Did you know that gay and bisexual man are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population? Or that LGBT+ are one and a half times more likely to develop depression and anxiety than heterosexuals?
June is Pride Month and I think this is the perfect time to talk about a very important topic: the mental health of LGBT+ individuals. There are a lot of great articles on the internet about the link between homosexuality and mental health issues (and about the reasons behind them), so I do not think I could possibly compete with them and write something better or something more helpful.
But there’s one thing that I can absolutely do: sharing my experiences as a gay guy and telling you what impact my sexual orientation has on my mental health and on my OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). And this post is not going to be about number or research data but more about the things that I have experienced and that I have been suffering from. And something that has always hurt me the most is internalized homophobia.
What is Internalized Homophobia?
When you tell someone that you were bullied for being gay, they will usually assume that it was a heterosexual person that attacked you. I mean, how could an LGBT+ individual be possibly homophobic? That just does not make sense, does it?
But would you believe me if I told you that throughout my life, I have received much more hatred from gay guys than from straight ones? And do not get me wrong, I do not say that because I had a few romantic relationships that went wrong. By “hatred” I mean a homophobic kind of hatred. Bullying. Verbal abuse.
If this all does not make sense to you, believe me: it did not use to make sense to me either. I just could not understand why some gay guys literary hate me for not being “straight-looking” or “straight-acting” while actual straight guys hadn’t really had any problems with that.
But then, I learnt about Internalized Homophobia. A complicated phenomenon that can manifest itself in various different ways.
Read more: https://www.rainbow-project.org/internalised-homophobia
There are a lot of LGBT+ people who grow up in a homophobic, discriminatory culture. Many of them learn negative ideas about homosexuality and same-sex attraction and these ideas can lead them to feeling of self-disgust and hatred.
There are gay people who hate themselves for being gay, some of them live in denial. Others project their hate and prejudice to another target group.
And finally, there are the ones who hate and verbally abuse the more open and obvious members of the LGBT community. Today’s story is about them.
Growing up in a bubble
When did I know I was gay? This is the question that I get asked the most often and the honest answer to it is that I do not exactly know. I think I have always known I was gay, I just did not know that it was called like that – I have always been attracted to guys but when I was younger, I used to think that every guy had the same feelings. Sounds strange, right? I literary believed that every guy on this planet had been either gay or bisexual.
When I was 12 years old, I learnt that my male classmates were not attracted to other men. So, that’s when I realized that I was gay. We could say that before that I thought I was just like anyone else but this wouldn’t be the right thing to say because I think that being gay does not mean that you’re different from other people. In my native language (Hungarian), gay people often refer to themselves as “others” but I just do not like this term because I think sexuality is a private affair and being gay doesn’t mean that you are less or more than other people.
Anyways, realizing that I was LGBT+ had been a life changing experience to me. I guess I do not tell you anything new by saying this because other people have probably had the same feeling. But I think I have been much luckier than many other people in my situation.
I think I would need to tell you about my background a little bit for you to understand why I say I was luckier than many other people. First of all, I was born into a very liberal society. I am from a very open minded family and I was raised in a multicultural neighborhood of Budapest, the Hungarian capital. While my country is not famous for being the most LGBT friendly place in the world, there are certain districts and social classes in the capital that are extremely open minded. My family has always been very accepting and I came out to them at a very young age. Their reaction was absolutely lovely, they never had any issues with me being gay and they have always encouraged me to be who I really am. And I will be always grateful to them for that.
And as for my friends and classmates back at school…Pretty much the same story. I went to a fashion school that has a reputation of being one of the most gay friendly schools in my city.
So I guess we can say that I literary grew up in a bubble. In a society where people loved me for who I was and where it was okay for me to wear long hair, black nail polish and to talk about whatever I wanted to. If I told you that I did not experience any homophobia during my childhood and teenage years, I would lie. There always were people who commented on things. Or people who told me that “I was fun, despite being gay”. But nothing extreme. Nothing that would make me cry or hate myself.
But of course, teenage years were over. And a lot of things changed in my life. I started a job and I broke up with my boyfriend. And I met people from another world. Those who had been living outside of the bubble.
