Internalized homophobia exists at alarming proportions in this country with straight people and gay people alike. It’s self-hatred aimed at ourselves, painted with shame, and expressed by anger.
Despite what you may think, internalized homophobia isn’t just rooted by social upbringing, but it’s also the lacking result of self-investigation. Research suggests a major reason why people become prejudice is because they see something in a particular group that they recognize in themselves, but fail (or refuse) to investigate it.
It all comes down to what our emotions say. Our emotions act like a compass which can lead us to certain discoveries. For example:
Guilt – Convinces us we did something wrong and are unworthy of joy.
Shame – Tells us we’re not good enough for anything.
Embarrassment – Tells us we feel bad about ourselves.
Anger – Says who (or what) we are makes us feel uneasy and really ticks us off.
All of these emotions eventually pave the road towards prejudice and internalized homophobia.
These feelings are always going to get in the way. Sooner or later, they will subconsciously sabotage all opportunities in life because we’ve now turned it into baggage. Internalized homophobia slowly eats away at the soul if we don’t investigate it. Often times, we try to ignore how and what we feel in an effort to make us seem stronger than what we are. This makes it worse.
In the gay community, we see it everywhere we go. People who identify themselves as “masculine” often deal with some sort of prejudice towards the stigma of a “feminine” man.
“I hate feminine men,” they’ve said to me, or “I only date masculine guys,” they’ll add. This makes me wonder exactly what underlying fear they have inside that they’ve yet to investigate. This way of thinking usually leads to a pathetic attempt at trying to mask the quality in any way we can.
Some of the gym rats I know who are obsessed with getting bigger often have very little confidence in themselves – the goal being to be less “feminine” and more “masculine” to set the physical line of separation. It’s the same with men who try desperately to dress more macho or deepen their voice to show the world he’s different, or to attract other like minded men he feels won’t be attracted to him otherwise.
Internalized homophobia is a taboo topic I think may be hard for gay men to admit to, after all, no one wants to think that their form of prejudice is really an insecurity in themselves. The trick is knowing the difference between prejudice and envy. Are you envious of someone because they are expressing themselves in ways you wish you could? Or do these feelings act as triggers to a more deep rooted problem?
Whether someone is gay, straight, masculine, feminine, macho, flamy, skinny, heavy, outgoing, or introverted, the only way we’re going to get over internalized prejudice is to stop blaming them and start looking inside ourselves. When these emotions arise, it never has anything to do with the person.
It’s time we start building our self-esteem from the inside/out, instead of the other way around.