8 Ways Plants are Teaching Gay Men to Live Mindfully & Care for Themselves Without Judgment
I was recently eyeing up the plant section in a store and reflecting on the relationship some gay men have with plants.
From a young age I was drawn to keeping and caring for houseplants, and knew that this somehow set me apart from a lot of the other kids I knew.
Then as I grew older and my relationship with plants continued to grow, I began to notice that I wasn’t the only one. I realized that gay men who loved plants and gardening seemed to be a “thing,” and that there was something about the relationship which made it unique.
In the last few years I’ve noticed that other people are talking more about this relationship too. You might even be familiar with the term “plant gay” to describe gay men who love plants.
So it’s clear that some gay men have a special relationship with plants, but what exactly is happening in this relationship, and what might be the benefits? Below I’ve listed some of the unique ways that gay men can benefit from plants.
1. Plants teach us about nurturance and care
Sadly, a lot of gay men grew up not getting the level of nurturance and care that they needed to develop a solid sense of self-worth.
When we’ve been made to feel that we don’t have worth, it’s less likely that we’ll internalize the belief that we deserve to be treated with love, care, kindness, and respect. As a result, we may have difficulty caring for and nurturing ourselves.
Caring for plants gives us an opportunity to experience what it’s like to be in a relationship of care and nurturance. The act of caring for something can help us become more aware of the parts of ourselves which may not have been nurtured in the past that we can start nurturing now.
2. Plants affirm the sensitive and caring parts of ourselves
When I’m counselling gay men, they’ll regularly tell me that as children, their caring and sensitive qualities were rejected by family or classmates for being “too feminine.” This rejection can contribute to gay men feeling ashamed about these parts of themselves, even as adults.
But plants require the sensitive and caring attention that some might deem “too feminine” for men. In this way, plants affirm these qualities because they show us that being sensitive and caring are an important part of surviving and thriving.
3. Research suggests that plants are good for our mental health
A number of studies indicate that plants are good for our overall mental health. This is particularly relevant for gay men.
Because gay men are more likely to face mental health challenges, their mental health may be more likely to benefit from plants.
Research suggests that these are some of the mental health benefits plants can offer:
✅ Reduced anxiety and stress.
✅ Decreased depression.
✅ Greater happiness / life satisfaction.
✅ Increased creativity.
✅ Enhanced productivity and attention.
✅ Improved self-esteem.
4. Plants remind us that it’s okay to have needs
Plants can remind us that it’s okay to have needs, and show very clearly what happens when needs aren’t met.
They remind us that like them, most of us need to be watered, fed, and get enough sunlight, or we can start to wilt physically, mentally, and emotionally.
This is a critical reminder for gay men because many gay men grew up with the message that their needs were not important.
5. Plants educate us about the complexities of care
Plants show us that it’s okay to be different. Just like people, different plants will have different needs and require different levels of care.
Because of these differences we may also make mistakes about how to take care of a specific plant. This provides an opportunity to reflect on how understanding our needs may be a journey that takes time, and will include mistakes.
6. Plants offer lessons in self-compassion
Did you lose a plant or make some other mistake? Good news, this is an opportunity to practice self-compassion.
Plants offer a low-barrier entry into practicing self-compassion because mistakes are usually minor, and there’s often an opportunity to try again.
This can be a welcome lesson for gay men who have not been treated compassionately by others, and then understandably have difficulty practicing self-compassion.
7. Caring for plants promotes mindfulness
The act of slowing down and shifting our focus toward noticing the specific needs of plants is an excellent practice in mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be especially important for gay men, because many gay men place a high expectation on how productive they feel they should be. Mindfulness helps to change this pattern.
If I feel my mind getting scattered and want to refocus and slow down, I’ve found that even spending a few minutes walking around and tending to houseplants can help shift me into a more relaxed and mindful state.
8. Plants provide a safe and nonjudgmental relationship
Although the care of some plants can be more complex than others, the relationship with a plant is safe and nonjudgmental.
This can be a welcome reprieve for gay men who have experienced judgment and safety concerns with other people throughout their lives.
Plants: an ally to gay men
Plants ultimately allow us to connect with something that lets us be ourselves while benefiting our mental health. They’re truly the silent and beautiful allies of the natural world.
If you enjoyed this article, please share so that more gay men can learn how to live mindfully, and care for themselves without judgment.