Dead Boys Can't Dance

Dead Boys Can't Dance: Sexual Orientation, Masculinity, and Suicide

MICHEL DORAIS
WITH SIMON L. LAJEUNESSE
TRANSLATED BY PIERRE TREMBLAY
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 136
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt812d8
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  • Book Info
    Dead Boys Can't Dance
    Book Description:

    Dorais and Lajeunesse analyse the adverse ways being stigmatized as homosexual affects personality and behaviour, discerning four types of reaction: the 'perfect boy,' whose perfectionism and asexuality are an attempt to minimize the difference between how he is perceived and what he is supposed to be; the 'chameleon,' who attempts to keep everyone from suspecting his secret but constantly feels like an impostor; the 'token fag,' who serves as a scapegoat to his peers, especially at school, and suffers a consequent rejection and lack of self-esteem; and the 'rebel,' who actively rejects any stigma based on his sexual orientation and non-conformity. They show that those who are heterosexual but suspected of being homosexual are most at risk of suicide and make recommendations for suicide prevention.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7165-5
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    Nicholas had for years been the target for hurtful homophobic comments by classmates without anyone at school ever intervening. As a model student, he never complained about the situation. Other boys did not consider him masculine enough, and the talk was that he was “a fag.” One day as his class was passing the school’s swimming pool, some boys threw him in, fully clothed. Everyone including the teacher had a good laugh. Nicholas was humiliated and distressed, and the event became the final straw. The next day he killed himself by jumping from the top of the village’s railway bridge....

  4. 1 What This Book Is About
    (pp. 8-14)

    It is important at the outset to define the concepts used in this study of suicide attempts by adolescent and young men identified as homosexual by themselves and/or by others.Contextshere refers to the life situations of suicidal individuals, andmotivesrefers to the factor(s) inciting them to act. The termsuicide attemptrefers to the behaviours that individuals have used deliberately to end their lives.

    The volunteer study sample consists of young men (of eighteen to thirty-five years of age) who attempted suicide one or more times between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five years inclusively. In all...

  5. 2 Social Factors and Suicide
    (pp. 15-26)

    What could be more personal than suicide? We can easily imagine an individual, alone and depressed, who takes his own life in some secluded location. Although the psychological nature of this act is undeniable, we have placed our study in a broader sociological context. In fact, we postulate that it is possible that suicide can be better understood and prevented if the problem is primarily constructed as a social phenomenon. Even though suicide is by definition a personal act, the individual who attempts it or the one who completes the attempt does not act in isolation from the contexts and...

  6. 3 The Young Men Studied
    (pp. 27-32)

    Who are our study subjects? First, they are volunteers, and in most cases their decision to contact us occurred in response to our advertisement for “volunteers” in newspapers and on bulletin boards of community organizations. Many respondees were refused because they did not meet the selection criteria. They were to be male, eighteen to thirty-five years of age when interviewed, and they were to have attempted suicide between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five years. In addition, their suicide attempts were to have resulted in their receiving physical and/or psychological care, and two years were to have elapsed since the...

  7. 4 Two Profiles, Four Scenarios
    (pp. 33-49)

    The young homosexual males in our study form two subgroups:early-identifiedandlater-identifiedboys. The early-identified males were pegged as homosexual between the ages of six and fourteen. In these cases, peers and other individuals had presumed they were homosexual on the basis of physical and psychological male stereotypes, such as not being good in sports and especially being “feminine.” These males did not know exactly how they began to be identified as homosexual. Their stories also reveal, with respect to homosexuality issues, that intolerance reigns supreme in elementary schools, thus indicating that boys become conscious of such “differences” at...

  8. 5 Life Situations
    (pp. 50-73)

    Four life situations played major roles in the problems that study subjects experienced around their sexual orientation, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts. These include the family, schools, social environments where these young men were growing up, and social representations of homosexuality, especially in the media.

    All homosexual respondents reported always having anticipated reprimands by members of their immediate or extended family. The repeated messages related to homosexuality heard since early childhood caused them to believe that homosexuality is the worst thing that could ever happen to anyone, and especially to a member of their family. This belief provokes the fear...

  9. 6 Isolation, Shame, and Stigmatization
    (pp. 74-82)

    So far we have looked at the day-to-day risks, misfortunes, and traumatic events experienced by the twenty-four young homosexual men in our study. One important question asked of respondents related specifically to the circumstances leading to their suicide attempts. Two life situations were significant, and the more important was the exhaustion and hopelessness linked to the psychological (and sometimes physical) isolation most of them experienced. This followed the pattern of sensing themselves to be “different” from others from an early age, feeling the social inducement of shame in relation to their “difference,” and fearing the real or anticipated stigmatization associated...

  10. 7 Resiliency Factors
    (pp. 83-89)

    Not all young men discovering their homosexual orientation want to kill themselves. In an effort to advance our understanding of why some individuals manage to cope with apparently similar life situations without crises, we interviewed young gay men who had never considered suicide. When their situations were compared to those of young men who had attempted suicide, two differences became apparent. Firstly, the degree of isolation, the inducement to feel shame, and the amount of ostracism experienced all play a role in the coping behaviours of young homosexual males. Those who sought to end their lives had become more psychologically...

  11. 8 Recommendations for Suicide Prevention
    (pp. 90-105)

    All efforts towards the prevention of suicide must identify the risk factors to be tackled and eliminated or at least minimized. Resilience or protective factors must also be identified, with the objective of creating them or, if they are already in existence, making them more effective. Although significant advances have recently been made with respect to suicide, it seems that self-identified young gay males and males identified (correctly or incorrectly) by others as homosexual have been neglected in prevention efforts. Helping these young men will require specific measures, often unique to them, and the expansion of general precepts to be...

  12. 9 Challenging Homophobia to Prevent Suicide: Mission Possible
    (pp. 106-114)

    The responses to the first publication of this study at the end of 2000 surpassed all expectations. There were hundreds of media interviews and invitations to speak in schools and to community groups and diverse organizations in French Canada and Europe. Presentations were made at local, national, and international gatherings and conferences. We were astonished at the general public’s acceptance of the topic of young gay men who have attempted suicide. Yet not all the responses were positive.

    Some suicidologists have vehemently resisted the proposed link between homophobia (internalized by homosexually oriented youth or manifested by their environment) and suicidality...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 115-120)
  14. Index
    (pp. 121-128)