The other day I saw something that said “Dear Gays, please start being nice to guys you are not attracted to.” This hit me so hard. I don’t know if this applies to every gay man out of there but I remember when I was getting ready to come out of the closet. I was so ready to finally find myself a boyfriend. I was 17 years old turning 18. However, I was severely overweight and severely unaware of the additional torment I was about to suffer that I thought I freed myself of once I decided to live in my truth and stop running from homophobic straight men. This my friends is internalized homophobia.
Internalized homophobia presents itself in several ways. Internalized homophobia can show up looking like:
• Denying your sexual orientation to yourself and others.
• Altering or changing your sexual orientation.
• Feeling not good enough.
• Obsessive thinking or compulsive behaviors.
• Under-achievement or even over-achievement to bargain for acceptance.
• Low self-esteem or negative body image.
• Disdain for open members of the LGBT community.
• Denial that homophobia, heterosexism, biphobia or sexism are serious social problems.
• Contempt for those that are not like ourselves or contempt for those who seem like ourselves. Sometimes distancing by engaging in homophobic behaviors – ridicule, harassment, verbal or physical attacks on other LGB people.
• Projection of prejudice onto other target groups.
• Entering abusive relationships.
• Attempts to pass as heterosexual.
• Increased fear and withdrawal from loved ones.
• Shame or depression; defensiveness; anger or bitterness.
• Inability to be productive at work or school.
• Constant self-monitoring of one’s behaviors, mannerisms, beliefs, and ideas.
• Clowning as a way of acting out society’s negative stereotypes.
• Mistrust and destructive criticism of LGBT community leaders.
• Reluctance to be around or have concern for children for fear of being seen as a pedophile.
• Unsafe sexual practices and other destructive risk-taking behaviors
• Separating sex and love, or fear of intimacy. Sometimes low or lack of sexual drive or celibacy.
• Substance abuse, including drink and drugs.
• Thinking about suicide, attempting suicide, death by suicide.
I took this list from The Rainbow Project. There are a few behaviors that I would like to add to this list that I see often in the gay community which include: rejecting feminine behaviors, body shaming, bottom shaming, and alienating/excluding others. Objectively, one would think that a group of people that face shame and ridicule most of their early lives would be able to create a community that is open and safe but unfortunately that is not the case. In cities that attract large gay demographic populations, these internalized homophobic behaviors are vastly common and it’s unfortunate.
But why? I am if you ask other gay men, they might answer that has to do with heightened sexualized behavior. And yes, that can be part of it. The other part of it? Trauma. The trauma response of protection. I am sure we all heard the quote by now “hurt people hurt people”. Well, this is at play here. This is a matter of let me ridicule you because I have been hurt or let me get you before you get me. And this is where we can do better.
It is tough because for my especially my generation and those before me there have not been a lot of role models for gay men and gay relationships. But what is amazing is that we are witnessing these shifts now. Most of us had to learn the rules ourselves and see what works and what doesn’t work. And some of us still lack the self-awareness to know what is going on and are deeply instilled in a victim mentality. Let this stop today.
So, my ask is that you look really hard at how you show up in the world and if you like leave me a comment below. Or if you need my help, contact me, and let’s combat this together.