Term 'gay' can inhibit young men


HOMOPHOBIC LANGUAGE is used a means of control not just against gay people but also those who are straight, a conference was told yesterday.

Swedish anthropologist Felicia Garcia, who spent four years studying men in a Cork community affected by suicide, said such terms as “gay” and “homo” inhibit young men from expressing their feelings.

She lived with a group of men for two years and said those expressions were used on a daily basis to mean everything from using an umbrella when it rains to eating a salad or anything that is nutritious.

Such expressions are used to target heterosexual rather than gay people. “The boundaries of sexuality and homosexuality are being policed on a day-to-day basis. It helps socialise people into narrow identities which will further shape their lives,” she told a conference organised by the department of anthropology in NUI Maynooth, the only department in Ireland for the subject.

The term was used as a joke, she explained, but it served to inhibit young men from talking openly about their feelings.

Ms Garcia told the conference that men from gangs she had interviewed in Venezuela were more open to talking about their feelings than the young Irish men she had talked to.

Ms Garcia studied an area which included suburbs of Cork city and also Midleton where 34 suicides in three years brought international attention to the town. Young men are most at risk from suicide and have suicide rates four times higher than women.

Young Irish men internalise the belief that they are untrained to cope with stressful situations and they also suffer from the perception that women are mentally the stronger sex, she maintained.

Also speaking at the conference, Susan Kenny from the National Office for Suicide Prevention said they hoped to bring forward a mental health awareness campaign to the summer months because there is a spike in suicide numbers during June and July.