Homo-Eros: A Mark in Dedication to Gay Brotherhood

A Mark in Dedication to Gay Brotherhood

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In dedication to the brotherhood I wear this permanent mark.

Forever shall I hold my homobrothers within my heart.

10 years of owning who I am, and 10 years of seeking connection.

I once felt so isolated and alone, but because of the gay community I found my home.

We are not merely a movement of rights, or a network of dating and hook-ups on the DL at night.

We’re a brotherhood, a community, a tribe. I am your family and you are mine.

I wear this permanent mark of pride on my skin.

To honor my brothers whom I love and will never be forgotten.

In spite all the pain, fear, and sadness. I have pride in our communal gladness.

Forever and Ever shall I hold my brothers in my heart.

We are family no matter how far we are apart.

 

Poem Written by Elliott Belue

Endnote:

This is my first tattoo. In honor of my 10th year anniversary of coming out and of the sense of pride and emotional bond I have with my brothers in the gay community. The Poem is written from a deep sense of connection to the gay community. One that I hold near and dear to my heart.

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Homo-Eros: The Man with Strong Arms

The Man with Strong Arms

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He was a military man, one longing to be free…full of regrets and shadows that haunted him.

He was so use to living a lie, he could even fool himself into thinking he was happy.

I loved him, more then I had any man. His big strong arms made me feel protected and safe. His boyish smile was infectious and I could never stay mad at him for long because it was too damn cute. He gave more then any man I ever met, and he never expected anything back…from anyone. He nurtured and showed his love by making those around him feel safe and cared for.

The tragic part was, he showed love by protecting others…but he never felt safe himself. His own brothers in arms once violated him and because of public policy during that time…he could never say it happened. Who gave him PTSD? Not terrorists his country wanted him to fight…his own brothers in arms his country expected him to live and even die with, if necessary. He was use to being a protector…but no one would protect him, even those he was suppose to rely on most.

Behind that boyish smile and charm, and those big strong arms…was a tortured soul who sacrificed everything for others…but no one ever sacrificed for him. He never learned how to let people in because he was too use to hiding behind closet doors so he could feel safe.

We got close to sharing our life together, but all he knew how to do was hide.

So he shut me out and sent me away, despite my attempts to love him. Some will never know how harsh and cruel homophobia can be. It tears lives apart. It destroyed a Love that I will always look back on wondering what could of been.

I will always remember how tightly he held on to me each night, as if our closeness was the only thing that grounded him and kept him alive. His desire to serve his country and be close to the man he loved were in conflict, and they shouldn’t have been.

I had never had a man look at me with such care and love as much as he had. Yet the world would not give him the decency to love who he wanted, and let that person love him back.

Despite the mistakes he made, I know deep down how he truly felt and had the world been more accepting of how he loved…he would of never lived a life of lies, and shutting others out.  If only more people knew the pain a closet will inflict on someone, how it slowly destroys them from the inside out.

So forever a chronicle of the man I loved shall stay a memory in my heart. Always an after thought of what could of been had the world of been a little more accepting. I will always miss his strong arms holding me tight as though we were the only two people in the world at night.

His giving, charming smile, and protective nurturing nature will always be honored in my heart…and so will the tragedy of what could have (and should have) been.

 

Picture Colored and Poem Written by Elliott Belue

Picture taken from “Color Yourself Furious” by Golden Czermak dba Furious Fotog
http://www.onefuriousfotog.com

Homo-Eros: Let Men Be Roses

Hello readers. As I am trying to be more creative in how I explore homoeroticism. I am going to try my hand at creative writing and artistic expression. I’ve gotten a homoerotic coloring book that lets me color black and white pictures of men with tattoos. Every time I complete a page I am going to take a picture and write a short homoerotic poem with it. I am not an expert creative writer, I’ve always been a more intellectual/analytical writer. So I am not trying to compete with major professional homoerotic literary standards. I am just giving myself permission to non-judgementally express my creative side and share it with friends and readers who find it interesting. I hope you enjoy. I will be making this apart of a series I am calling “Homo-Eros” named after the God Eros of Love and Desire.

