” I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living”, Harvey Milk
The question I ask in the title is one that has intrigued me for several decades. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to this vexing issue. But, I would like to speculate about this for a wee bit as it is an unexplored area of research in the fibromyalgia domain.
Many research studies, from Sweden to the UK and the US, suggest that gay men’s brains are symmetrical to those of straight women. In particular, a Swedish study published in the National Academy of Sciences Journal suggests there is little dispute about this finding; although whether or not it is genetic, occurs in the womb, the result of sex hormones, or environmental factors remains controversial.
The studies have mainly focused on the similarities in the area of the brain responsible for storing emotions, such as anxiety. That area is called the amygdala, an almond-shaped structure found in each brain hemisphere. The amygdala directs the rest of the brain in response to emotional stimuli; that is, the ‘fight or flight’ stimuli (read other blogs where I discuss this in more detail). It is the part of the brain involved in ‘emotional learning’.
As these findings are becoming more common in the science community —that is, that gay men and straight women have similiar responses to such emotions as anxiety, and also likely a high degree of empathy—it seems to me, that I can make this postulate: Since I believe that fibromyalgia is the result of an overstimulated nervous system brought about by social (and subsequently physical) conditions of hypersensitive persons, mostly women, then it would follow that other marginalized groups would also be greatly susceptible to this condition, particularly those who have similar brain structures as women, that is, gay men. Obviously I cannot be certain of this claim, in particular since I have not heard from many gay men with fibromyalgia. However, the relationships I have just outlined lead me to consider, as I often do, the difficult lives that most gay men live in a homophobic society, especially if they are hypersensitive men, which can then predispose them to fibromyalgia. This also means that children, lesbians and heterosexual men who are highly sensitive are equally at risk for developing this condition. My main point here is the vexing question: are gay men more prone to fibromyalgia than heterosexual men?
I recently heard from a young gay man with fibromyalgia who relates his difficult life situation. Both his parents and those of his partner do not accept their relationship and are homophobic. After a car accident he developed fibromyalgia. His searches for help are numerous. Many of us have been there: naturopath, family physician, specialists of every kind, massage therapist… his list seems endless. Is he, like many of us, searching for someone who can cure us when in fact, the cause is primarily societal and political in nature and of course, biological, since pain is in the brain? These are the issues that distress me as I read sad fibromyalgia tales, but I refuse to live a life without hope because “without it, life is not worth living”.