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by Corey Gray
Over the past year I’ve realized how rampant internalized homophobia is within the gay community. I’ve become aware of my own internalized homophobia and I’ve been far more perceptive of other people’s. Sometimes it’s blatant, but sometimes it’s just subtle things. Whether it’s a gay who wishes so deeply that they were straight, or a gay who’s fine with being gay, but actively tries and worries about always presenting as straight passing. Even something like only being attracted to only very masc, straight-passing gays is deep ingrained internalized homophobia. Internalized homophobia presents its ugly self differently in every gay. Some bits of it are easier to break free of than others, but the important thing is to become aware of it.
I noticed it in myself in high school. I have always been more femme than anything. The way I talk with my hands, the modulation of my voice, the fact that I couldn’t relate to straight boy so I only had girl friends, and many more little things were traits that I never really noticed, but my peers would constantly point out to me. They was usually not pointed out in a negative way, but constantly being asked if you’re gay when you’re at such a fragile time in your life is not helpful. I tried to correct these “gay” traits of mine, which just led to me becoming a monotone lump of baggy clothing. It wasn’t until junior year that I tried to correct that emotional trauma and societal aversion to all things “gay”. Growing up in a rural community was hell for a blooming gay, and when I went off to college in the city I expected to find more of a liberated gay community, but sadly I saw that that wasn’t the truth at all.
Gay communities everywhere are poisoned by the hyper-masculinity of our society. Everywhere we turn we see media reinforcing that straight is the norm and that men should be men. Though media has been showing some more queer diversity in recent years, when I was younger, the only character I really found myself identifying with and looking up to was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The majority of gays I know share similar female childhood role models, and I think that’s very telling about the state of our world. Little gay boys can’t relate to a single male character due to toxic masculinity, and instead relate to straight female characters. There should be some less gender-binary enforcing male characters, hey, even a few genderqueer characters would be ideal, but instead we are just giving impressionable young queer kids more reason to doubt their validity in society.
It really is a straight world. Most gays are afraid to even hold their date’s hand in public due to fear of judgment. Straight people really are privileged when it comes to dating. I’ve been thinking about how hard it is for a queer person to find a committed long-term relationship compared to their straight counterpart. There are plenty of gay hookup apps, but not dating apps, furthering the whole “gays are sex fiends” stereotype. I honestly think that might be due to how in middle and high school, the straight kids are having little cutesie relationships and they get to run the whole trial and error of dating and sex, but the gay kids are either stuck hiding in the closet, or just don’t have any opportunity to try out dating and sex because of slim pickings or no pickings at all. That furthers the feeling of being unloveable, and can drive kids to seek out abusive relationships with much older people just to feel some validation. Queer kids are just sexually and romantically immature comparatively and we have to face all of that drama of immature love and sex in the real world, which is much less forgiving.
At college, I went on three dates with this guy who I clicked with more than anyone I had ever before. He’s a Sagittarius and I’m a Gemini, a match destined by the stars. On the first date, I was wearing a faux fur coat I had bought earlier that day and my 2-inch creepers. I didn’t think twice about it, but throughout the date he made a few innocent, but bewildered comments about my attire. I brushed it off as nothing more than he wasn’t used to seeing people who present themselves as unapologetically as I do. On the second date, we had just finished dinner and were hanging out on the street when a drunken couple came up to us and struck up a conversation. I humored them and had a fun little chat with them, but my date was just kind of standing a little bit away awkwardly. The couple gave me gracious compliments on my hair and clothes, telling me I couldn’t be from America because they said I give off a very European vibe, and honestly, I was loving the positive attention from this genuinely nice couple. After the couple left, I told my date how nice that chance encounter was, and he smiled sheepishly saying that he wasn’t used to things like that happening. I found that strange considering he had been living in the city for four years and I had only just gotten there two months ago for school. He clearly wasn’t used to attention, and even actively shied away from it, but again, I didn’t think too much of it. The third date is when I found out that I was the only guy he had ever gone on any dates with. He had only ever dated girls and very recently accepted the fact that he was bi, and reflecting back on my time with him, I really think I scared him. He was scared of the attention you get for being anything but straight. He was scared of the stares that I never notice anymore, but everyone I’m with always reminds me of. He was scared of being seen, so he shrunk back into his shell and never talked to me again after the third date..
I met a guy online who was the epitome of internalized homophobia. He lives near me and he believes that all of his problems are due to the fact that he’s gay. He firmly believes that gay people hate themselves and each other and do nothing but cause drama. He nearly begged me to say that I wish I that I was straight, because he believes that every gay wishes that. He told me that he doesn’t have any gay friends because they are all petty and that straight men are much better company. I tried to gently say that I couldn’t agree with his viewpoint at all, but that I could empathize. He got very defensive, and started attacking my grammar, and then blocked me.
We mostly only see queer people in the media if they get murdered. We let that justify our self-hate. Honestly, whenever I go on dating apps, the majority of the messages I get are along the lines of “you have a penis you should act like a man”, and things like that really aren’t encouraging. We don’t have many people to look up to, but we need to let that fuel us to become the person to look up to. Once I took on that mind set, I’ve found myself surrounded by the most incredible queer people whom I wouldn’t trade for the world. The honest healing energy of being surrounded by people who validate you and inspire you to stay true to yourself is the most incredible thing in the world. So, straight readers, never try to prod anyone to come out, or point out the parts of themselves their already too aware of, or ask them why they don’t act like their straight counterparts. And queer readers, know that you are loved and that you should actively try to break down any mental barriers that have infested your mind and are hindering you from being the true, happy, and beautiful you. Though, I’m all too aware of how dangerous it can be being unabashedly queer in public settings, so please always be cautious, but also don’t use that as an excuse to stay scared because the world will never change unless we live loudly.