Let Men Be Roses

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Men are so taught to cover up. They are so taught never to show who they are naked and exposed.

I have known men naked. They are beautiful, delicate, and soft. I have seen them exposed.

They say beauty, softness, and delicate sensation is not the role of men. Who said this?

For I have seen the bare skin of men as soft and sensitive as rose petals.

I have whispered in his ear how beautiful he is and felt his softness close to me.

What toxic message is this that tells men they cannot love men, they cannot be “pretty,” they cannot be soft like roses?

Never have I seen anything so beautiful as the softness of a man naked, shedding the prison of masculinity behind.

For in this moment he defines himself not for what he hides, but what he is.

Let men be roses: soft, beautiful, and delicate. For when men are free they are like roses: soft, beautiful, delicate…and exposed.

Picture Colored and Poem Written by:
Elliott Belue

Picture taken from coloring book: “Color Yourself Furious” by Golden Czermak dba FuriousFotog http://www.onefuriousfotog.com

The Awkward Conversation About Allies

Today we’ve enjoyed a great amount of progess in society. This is in no small part due to the contributions of allies. It’s great to see more and more heterosexuals that are “cool with the gays.” Society as a whole is becoming a more inclusive environment for homosexual individuals because of allies. There is still a long way to go for us, and there are still plenty of homophobic environments and individuals in the world. But that does not diminish the fact that if we compared today’s society overall to a decade ago, 30 years ago, or even 60 years ago we have significantly more opportunity for success and happiness as homosexuals. We don’t want to alienate the allies that support our cause and contribute to the ongoing progress of a more inclusive and supportive society. Yet at the same time with greater heterosexual supporters wanting to share our space and cause, we find that not all our needs are about inclusion in greater society. A big part of homosexual existence is having abundant, accessible, and focused opportunities to socialize with others who share the same experience and have compatible sexuality. No matter how cool and supportive our heterosexual friends are, they are not attracted to the same sex. Therefore, not everything in gay culture is about their support and inclusion in our activities, even though we do not want to alienate them from the more political/social-justice aspects of our cause.

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There seems to be a misconception that everything in gay culture is about something political and social justice oriented in society. While that’s definitely an aspect of it and a really important one. Gay culture is not always a “cause” sometimes is simply a social atmosphere for homosexuals to have sexual and social experiences with each other. Allies don’t always understand that society is hetero-dominant. They never have to complain about a lack of heterosexuals in their environments, and the lack of opportunity that creates for sexual/romantic development and to socialize with people that relate to their sexuality and experiences. Therefore, part of supporting us, is honoring that we need exclusive homosocial spaces to ourselves without taking that personally.

This is a hard conversation to have with allies sometimes. They think gay culture is just simply about “tolerance and inclusion” but the truth is that’s only the political aspects of it. It’s what we want for greater society. Greater society isn’t just about us, it’s about everyone. I definitely want our allies to feel unique things about them are acknowledged in greater society too. But when we aren’t going to a protest chanting “Love not Hate” in regards to discriminatory legislation, it’s nice to have a space to go to where we can meet and socialize with others who have a compatible sexuality. Frankly that social experience isn’t all just about sex either. It’s definitely an important and fun part of that experience, but I like having gay friends and being in a space where its only us. We get inside jokes about our unique experiences, it’s a fraternal brotherhood that affirms our unique experiences and sexuality. It helps us mutually grow through sharing this bond that simply doesn’t exist with our heterosexual friends. Whom we love and value…we just don’t experience this fraternal bond with them because their sexuality is not compatible and they don’t have the same developmental experiences.

