to others it isn’t happening. This carefully styled pretence made me terrified of the elements: getting caught in a rainstorm, windy days, going swimming with friends on holiday, or any environment that’s too friendly to perspiration. I went to a notoriously sweaty gay club once when a guy whipped off my hat, grimaced at my mess of tangled strands, said “you look better with it on”, then walked off.

That’s when you begin spending internet time researching creams, pills and cheap hair transplant operations in Istanbul. The loss is so gradual though, you can’t accurately measure it yourself. Until I met up with somebody I hadn’t seen for six months. He immediately scanned my head, and said “you look different” with an air of disappointment, as if I’d failed in my one duty in life: to look attractive for his benefit.

Since I began writing gay journalism I’ve stayed true to the opinion that the gay scene’s ribald vanity and narcissism is psychologically unhealthy. But it’s easy to hold a scathing moral superiority until you realise you’re prisoner to your own Narcissisus complex, swirled up with a generous dose of Peter Pan-ism. Because somewhere in my seven years on the scene, my sense of self-worth became indistinguishable from my sexual attractiveness.

gay-sex-and-drugs-1 jpeg

Few men have approached me in a bar wanting to discover my life aspirations. We expect that sex is the currency of gay culture; Grindr its religious pinnacle. And I cannot claim myself blameless: with the majority of those many men I’ve taken home, I might be able to dredge you up an approximation of how big their cock was or how their ass felt, but I can tell you nothing about what they thought, what they dreamed or they feared.

This thinking block follows its saddest path, perhaps, when you do find a relationship. Because then you struggle to understand that he could want you for more than how you look. Simple signs of intimacy, like him running his fingers through your hair, are suddenly fraught with paranoia. I’d spend an inordinate amount of time agonising in the bathroom mirror after a shower, trying to ensure my treacherous forehead was concealed.

Of course, an obsession with the exterior is not the preserve of the gays: vulture-like gossip writers caw over their female celebrity carrion. However, I feel these issues find their raw intensification within the gay microcosm. And occasionally there’s truth in paranoia: some gay guys don’t want boyfriends, they want perfect Ken Dolls to be shown off to their friends. The full spectrum of complex human emotion needn’t be included in the transaction, thanks.

Perhaps it’s not surprising then that sometimes it wasn’t clear whether the guys on the chillout scene were desperate for a cock, a hole or an ear. Guys would bring out their photo albums, they’d pour out their heartbreak, describe in dazzling passion their ambitions, if you’d listen. Sometimes it was sad: when he begged you to call him your boy. And sometimes it was dark: when he revealed being the teenage victim of rape.


Gay men have gone through a fucking lot and anybody who claims otherwise is trollingly naive. But we strap these shackles of the external onto one another. Anything less than the adonis Tom Daley physique is Not Good Enough. I know many handsome and brilliant bald men. Yet with every hair that falls onto my keyboard I can’t shake off this absurd feeling that I’m losing what is loveable about myself, so that what looms is a future of alcoholic loneliness.

I’m not mentally strong enough to finish this piece saying something inspiring like “I’ll never get a hair transplant.” Existentially speaking, if life is meaningless anyway then why not make myself more meaninglessly happy for my brief candle of time. The fear is that one operation begins a cyclical avalanche of cosmetic procedures ever trying to replace the ‘validation’ that age takes away. I can finish though with an insightful quote, from the late, great Quentin Crisp:

“Ask not if there is anything outside you want, but whether there is anything inside that you have not yet unpacked.”

We live in a culture where how we present ourselves is very important, whether in real life or on an Instagram selfie. But a sense of true worth can never be found solely in how you look.

Words – Patrick Cash

Let’s Talk About Gay Sex & Drugs – Worth’ is on Thursday 7th April at Ku Klub, 30 Lisle Street, Chinatown, WC2H 7BA, from 6.30pm. Free entry, and all welcome, whether to speak or listen. Featured speakers on the night will include:

William de Coverly


Will is a London-based actor and writer. Having attended a number of these evenings in the past this will be Will’s first time speaking at the event and this month’s theme has particular resonance. Diagnosed with BPD a few years ago, Will has personal experience with the struggles associated with creating a strong sense of ‘self’ and ‘self-worth’. Along with addressing these themes over the years regarding his own personal journey, Will’s talk will also address the seeming relation and comparison these have for others within the gay community, drawing from his own experiences, observations and research.

Jason Jones


Human Rights defender from Trinidad & Tobago.

Growing up in the 70’s on a small Caribbean island and a former colony of Britain, has made me aware of the great disparity between those of us protected by human rights and others who don’t even know what their human rights are. When you are born into a culture  that is riddled with dehumanising historical context, slavery, indentured labour, colonial domination and racism, where does that citizen find their human rights or respect for the human rights of others?

40 Countries that are former British Colonies, still criminalise their citizens using colonial era legislation. That equates to over 174 MILLION LGBT Commonwealth citizens! I am here in London, the heart of the Commonwealth, to fight to end this disgraceful criminalising of myself and fellow Countrymen.

Crystal Lubrikunt


Crystal Lubrikunt, the standout Brighton drag performer turn international lip sync assassin storms stages left, right, and centre! From London, to Birmingham, Ireland to New York City! She’ll be moving her lips and making you move your hips and empowering people of all walks of life to be your own boss and be true to yourself. Having worked with notable figures in the industry, off of RuPaul’s Drag Race and even Madonna! She has quite the resume but fear not, she means and brings nothing but love through her drag, her ferocity and her stage presence.

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