Yes, that's right, sometimes we share the prejudice we think the world throws at us. Internalised homophobia is the discomfort and prejudice we feel toward other gay men and towards ourselves. Sometimes, it is expressed through self-loathing and an internal discomfort and shame about one's our sexual orientation. Often, the negative views we hold about homosexuality are carbon copies of the prejudice we perceive in the outside world, but its most harmful effect is on our own self-respect and self-esteem.
Put differently, it is when we think we're terrible because we're gay and then act accordingly by limiting our life experiences, making less of our same-sex relationships and undervaluing our uniqueness. Internalised homophobia is an emotional cancer that erodes our identities and the self-worth we could feel as gay people. It's not easy to overcome, but it is definitely worth beating if you wish to live a fuller life as a gay person.
Here are some questions to help you assess the extent of your own internalised homophobia:
- Do you feel the need to hide your sexual orientation from your friends and family?
- Do you feel the need to hide your sexual orientation at work
- Do you feel uncomfortable with public displays of affection (e.g., holding hands, hugging or kissing)?
- Do you cringe when you see two other men kissing or holding hands in public?
- Do you feel the need to be "straight acting"?
- Do you sometimes feel ashamed of who you are?
- Do you compare yourself to other men and sometimes feel that you are not masculine enough?
- Would you feel embarrassed about taking a same-sex partner with you to a heterosexual wedding or event?
- Do you sometimes feel that you are a sinner because of your sexual orientation?
- Do you constantly feel the need to prove yourself?
A "yes" answer to any of these questions may be a sign of internalised homophobia.
Here are some thoughts on how to manage your internalised homophobia:
- Reflect on your own value system, your beliefs and your world view. Ask questions about why you believe what you believe, not just about being gay, but about religion, about relationships, about happiness and about many other aspects of your own life. Explore where they come from and what role they play in living your best life possible.
- Give some thought to whether you believe people have a fundamental right to life and equality.
- Understand your own sense of shame and guilt about being gay, about perhaps being something your parents don't want you to be, about having a sexual orientation that goes against what you thought you wanted to be. Once you understand this, begin a process of challenging these negative feelings.
- Accept and celebrate your life and your uniqueness. Be yourself.
- Get involved. Attend pride marches, volunteer at an LGBTI organisation or become an activist and stand up for our rights.
- Challenge friends, family and colleagues who make jokes or prejudiced remarks against LGBTI people.