By Ian Howley | @IanHowley

It’s not easy to sit down and plan out an article to do with alcohol and gay men. Why? Well, who wants to be told they are drinking too much or too often? Not me. I like a drink just as much as the next person. But there comes a time in every writer's career when you have to tackle your own hypocritical behaviour and address an issue that you’d prefer not to talk about. We as a community need to stay focused, in a chemsex world, and keep an eye on the legal drug that most of us abuse.

What’s the problem with alcohol?

A few years ago, Stonewall released a major LGBT health report. In it they found that gay men not only drink more than our straight buddies but more often too. I hold my hand up to that. I probably do drink more than my straight friends and more often (can I blame it on being Irish?), and if you’re honest you’d probably admit the same thing. So why do we drink so much? Here are six reasons:

One: When you think of the words ‘gay community’ what comes to mind? Pubs, clubs, drag queens, alcohol, shirtless men dancing, sex... to name a few. It’s not false to say much of our community is linked to alcohol. Straight people do not grow up in a world where their identities are closely linked to pubs and clubs.

As gay men growing up we know that if we want to meet people like us (in real life) then we have to go to a gay bar. It’s like a rite of passage. Every gay man can tell you about their first time in a gay bar. And that’s a problem. When your identity, community and first experience of meeting other gay men is so linked to alcohol, how do you escape it? It’s pretty hard.

Two: We never really leave the club. As straight men get older they are far more likely to settle down, have kids and step away from the pub and clubbing scene. But for us, even if we do manage to settle down with a loved one, we still find time on a Wednesday night for a drag show and some wine.

Three: Our dating habits mainly involve alcohol. Think about it. You spend days chatting to this guy on Tinder, and he suggests you meet up after work. What do you do? “How about a drink?” you suggest. Suddenly it’s 1am, you’re shitfaced and snogging the face off him. How many times a month does that happen?

Four: Escapism. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and pretend that some gay men don’t use alcohol as a way to escape bad feelings in their lives. Many of us grow up in a hostile environment where your sexuality may cause you a lot of internal grief. You’ve basically had to deal with your sexuality on your own. You’ve never really talked about those feeling with anyone. Maybe you’ve dealt with depression and suicidal thoughts. Maybe you’ve dealt with a lot of family issues as a result of your sexuality. Maybe it’s the breakdown of your marriage, civil partnership or long term relationship. Whatever your issue is, we’ve learnt that alcohol can be an easy way to escape. You feel down so you open a bottle of wine, get hammered and head to the nearest hook-up from Grindr.

Five: A crutch. Meeting guys can be difficult and lots of us need a bit of Dutch courage before we go and say hi to the cute guy in the corner. Or how about getting off your trolley because you want to go into the darkroom at your local club, but you’re scared, so you drink to forget those feelings and then head in? Or what about the time you wanted to go out by yourself because you have the next day off, but the idea of going to a club by yourself is scary so you pre-game at home, get wasted and end up at the club fairly hammered and become a hot mess?

Six: Because it’s fun. Let’s not get all serious here. The reason why many of us drink alcohol is because it’s fun to do. It can make us funnier, happier, relaxed, the life and soul of the party. And when you’re young, carefree and have limited responsibilities the idea of checking your alcohol intake is just... boring.

However, something that’s a major part of our community needs to be checked every now and again. We need to stand back and say, guys, are we abusing alcohol too much? And if so... how can we make it better? Talking about the issue of alcohol doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking, it just means you become more aware of how much you drink and whether it’s affecting your health, relationships, work, sex and sexual health