When I try to explain how frustrating it feels when bridal showers and sorority girls invade gay bars, or when hordes of straight girls come with their boyfriends to karaoke or trivia night at the local gay bar. They react like they are being personally attacked. “What, straight people can’t do karaoke and trivia?” Of course straight people can! But karaoke and trivia night AT THE LOCAL GAY BAR isn’t about straight people enjoying karaoke and trivia with their friends and heterosexual partners. It’s about having a space for gay people to socialize and meet other gay people in a society that is hetero-dominant and doesn’t give us those opportunities. It’s not about the karaoke and the trivia, it’s about gay people having social opportunities with each other. When we see more and more of our gay bars becoming dominated by allies who think it’s all about them having fun and they think they are entitled to that because they support our cause…it’s frustrating. It’s literally getting to a point that guys don’t want to go out to the bars anymore because we feel it’s no longer an opportunity for us to meet other gay people because the ratio of straight to gay is THAT unbalanced in a space that is SUPPOSE to be gay.

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We don’t want to alienate those that support us. But we NEED a place where we can socially and sexually develop with each other and celebrate our fraternal bond. If you don’t honor our need to do this…are you really “allies” that support our equal opportunities for our happiness and relationships? You certainly don’t have a lack of heterosexual opportunities to access connections to other heterosexuals in society. Acknowledging that, that is a privilege you enjoy in society and that gay people need access to those opportunities, makes you a true ally that is really empathetic to our experiences. If you call yourself an ally…but make those aspects of gay culture all about you feeling “excluded vs. included” how are you helping us address our needs to experience accessible opportunities to relationships with those of compatible sexuality? Acknowledging that you don’t have a need for that, but we do, is a part of fixing that inequality. Sure heterosexuals have plenty of issues dating each other…but that’s not because of a lack of heterosexuals around them and it’s certainly not going to be solved by making that experience less accessible for homosexuals.

I am sincere when I say that I appreciate our allies, and I want them to continue to support us. But I don’t want that support to come at the cost of me having less opportunities to socialize and connect to other homosexuals. We need to have these conversations more. It’s hard to talk about because it’s frustrating, and allies can have unintentional blinders that makes them insensitive to how important this is to homosexuals. Sure some of their GBFs may not see the problem as clearly (or simply don’t express their real feelings about it). So they feel content to say “I have gay friends and they don’t feel that way” to justify their voice on an issue that is ultimately not about them. However, in my experience most gay guys that don’t see or care about the issue, tend to feel more comfortable around supportive straight friends then they do around their own kind…internalized homophobia much? That’s an issue with their own homosexual identity development (or rather lack thereof) and its part of the reason they need to be in a space that has a concentrated homosexual population so they can learn how to get more comfortable around us and address their internal barriers to that. We love our allies and we want them to show up to political and social-justice causes in large numbers…but we don’t want them to invade spaces that are about our social experiences with each other.

My 10th Anniversary: The Healing Power of Celebrating Homosexuality

10 Years ago, around this time of year I came out of the closet. I was 16 years old. I had just transfered from an all boys Christian school to a co-ed secular school. I had a lot of scars like we all do from homophobia. I was one of those boys that never fit the masculine mold. Because of that I was called “gay” and “queer” before I even knew what it meant and bullied, harassed, and hazed because of it. So I internalized that homophobia and was in denial about it…that did not stop people from treating me the way they did though. But now that I was in a more secular and co-ed environment, there was less testosterone putting judgement and pressure on boys that couldn’t compete with masculine standards. This new environment gave me more room to breath and explore myself with less heteronormative masculinity putting social pressures on me. Also in a post-pubescent environment with both girls and boys it was significantly clearer to me that, that turning in my stomach I felt around boys did not exist around girls. So I slowly began to own that feeling. But with it came unpacking years of fear and trauma that toxic homophobic, heteronormative, and masculine standards taught me to believe about it.

My journey has scars as it does for all of us, and while scars can mend and stop bleeding, they leave a mark that never quite fully goes away. Those scars tell a story, one that can change in what it means to you over time. When the wound is fresh it represents pain, trauma, abuse, and agony. As it begins to heal its represents anger at injustice and the cruelty of those that both did it and those that allowed it to happen. After it’s healed and has become a characteristic mark on your skin, it represents lessons from your past and sometimes memories that can haunt you…but most of all it’s a testament of your resilience, your determination to survive, and how far you’ve come since the wound was inflicted.

