My husband would playfully lift the squishy toy up and down, just out of grasp, as our little baby boy reached and giggled and squeaked. My husband, standing over the crib in his fitted blue t-shirt (he was always wearing a blue t-shirt), would smile at me lovingly—his square jaw, white teeth and soft handsomeness reminding me that this time, this scene, this moment is perfect and good. And clean. Our love, our little family and this exquisite life we have is natural—and inevitable—because of its innate rightness.
And then something murderous slams into my mind. It’s suffocating. The suffocating, stifling and powerless sensation of realizing the world’s hatred of the immorality of my loving family scenario sweeps in and pummels me to the ground. It strangle-holds me down while ripping away my dreams and snuffing out every belief in the possibility of finding this happiness. When the certainty sets in of how wrong I am to think what I just fantasized was right, it feels like I can’t breathe. It feels like I’m dying.
It’s because I’m gay.
It’s because what I just envisioned is a scenario of gay love.
It’s gay love. And it’s wrong. Everyone has told me so.
Reality hits me and I’m suddenly aware that I’m sick for thinking this ideal gay family could be natural and right.
I quickly push out of my mind what just moments ago seemed perfectly acceptable and good, and I begin searching for ways to connect my mind to the girls I’m supposed to have crushes on. I start concocting plans on how to keep my thoughts hidden and how I will behave to make sure no one knows how sick I am.
I commit to deepening my voice when I speak. I won’t make flamboyant gestures with my hands. And I’ll definitely make sure I don’t over-pronounce my ‘S’es with the ‘gay lisp’ I was taught to notice in queers/queens/faggots/homos. And I’ll express my hatred for them, too. I’ll ensure nobody knows I’m gay by verbally bashing those who are, or—at the very least—by making jokes at fags’ expense.
Thus marks the beginning of my double life of hiding who I truly am and instead presenting an acceptable character to the world around me. So that I won’t be hurt. So I won’t be kicked out of my house. So I won’t be killed.
This was me at fourteen. And to some extent, this is me now.
For some, this is an old story. A fixed problem that was neatly shelved shortly after gay marriage became legal. I thought it was old and fixed for me as well. I thought I had overcome it. I believed that now—as an adult—in understanding the absurdity of such hatred, I had risen above it and let it go. But I was wrong. And it makes me mad. I’m mad that I was too scared to share and process this before. I’m mad that I didn’t get to learn how to date. I’m mad that I still feel fear while writing this and knowing I am putting myself up for more judgment. Some people (even some gays) say we should shut up and stop complaining now that we’ve gotten our rights. I’m mad that I still sometimes compromise myself and play it small so others will feel comfortable.
I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and uncovering of the fears that keep me isolated, and I’m much more settled into myself these days. However, these stinging feelings of being hated (of being hate-able) can still randomly fire in my mind to this day.
When I was discussing with my guru recently the new-found knowledge of my fears of vulnerability, I noted that self-knowledge didn’t always cure the knee-jerk reaction to withdraw and hide who I truly am in the moments when vulnerability and integrity would best serve me (like when I’m attracted to someone.) In essence I was declaring that something’s still ‘wrong.’ I’m 44 and I can’t seem to find the love I seek. And I’m sick-and-fucking-tired of being told I can’t find love until I learn to love myself. Fuck off.
From another angle, I’ve made seemingly benign bottom-shaming jokes to proclaim my own top-masculinity—making me ‘less gay’—and I’ve edited much of the gay details in my posts so they’ll be more palatable for my parents and family. All of this demonstrating that I’m not always reconciled to not being fearful of hatred and still being hate-able.
As I always intimate in my writing, the simple way we begin to recover from (and triumph over) these subtle mental and emotional opponents is by sharing them. As Dr. Brené Brown adamantly declares, ‘The more you don’t talk about it [shame], the more you got it. Shame can’t survive being spoken.’
I’m one of millions who experienced the stifling oppression of homophobia, and I’m also one of the lucky ones who made it out alive. Many thousands did not. At the hateful hands of their murderers or, sadly, by fear-driven suicide, so many of my people didn’t have the luxury of surviving homophobia. The few times I was beaten or threatened for being gay pale in comparison to the torture many others have experienced.
I no longer want to be a victim in any aspect of my life. Writing this post is not a declaration of my martyrdom for enduring homophobia. Nor am I holding onto resentments and playing them over in my mind. When I’m brutally honest and searching with myself, these are simply the thoughts and feelings that I uncover and share.
My hopes in sharing my own explicit experience and thoughts from my youth and current life are for a few reasons:
As mentioned above, bit by bit I’m freed of the negativity as I share my shame and fears—it’s not shame anymore when I’ve revealed it, and it’s a fear conquered when I’ve named it.
Second, others who choose to read my posts may identify with my experience and learn they’re not alone. They may also choose to speak of their own experiences and subsequently lessen their own burdens, and heal.
And third, perhaps still others who absorb how deadly the effects of homophobic hatred can truly be might rise up to the challenge of identifying their own outward or internalized homophobia and cut it out. They may be stirred to become activists—even on the smallest level—and nip in the bud homophobic remarks and thoughts if they are aware of how this language joins in the creation of a hate-culture that traumatizes, maims and kills.
Maybe if I—and others—continue sharing, and we keep a dialogue going of honest feelings and experience, more people will identify past-trauma that still holds them back, and finally come forward to shine as their perfect, beautiful selves without compromise or fear.