Internalized homophobia: the missing rung on the monkey bars to liberation

Internalized homophobia:  the missing rung on the monkey bars to liberation

Solon Perry, Ranger Review Staff

Alexander the Great controlled 3,000 miles of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

 Atop his horse, Alexander was the spitting image of masculinity. While the evils of imperialism are well understood, there is something to be said of a man responsible for large swaths of the world in his day.

La Pucelle d’Orléans (Joan of Arc) was a brilliant tactician and sword fighter. After helping reclaim France in the final act of the 100 Years War, the 19-year-old was burned at the stake. Many historians argue that both individuals are prototypical LGBTQ+ people.

I look to these powerful figures for inspiration when losing the fight for self-expression in regards to my sexuality. When I see myself as weak for being attracted to men or quantify how gay someone is with their level of femininity,  I think of Alexander.  Maybe you’re more of a Joan.  Either is cool. 

I wondered how could I hold such strong biases towards myself and members of the LGBTQ+ community. But I realized how could I not when we live in a world so unfriendly to the idea of queer people. Internalized homophobia is when societal attitudes towards  LGBTQ people impact our own self-perception. Almost all people experience this because of course we live in a society where these ideas are normalized. 

The lived experiences of my fellow queer classmates was strikingly similar to my own experience with internalized homophobia. Many bisexual people feel that their identity is invalidated because regardless of who they date they will never be thought of as bisexual by the people around them – just gay or straight.

Greely senior Madeline Emrich explained, “There’s this culture around being bisexual where bisexual men are “just gay,” and bisexual women are just “spicy straight.” Of course, this is not the case. Regardless of someone’s gender or the gender of their partner if one is bi, then they are bisexual no matter who they date. 

 The fear that your platonic same-sex friends will think you are interested in them is ever-present in the mind of someone who experiences internalized homophobia. Cassie Ward, a Greely grad, said, “I also have always struggled to show affection towards my female-identifying friends as I was afraid they’d think that I had feelings for them because I am queer even though most of them didn’t even know.”

“The closet” was only created to shelter those not yet out from hate, but that hate can come from within as experienced by Greely senior Sebastian Alfreds. 

“I suppressed gay thoughts until my sophomore year of high school when some of my friends came out. I think internalized homophobia was so strong that it forced me to assume that everyone is straight because there wasn’t anyone in my life who was gay, and thus I wasn’t allowed to be gay, either,” said Alfreds.

Awareness of these experiences is the only way forward so internalized homophobia can be dealt with.