Q: “Have you ever struggled with internalized homophobia? If so, how did you work to overcome that?”
A: Yes, I slightly struggled with it when I began noticing my attraction to women was very real and the fears that came along with it due to the worry around social approval.
When I think back to the years of recognizing my attraction to women, it was brought with many feelings that were difficult to depict at the time. For starters, there was an abundance of “new” in my life. I moved away from home, I began learning how to live more independently, and I was meeting wonderful people who are now life-long friends. Simply, there was a great amount of newness which led to excitement and curiosity, but I want to explain why this is a pivotal piece to my story. What was then excitement and curiosity gradually began turning into fear, worry, and frustration.
Now, when I was a teenager and figuring out more about myself, I didn’t know what internalized homophobia necessarily was and how it tied into the description of what I was feeling. I didn’t have the resources to understand how shame was a strong contributing factor of shifting phobias towards ourselves. With my observation today, internalized homophobia is still not talked about enough and there seems to be more conversations around the latter of such: homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. So, why do I find internalized homophobia still not on the forefront in conversation? This is an ongoing question I have for myself and I am curious what you all think as well.
An important factor around this topic are the societal comments around hatred, prejudice, and biases that continually circulate. These homophobic, biphobic, transphobic views can then be flipped into phobias that we internalize. When people willingly show and vocalize their hatred towards LGBTQ+ folks, it becomes that much more difficult knowing how to handle the commentary and avoid these thoughts of ourselves. The thoughts of shame around being queer or the fear of nonacceptance that correlates with internalized homophobia. When we feel that society isn’t accepting of us, we might experience ourselves doing just the same about our own sexuality.
When I began understanding more of what internalized homophobia was and how it made me feel, I was incredibly silent in my sexuality for years. It was this feeling of denial around liking women and it was as if I felt the need to forget about it. And with that silence, my anxiety grew and drew endless conversations with myself around why I had to feel that way about women and that I shouldn't act on my feelings about women. If I could go back and correct those thoughts I had from the beginning, I absolutely would. I would have told myself that I am this way because this is me; as simple as that. But at the time, that's what went through my mind and it frustrates me how internalizing shameful comments from other people or what is read, can greatly affect us. It puts a divide on ourselves by being fearful of our differences instead of being proud of our differences.
Since reflecting on my youth and the feelings I internalized when I didn’t have the resources to understand what I was feeling, I have become stronger and more confident in turning that shame into vulnerability and hatred into courage. To overcome internalized homophobia, we have to be brave in reaching out to community and to people to talk to. Over the years, my silence eventually pushed me to vocalizing my sexuality to friends and family. I realized that in order for myself to live authentically and embrace who I am, I needed to talk about it.
When I allowed myself to be vulnerable and courageous and have the opportunity for people to get to know the real me, that helped me in so many ways.
What I believe and find extremely important, is that there is never a wrong or right time to talk about your sexuality to someone. But, when we allow ourselves to let go of the truths we’ve kept in for a long time, we are able to find liberation in doing so. Internalizing homophobic views only hinders us from being who we are and we have to understand that, unfortunately, there will always be people who do not want to accept. It is something that I wish I didn’t have to say but it is the world we live in. What has helped me overcome the fear of someone not accepting me, has been to continue recognizing what makes me stand out from the crowd and turning that into a celebration. A celebration of how far I have come and how far each of you have come. I believe it is a never-ending journey of self-discovery because who’s to say that this life only brings one way of living. And with that, we need to continue to be here for one another and by doing so it allows us to be proud of who we are.