How to Escape Your Internalized Homophobia

Hey Alexander, My name is Joel *******. I’m 28 and live in Fort Worth, TX. I’m looking for advice on sex and life issues. I’ve struggled with my sexuality for a long and am finally in the process of accepting myself. I say process because I think I’m dealing with some internalized homophobia and with having trained myself to contradict my own thoughts. It’s still hard for me to completely accept, so hopefully my new therapist will help me. But this is where I get self-conscious and embarrassed. I want to explore and experiment. But I’m a virgin. Actually, I’ve only kissed one person (I was hammered). I have no idea about how to go about talking with a guy to experiment. Again, I’m embarrassed. I also don’t think, emotionally, I could handle Grindr. And, I feel like I’ve wasted so much time in my life not being who I am and not hooking up when I was younger. With COVID being so high in my region, I don’t really feel safe going out either. Sucks. I could write a lot more but it’s probably better to keep this short. I’m not sure if this is the best medium to reach you, but I’d really like to hear your advice. And, if it’s okay with you, I’d like it if it were possible to have a back-and-forth. Thank you so much for your time, Joel *******

Joel, you sent a message to my Ask Beastly inbox and rules are rules. I get to post this. I do this for a reason: a back-and-forth is free emotional labor, and I feel it too much.

Before this format, I had private conversations with strangers and some were very dark. They reached out via Grindr or Scruff or sent messages on social media. Several told me they were thinking of suicide. The hardest talk was with a young man in South Africa who had tested positive for HIV, was kicked out for being gay, and had nowhere to go. I was so scared for him that I spent days looking up resources.

That was a lot for my mental health and I realized I needed to change tactic. This format lets me choose which questions to answer when I’m ready. I write answers in my own time and maintain enough distance to not overwhelm my life. And these posts can help others in similar situations who may be reading them.

While on the subject of self-care, let’s talk about internalized homophobia. It’s a living hell, one the world has made for you that you’ve absorbed into your self-image. It’s shame, and shame makes you unable to grow, communicate, or live happily. Shame is the enemy and you must actively battle it by seeking shamelessness in others and learning from your interactions with them.

I don’t know of an easy way to beat shame, but I see it as a sickness that’s treatable with overexposure to whatever it is you’re ashamed of. A lot of queer culture is campy and ridiculous and there’s a reason for that. The absurdity of drag and the loudness and gaudiness of pride events combat the shame we were all brought up with.

The truth is, you only have two options: you can embrace the fact that you’re a man who wants sex (and presumably more) with men, or you can’t. That’s it. Your therapist — assuming they’re good — can help with that, but you also need others. You need gay friends.

Experience gay culture. When things open back up — which may not be for some time — become a regular at a local gay bar. Go to a pride parade. Rip the band-aid off and dive in. You will be uncomfortable at first. That’s the point.

If a gay bar sounds overwhelming, I assure you it will be overwhelming the first time you go. You must make yourself uncomfortable now to be comfortable later. It’s OK to be a wallflower and observe for a bit. When I was new, I went to a local gay bar multiple times a week, mostly to watch the crowd and build my gay vocabulary. I talked to bartenders and occasionally tipped drag queens until I worked up the courage to talk to guys. I was excited and terrified. Even with some bad experiences (bad hookups, shitty people), I kept going. I was being indoctrinated into a culture and slowly saw myself growing comfortable in it. At some point, my friendships and experiences existed outside the bar — they became real.

Find people who push you — who put dollars in your hand and make you tip a drag queen in front of everyone. Make friends with those who’ve been out of the closet longer and ask for help. Fort Worth, according to a 2019 estimate, has 909,585 people. Go find your people.

During lockdown, start exposing yourself to queer culture. Read news sites like The Advocate and Out. Watch shows like POSE and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Your internalized homophobia might reject these but power through it, like taking medicine.

We’re both 28, which is very young. Many people are much older than you before getting to where you are. There’s no need to be embarrassed — you’re further along than you think. You had the courage to accept yourself and are ready to explore. You have the self-awareness to recognize your internalized homophobia, something all of us struggle with. Some queer people go their whole lives and never see shame for what it is — cultural conditioning meant to keep us marginalized. I still feel it sometimes, but it dissolves when I think of the people and places I love and the experiences I’ve had. In my life, overexposure was the antidote.