(side note: because I love animated musicals. As I talk about the themes of this narrative I think of this song from Moana. Thought I might share it to add more nuance and meaning to this discussion)

My healing wounds have become a journey I want to reflect on and share with my community. I want to celebrate my connection to the brotherhood of gay men that have helped me heal, both friends and lovers (and even adversaries that have taught me more about myself through adversity). I have come so far from the traumatized teen I once was, afraid of the world, bullied into silence by homophobia and bigotry. I’ve become a confident, celebratory, and happy gay man. One with scars that tells a story of how far I’ve come. A story that exposes my imperfections, insecurities, traumas, and fears…and tells the story of how I survived. I’ve come to a place where I celebrate that narrative. Because it’s brought me closer to others. It’s also distanced me from others that would do me harm, which was all a part of the process. The healing of my scars was not accomplished by picking myself up by my boot straps and doing it alone. It was from seeking connections to other men who were walking the same journey. Other men who mirrored back reflections to me no one else could. Reflections that made me see myself clearer. These men were friends, lovers, and even adversaries at times. But I have a deep gratitude in my heart for all of them.

In the gay community, we all share wounds. Those wounds can make us feel isolated from each other at times. They can get us stuck in oppression Olympics at times. They can lead to coping behaviors that don’t always make sense and can even be destructive. But it’s all a part of the perfectly imperfect process of the healing work we are called to do. If we stick with it, we develop relationships we would of never expected to have with each other. The journey eventually turns chaos into something more harmonious. Connections and bonds are formed that create a co-healing experience. The narratives of our traumas shift from victims to survivors. I would of never made it this far without the other gay men in my life. It’s because of them I’ve grown and I’ve found meaning in my past and it’s something I’ve come to celebrate.

Not all gay men are at a place in their life where they are ready to hear that simply celebrating who they are and the connection they share with their community…is sometimes all you have to do to heal. We define so much of who we are as political rights, social injustice, and narratives of our pain and suffering. We rarely take the time to enjoy who we are, our sexuality, and how it connects us. To get to a more fully realized homosexual existence, at some point we need to feel good about it. It’s like Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. I realize not all homosexuals are ready to focus on developing positive relationships, self-esteem, and actualizing who they are as homosexuals. After all, many of us are dealing with our sense of safety in otherwise hostile environments. But sometimes we get stuck in that place. I know if I told myself 10 years ago to celebrate my sexuality as a homosexual and my connection to other gay men…I would not of been ready to hear it. I needed to process things first emotionally, physically, sexually, environmentally, and philosophically to get to the place I am now. But now that I am here, I am experiencing a bitter sweet joy in simply celebrating who I am, and the connection I share with others that walk the same road. I also want to work as a community for those that are still searching and have not realized that place of higher needs…because they are so vulnerable.

So on my 10th anniversary of coming out, and go to my hometown’s pride. I not only show up to fight for our rights and social justice…I celebrate our community, who I am, how far we’ve all come, and the love I have for those that have come this far with me…and the love I have for those still searching. I celebrate my brothers in the gay community. Without you guys I would not of come this far. You’ve healed me, supported me, and held a mirror in front of me to see myself more clearly. As mushy and gooshy as it may sound, deep in my heart I feel a deep sense of fraternal brotherhood with you guys and I feel a deep bond of celebratory love. This bond is by no means “fluffy,” at times it’s been tough love, messy love, and had adversity and petty drama involved. But upon reflection, that’s been a learning experience that helped me grow just as much as the more nurturing and tender love of lovers and friends. So for those of you that have walked the path of seeking queer spirit like I have. The spirit of the connection between gay men. I challenge you to pause in the chaos and celebrate how far we’ve come. To celebrate our bonds and connections and the friends and lovers you’ve met along the way. To celebrate the story of our scars that tell a chronicle of how we’ve survived and come this far. Not that we should become complacent, or stop the fight. But just pause from it for a moment, and find the time to celebrate our brotherhood. You may find this simple experience is the very healing we need to fully realize our personhood as homosexuals…and the fulfillment we are starving for.

