Wednesday, December 7, 2016
The Homophobic Monster (Pt. 2)
Last week, I confessed that I suffer from a case of internalized homophobia, or more succinctly put, hatred of self. This is, in large part, because I was raised in a deeply religious home, and I was also home schooled, which only served to intensify everything. I remember learning Leviticus 18:22, which states that, "A man shall not lie with another man as with a woman. It is an abomination..." I vaguely remember the end of the plague years, when effective medication was finally created and released for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, specifically that HIV was sent by god as a punishment for their (mine) wickedness. I remember members of my family calling Ellen DeGeneres, Ellen DeGenerate instead (admittedly, that's clever. But still not OK.) Above all, I remember feeling two very conflicting emotions.
One was, "Yea, those people should know better and come to god!" I was pretty high on the Holy Spirit at that time. I remember thinking that being gay was a choice, and that these heathens were just so lost in sin that they refused to change, similar to the residents of Sodom and Gomorrah. How could they refuse the saving grace of god? It just felt soooo good going to church on Sunday, singing hymns, learning immutable truths of the universe. But that didn't play well against who I was as a person.
Because I knew from probably around age 10 or so that I was different. I knew that I liked seeing shirtless boys at the swimming pool, and I knew that I had a crush on one of my guy friends. So I pushed that down. It was a choice, after all.
Except that it wasn't. The feelings never went away, so I mentally, emotionally, and spiritually vilified that part of myself. I hated it, whenever I would see a cute boy, or when I felt the stirrings of adolescence towards another guy. During this period, I was equally high on god and filled with self-hate, and it appears as though self-hate has a longer shelf life.
What I truly wanted to put into words this week is the self-loathing, hate, and sadness that comes along with this problem, however some trite thought experiment fails to capture the raw, visceral emotions that come along with this. It feels as though you're perpetually disappointing your parents, making them sad, and angry all of the time. It's like carrying the full weight of every wrong you've ever done, but you can never right this one because it's who you are. It's like looking in the mirror and not recognizing yourself, because, in my case, the amiable church going, god believing in, trying to be hetero guy is not looking back anymore. It's a complete loss of personal identity (when you first come out, and years of cognitive dissonance thereafter), knowing that you're disappointing your parents, sadness, and anger.
And these don't go away easily. If, during the formative years of your life, you are indoctrinated in a certain way, that simply doesn't wash away with a few therapy sessions and a good cry, because that was your identity up until the day you come out. It's not something that confronting the homophobic people in your life fixes, and it's certainly not something that resides quietly in your mind. This monster roars persistently until you deal with it. But the way you deal with it matters.
Speaking for myself, I need to learn to love who I am, including the nasty, messy, squishy emotions. I need to truly believe that it's ok to be gay, and I need to learn that ALL of me is intrinsically valuable, not just the parts that please my family or friends. So I hope that this sheds a bit of light on what homophobia feels like, and that what you say to yourself or to your gay friends really does matter. I don't usually say that we should treat people like delicate little snowflakes, but in the case of LGBT people, especially those struggling with homophobia, it's important to be cognizant of what you say, because this affliction kills. Gay kids are eight times more likely to kill themselves.
I've got to jet, be humble, don't stumble, and I'll see you again soon!
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicide, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-8255. Suicide doesn't fix anything, it just prevents even the possibility of things getting better. Stay strong.