Lastly, it’s OK to avoid Grindr. Sex apps are fun, but you can get stuck in them. I know many closeted men grappling with self-acceptance who want a more complete gay life, but the apps provide the sex they need, so that’s where they stop. Sex and experimentation get easier when you’re enmeshed in the culture — when you have friends, not just hookups.

If this post failed, tweet me. We can talk.

Love, Beastly 

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6 Comments

  1. Assuming you’re reading this Joel, Our Man Beastly has some great advice.I’d also recommend other online spaces: http://reddit.com has many areas for all manner of people: gay “bros”, gays gone mild/wild, bears, and tons of others. There’s even some “askGay…” boards where people share coming out questions and stories and get info on gay culture and history. As with all reaching out, take care to not jump into a relationship too quickly, esp. at the beginning.

    Maybe you have a hobby? There are “rainbow” subgroups all over the place: gaymers, roller coaster fanatics, Disney fans, SCA, Larping, etc. etc. Meeting/chatting up with others that share your interests is a good way to be “out there” but within the comfort of your interest. And who doesn’t want to share their passion of My Little Pony?

    Good luck! Have fun! Play safe!

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  2. Having a couple sessions with a sex worker can help with your confidence. You get to call the shots and it’s transactional, so it can be safer for you. A Sacred Intimate is especially well versed in helping you overcome shame. While hookup apps may be ok, a Sacred Intimate will be all about you and helping you heal and grow. Research your providers first to make sure they’re reputable.

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  3. Hi, Alex.

    First of all, sorry for my bad English. I’m not native speaker but I hope you’ll understand my message.

    I’ve watched your videos on The Advocate Youtube Channel and I have to say I really like your open mindedness towards sexuality and problems that gay people are struggling with.

    I’m 19 years old and I feel so lost.

    Since my childhood, I was different than other kids. Especially boys. I was very fragile and shy (I still am). I played with dolls. I was hanging out only with girls. I wasn’t interested in sports, games and cars like boys were. Nothing has changed tho. In middle school, boys started to tease me for being feminine and hanging out only with girls.

    Then, puberty came. Boys started to chase girls, girls were talking about boys and I was nowhere. I was wondering what’s wrong with me because I wasn’t sexually attracted neither to boys and girls. Suddenly, my hormones literally exploded. I discovered pornography and it was like whole new dimension to me. The problem was, I wasn’t into straight porn. I started to watch gay porn and I felt some strange emotions inside me. I felt desire but also shame after I’ve done some things while watching (hope you know what I mean).

    This is where my problem starts. I watch gay porn since I was 13 but I feel such shame. I find male body and gay intercourses very sexually attractive in porn but in reality I don’t see men in that way. I’m kinda scared of men because I don’t have good relationship with my dad and I never had father figure in my life. I don’t have male friends. I don’t feel like man enough.

    Is that because I’m afraid of admitting myself that I am gay?

    I’m very dissatisfied with my looks and myself in general. I don’t know how to accept myself. I’m denying my real identity because I care what others will say. I’m not brave enough. I don’t have strength to fight for myself. I’m in very negative phase for three years. I’m very passive and anxious towards my life and future because I don’t live the life I want. I’m afraid I’m feeling like this because of repressing my sexuality.

    Also, I live in very homophobic country and society here is very negative towards gay people.

    My mom is supporting gay community and she asked me twice if I’m gay but I said no. Again, my fear of dealing with my struggles.

    I’m in constant battle because I don’t find girls or boys attractive but I’m attracted to naked male body and sexual intercourses between them in porn.

    What should I do?

    Thank you, Shyboy11

    Like

    1. Babe, I have to stress that comments are not the place to send questions. If you want me to give a more in-depth answer, send this to the Ask Beastly inbox. But I can assure you that at 19, nearly every queer man feels some semblance to what you’re feeling now. You’re not abnormal, and I promise you’ll feel better about yourself and have a clearer picture of your identity in a few years. Your biggest boon — one that makes you very lucky — is the fact that you have a supportive mother. That’s a big blessing.

      Like

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