What is Internalized Homophobia? – McCulley
“I’d kill him,” he said. This was someone talking about their son, if he came out as gay. He was drunk, and he was in high school, but so was everyone else. “Not kidding. I would kill him,” you could tell even through the slurred words that he meant it. Of course, he didn’t have a son, and maybe his opinion has changed since then — but it’s hard to believe this line of thinking came from nowhere.
I grew up in a town just south of Denver. A rich, affluent part of the country leaning right. I heard statements with similar sentiment to the one above often enough to hate myself for being gay.
It’s a weird feeling to harbor hate for yourself. I did it long before I even knew who I was. I remember getting into an argument with one of my friends about whether or not being gay was a choice in the 8thgrade. Long before I believed it was possible that I was gay I argued that being gay was a choice. “So you could chose to be gay?” he asked. “Yes.” It should have been the first red flag — but at the time it was something I really believed. I was choosing to be straight. I had it engrained in my head that was the superior way to be. When, years later I came to terms with the fact that I was gay, that same engraving hadn’t just faded — I felt inferior. For years.
For years I felt, and sometimes still feel, like less of a man. It’s nonsense, and every logical part of my brain knows now that it isn’t true, but humans aren’t robots. I can’t just wipe away the feelings, and the line of thinking I experienced for years during my childhood and early adolescence.
Coming out to my friends was a struggle — even though I knew they would still accept me. They’re some of the most loving people I’ve met in my entire life. I was always blessed with amazing friends who have supported me in everything I’ve done.
Coming out to my parents wasn’t so easy. I’d heard them make questionable remarks about gay people — but nothing seriously homophobic. I’d heard my brother; however, say some pretty terrible things about gay people, and I had to think that came from somewhere. I was lucky, and my parents did accept me, but there are so many who aren’t so lucky.
There are people who suppress it all for many more years, and then there are those who are so brave, and come out to their parents only to be cast out and ostracized.
The thing most people don’t understand is the internalized homophobia many gays have as they slowly accept themselves for who they really are. It can be damaging to the individual, or worse. For instance, the many founders of gay conversion therapy who years later came out as gay themselves. These people harmed others because of the hatred they harbored with the fact that they were gay,
These feelings come from growing up in a society that shows you being gay is wrong, and it takes years of reflection and acceptance to grow out of these feelings — if you ever truly can. I realized my internal homophobia at a young age. Unlike some, I didn’t harbor these feelings for any other gays, but only about myself. I thought if I was gay — I would be less of a human being. Someone less deserving of love then others.
As I grew, and I was loved by those around me, I grew out of these feelings. Despite the fact that there are still other struggles that come with being gay, these feelings of internal homophobia are over.
It can be a long and hard process and it isn’t one that will disappear overnight. Anyone who harbors ill feelings towards themselves or other has to relearn, and slowly move past those feelings. However, coming to terms with yourself and surrounding yourself by supportive and loving individuals who you can be honest with is leaps and bounds better than surrounding yourself with hatred.
I don’t often go back to where I grow up, but my friends often come to visit me. My friends still love, and accept me, but even better I accept myself. So when I heard my brother talk about how he needed a new backpack because he saw a gay kid wearing the same one he had, it didn’t affect me the way the kids threats to his future child did. I knew he was simply ignorant, and a person whose words held no weight.