How do the following statements make you feel? You are pleased with a colleague tell you they had no idea you were gay. Your father praises you for having straight friends as well as gay friends, and you feel great he said that. You think, for a moment, that its okay for a store to discriminate against LGBTQ people, if it is against their religion. You’re walking down the street and you let go of your partner’s hand as you see little children approaching with their parents. Do you agree with any of them? Do any of them feel wrong? Are you thinking how you would act in those situations? Each of these stem from an ingrained belief that being LGBTQ is not quite as good as it is to be heterosexual. It’s about a perceived ideal that you are less than what is considered “normal.” And it’s hard to let those feelings go.
Coming out is hard and will probably be one of the hardest things you have to do in your life, if you choose to do it. Facing your inner homophobia is perhaps the most difficult part and each of us carries it. The problems is that it is sometimes very hard to see those small pieces of it. Masc for Masc, no femmes, drag queens don’t belong in gay history, trans aren’t the gender they present as, and so on are all of these last vestiges. These words of shame serve us no purpose but to keep us bogged down in the belief that we are somehow less than equal if we do not act like heterosexual and not “flaunt” ourselves. Just as coming out is fundamental to a healthy life, so is removing the internal hatred or shame that we carry with us. They only hold us back from living a healthy life, both mental and physical.
Shame allows the feelings/thoughts to continue. Shame is defined as a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior. The feelings come from hearing that gays are sinner, LGBTQ people are an aberration, to be flaming is a sign of weakness, and on and on. As a child we hear this and do not see people challenge the ideals and they create pathways in our cognitive processes, which in turn perpetuates the idea into our own way of thinking. Growing up men are taught to avoid shame by being told not to be a pussy. Women try to avoid it thinking they have to be perfect and compliant. Both of these ways of thinking are severely outdated as well as bad for our own mental health. These words lead men to think they always shave to be strong with no emotions and women can only be pretty and meek. Straying from them triggers us to start feeling shame in our actions. And shame hits us harder than many feelings simply because shame can cascade into a whirlwind of other feelings. Shame can make us feel that we are flawed and don’t belong, it can affirm feelings of rejection. Due to the fact that we live outside of “normal” societal roles the feelings become much more intense.
Shame is hard to heal and ultimately, we have to want it for it to begin. Since fear is a social concept, the best way to work on healing is through social interactions with people. People who can empathize with how we are feeling because empathy creates a connection between people. That connection allows us to see that the person we are connecting with understands where we are coming from and how we feel. IT is hard to find people that are conducive to this type of healing, I have only met two in my years and I didn’t recognize the first one until it was too late. It’s hard being vulnerable and share empathy with another person and the people we need to share that connection are not found on hookup apps and rarely in a bar situation. It can happen, someone very important in my life, right now, I met in a bar as a friend. Not talking about our feelings can be bad for our mental health, so finding someone to make that connection with is important.
Shame is one of the factors that leads to our own personal inner homophobia. That leads to shaming others without knowing anything about them, personally. This is what keeps our community so divided. It is not easy to heal these feelings and thoughts, it takes steps. Often steps that leave us feeling raw and open, that is being vulnerable. To open ourselves up like that allows us to heal and better understand our relationships. We need to work on correcting it so that it does not affect our relationships and drive those that we care about further away from us. We are social creatures and cannot live our lives as an island. The first steps start with looking inward and seeing those dark recesses of inner homophobia. From there the journey begins to create wholeness in ourselves.