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


127 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-2654-4
DDC 362.282'086'64209714




Reviewed by John Stanley

John Stanley is a senior policy advisor in the Corporate Policy Branch
Management Board Secretariat, Government of Ontario.


While many psychologists identify depression as a major cause of
suicide, Dorais identifies its cause among young gay men as a response
to an external phenomenon: the homophobia that creates an overwhelming
guilt in gay youth just for being who they are. Exhaustion and
hopelessness, not psychological or mental dysfunction, appear as the
primary causes of suicide among young gay men.

Most minority youth find protection from discriminatory behaviour not
only from within their families and communities, but also through the
law. However, the typical refuges for young people, such as family or
school, have become sites of stigmatization and shame for young gays.
Harassment and ostracism impel some young gay men to try to end the
external pain through suicide.

The study is based on data and cases from Quebec. The initial sample
consisted of 32 men who had attempted suicide at least once between the
ages of 14 and 25. Twenty-four self-identified as homosexual and eight
identified as heterosexual. While the number of cases collected is too
small to be considered statistically valid, the story that arises from
this information is powerful: most boys are socialized to believe that
being gay is the worst thing that could ever happen to them.

Gay adults have improved their situation immeasurably in the last few
decades, but gay youth are still marginalized and their problems
unaddressed. Dorais’s recommendations are simple and straightforward:
end the isolation of young gays and remove shame by demonstrating social
acceptance while addressing stigmatization by ensuring full respect for
human diversity in schools and society.

Based on a study in French (Mort ou Fif, Montreal 2000), and ably
translated by Pierre Tremblay, this hard-hitting work amply demonstrates
that intolerance kills. It should be required reading for all those
working in the education and counselling fields.


Dorais, Michel, with Simon L. Lajeunesse., “Dead Boys Can't Dance: Sexual Orientation, Masculinity, and Suicide,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 14, 2024,