Insidious Self: Internalized Homophobia
In this blog post, I’ll briefly explore the last of the three pillars of the minority stress perspective, one theory behind why queer people can be so stressed out. As I explained in my post about LGBTQ+ stress, Internalized Homophobia is probably the sneakiest, most insidious way that queer people carry trauma.
Internalized homophobia is loosely defined as a way that LGBTQ+ people internally police and judge themselves according to the standards they have been given growing up in a straight world. This sort of internalized oppression is nearly impossible to avoid, and different forms of it are present for other marginalized intersections such as gender, race, and class. Instead of having to assert a dominant hand in a top-down way, a patriarchal system takes advantage of the ways we develop to plant all sorts of lies and judgments that we use to measure ourselves as we grow older.
Imagine a field. The ground (genetic DNA) is already set and ready to grow the plants that will be your identity. As time goes on, numerous seeds are scattered over the field. The most profound seeds are those given by parents or other caregivers and can come to form much of the garden we will work with later. Other seeds are thrown in by different family members, friends, teachers, etc. Ideally by the time we’re adults our garden is full of sustaining crops, and hopefully, only a few weeds that we can manageably work with. While some children have minds that are allowed to develop in this way, many others are actively harmed by the homophobia that spreads so willingly in our culture. For these individuals, beginning to do the work of tending to one’s inner landscape can feel hopeless and overwhelming.
In such a moment, I have found it to be particularly soothing and helpful to invite another person into the process. Being a therapist means I have many people who invite me into this work, all of whom have inherited a very different landscape. Some are actively ignoring the field, terrified by how poor the land seems. Some express a desire to garden but don’t know where to begin. Others still have started to learn about their own internalized homophobia and are doing the slow work of pruning it back to make room for a more sustainable life. Regardless of where a person is at, I find it integral to slow down with my clients and notice what is growing. Some of it we love, other bits we hate, but together we try to withhold judgment for a few seconds more...and then a couple more. I have yet to work with a client who opened themselves to this process and didn’t recognize growth and healing in some form. As is often the case with gardening, we both tend to be surprised in the growing process.
It is only with mindful awareness and the willingness to cultivate a new internal self-image, that a queer person can come to realize that they too are entitled to all the growth and love for themselves that they have been held from.
Maybe you’re wanting some help with you’re internal landscape and are wrestling with internal judgments. If so, I’d love to connect with you in my work as a therapist. Feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.