The Bubble Bursts
Just before you read further. I just want to make sure that you do not misunderstand me. I do not hate people for being more conservative and I do not look down on other LGBT people for being born into less accepting societies. All I want is raising awareness on a subject that is not commonly discussed. Because I think it really is an important subject. (Also, one more thing – I grew up in Hungary, so I am not sure if my experiences are specific to my place of birth or if this is a completely global phenomenon)
Internalized homophobia is harming members of the LGBT community and it did have a terrible impact on my mental health but I am sure that my problems are not even comparable to the horrible things that “homophobic gay people” had to go through. Because if you hate yourself for who you are, that’s pretty bad, is it not?
So, when did my pink bubble burst? As I mentioned earlier, it happened right after high school. After my break-up, I decided to start dating. And that was something entirely new for me because I was in love with the same guy during my teenage years so I first went on a dating app when I was like 19.
And the first couple of seconds were enough for me to feel like a complete loser. I registered on a dating site because I thought I would find love and I was expecting to meet people who might or might not like me – which I think is a perfectly natural thing because there will always be people who don’t like you.
But I was totally unprepared for the amount of hatred that was waiting for me. I will give you a few examples of things one can see on almost every 3rd profile on a gay dating app (just in case you haven’t used one yet – and obviously I might exaggerate by saying “every 3rd” but you got the point…)
- “NO FEMS! (meaning feminine),NO FAGGOTS! NO FAT PEOPLE! PLEASE”
- “I am here to meet real men, not princesses”
- ” Can not understand why it is impossible to find a NORMAL, STRAIGHT-ACTING GUYS , these dating apps are full of disgusting fags”
- “Only straight acting please”
- “Straight looking guy here”
- “Straight acting guy looking for the same, no princesses and drag queens please”
- “Do not want any disgusting feminine guys”
And I could go on, but I will not. I think you got the idea. And seeing all this was extremely painful and shocking to me. Like it just made me feel like a loser and made me think about things that I had not thought about before. Such as: am I too feminine?
And I am not a drag queen and I am not overly feminine, there are some things that are stereotypical about me (I didn’t want to say “things that are gay” because I do not think they are) such as my love for fashion and certain words I use. And I used to wear long hair and I have always been into a more gothic look, but I never considered myself a “princess” to use the word many of these guys love saying. So, I really started feeling that I hadn’t been good enough and that I would never find love because nobody wants a guy like me. And I am not alone with this feeling, many of my friends told me that they had felt the same way. It’s a feeling of rejection by a community that is supposed to be accepting you. And especially after spending my life in a bubble, this whole thing was a real shock to me – like, if my straight friends were okay with my long hair and the way I behave, how come I get so much hate from gay guys?
And obviously, it’s not only about the dating apps because I just completely stopped using them after realizing that I just really do not want to see these hateful messages and profiles anymore.
But it’s the same when you meet “internalized homophobic” people in person. Some of my gay acquaintances told me not to act like a “f***ng faggot” or not to use a certain word because it doesn’t sound “straight”. Or another thing I have noticed is that many of these guys will also make faces when a more feminine guy walks past them.
And I guess it’s needless to say that all of these experiences made me feel more and more depressed and rejected. At first, I was trying to change myself. I tried to be “less gay” but I just realized that I did not want to. I felt good the way I was and I did not want to become someone else. Then, I avoided gay people at all cost because I was terribly afraid of getting hurt.
So, perfect recipe for being single. And a perfect way to finally become “homophobic” – because as I said, I was avoiding gay people.
You may ask if I am still like that. Well, not anymore. Not because the situation has changed but I have become stronger and I do not take it personally anymore. One thing that helped me was learning about internalized homophobia and realizing that these guys are not evil monsters. They were just born in societies that had been less accepting and they project their hatred and self-disgust to people who totally do not deserve it. And I really think they need some help – and with the world getting more and more open and accepting, I think internalized homophobia can also disappear from our lives.
I usually like giving some helpful tips in my articles. In this one I am not even sure what I could say. I just wanted to share my experiences and talk about a subject that is not commonly discussed or particularly well-known. And I really hope that reading this article will help all the gay guys who sometimes feel rejected by their own community.