Being In The Closet Can Make You Awesome And Awful

New studies are lending support to the “Best Little Boy in the World” hypothesis, first set forth by Andrew Tobias in 1973. While you may not know the name of this phenomenon, there’s a good chance you’ve seen it at play in your friends or even yourself.

The “Best Little Boy” hypothesis maintains that young, closeted gay men overcompensate and overachieve to hide or “make up” for their sexuality. These young men focus on one or more areas of their lives and throw themselves into it. They may be the goody-two-shoes in high school, the kid with straight As who reminds the teacher to assign homework for the weekend. They may be the one on the baseball team who keeps racking up home runs. They may be the one at work who stays an hour late every day. They may be the students going to law or medical school who rarely emerge from their native habitat, the library.

Doctors John Pachankis and Mark Hatzenbuehler surveyed gay, bisexual, and heterosexual college students under the age of 29 to collect their data. They found that the gay and bi guys they spoke with derived more of their self-worth from their physical appearance, academics, and competition than straight men. In a world that still shuns homosexuals, some of these men are using success feel worthy or deflect questions about their personal life.

Deflection could be another common trend among these men. After all, busy students and hard workers rarely have the time to date. It becomes very easy to shrug when your mother asks about you finding a girlfriend and say you simply don’t have the time. It’s a plausible excuse, and delays an uncomfortable conversation for yet another day.

What are the results of this behavior? It’s a mixed bag. These “Best Little Boys” are often very successful, and this success often manifests itself in some real, tangible things: desirable college degrees, well-paying jobs, nice houses and cars. However, it comes at the cost of social development. At times when other men may have been making friends or dating, these men were busy working, striving, and covering up. It is also worth remembering that coming out is associated with some fantastic mental health benefits that these men are being denied.

Next time you see one of these Best Little Boys, go over and say hi. You may not change his world, but he may need a friend.

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