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It’s Healing to Talk About Sex

One of the most under talked about subjects is Sex. The unnecessary discomfort we are taught to feel with it contributes to shame, fear, trauma, and neurosis that surrounds the subject. Our sense of morality on the subject is often informed by discomfort and shame and not by considering the harm of our actions. We tend to be more comfortable with sexuality fitting a socially defined image (regardless of rather it is functional and healthy or not) then we are with it being openly expressed in both ethical and diverse ways that defy a socially acceptable role. How many times has society permitted religious Clerics to get by with convictions of pedophilia so long as they maintain the illusion they are morally sanctioned by their God? How many times have we shamed those openly practicing ethical non-monogamy with consenting adults who respect each other? For no other reason than bigotry and mild discomfort with sexuality? Sexuality is a touchy subject for so many because we are taught from an early age by family and/or society that something about it is inappropriate and must be kept locked up behind closet doors of shame.

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What is true morality? Fallowing an arbitrary social standard? Or avoiding harm in your actions? Is someone who maintains a public image they are monogamous with their opposite sex partner, but secretly molests children, morally superior to a gay couple having an open relationship with consenting adults? For that matter, is someone practicing a healthy expression of monogamy morally superior to someone practicing a healthy expression of non-monogamy? If you think so, you probably believe morals are less about “do no harm” and more about “being socially acceptable by arbitrary standards.”

As a Pagan, I’ve believed the only true ethical concern in any action, issue, or problem is rather there is “true” harm or not. Obviously this not always black and white. A doctor saves a patient by harming cancer cells. A warrior may harm an aggressor in self-defense ultimately to preserve life and prevent harm from being caused. However, I do not feel “social standards” that have nothing to do with harm equate to morality. Social standards are nothing more then arbitrary control, and can often harm those that do not fit the mold of their expectations. The truth of the matter is humanity is complex. No body will ever fully fit a socially acceptable mold. Aspects of them might, but there is always something that makes someone unique and different. Sexuality is best understood as a spectrum of diversity. Not a limitation based off what mom and dad or society told you growing up. There is nothing more wrapped up in useless shame and harmful silence then sex.

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When was the last time you had sex, and truly enjoyed it? That you and your partner(s) communicated shamelessly about your insecurities, likes and dislikes, enjoyed each others bodies beyond just the orgasms, and just felt vital and alive from sharing sexual pleasures? If you can say yes to all these things, you’re probably more well adjusted then most in your sexuality. Unfortunately most people aren’t. We rarely have role models, and mentors that teach us that sex is a valid, healthy, and wonderful expression of who we are. We often struggle to figure it out on our own in silence with constant negative messages telling us that anything sexual about who we are is not appropriate. I feel my own struggle to accept and feel comfortable with my sexuality was a long journey of unpacking fears, traumas, insecurities, and internalized shame. Not only because I exclusively am sexually attracted to men as a homosexual…but because being sexual itself rarely finds safe places to be expressed and shared without shame and disapproval.

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As many as 1 in 5 adults (regardless of gender) will experience rape at some point during their life time. However, given how few feel comfortable admitting to even themselves that they suffer such traumas, that number is likely a lot higher. Especially amongst men who are less likely to admit it happened to them. Why is this so high a number? Because we don’t model good examples of healthy sexuality. We create unrealistic standards for sexual behavior. We teach shame instead of embracing diverse expressions of sexuality as a valid and healthy part of our humanity.

As a graduate student of mental health counseling aspiring to become a sex therapist, I deeply see the need for people to have safe spaces to talk about sex. I was lucky to find people in my young adulthood that modeled diverse, affirming, and celebratory attitudes about sexuality. As a victim of sexual violence, it was a healing experience to see people openly talking about their sex lives and enjoying it. To see examples of adults who loved sex, had it a lot, and did it with respect and honor for both their boundaries and the boundaries of others. Most of these role models practiced ethical non-monogamy, and were in the kink and BDSM communities. They were fellow gay men who had no apologies for the homophobia and erotiphobia (discomfort with sex) in society. They pursued and expressed their sexual lives openly without shame, and did so with a sense of honor and respect for themselves and their partners. A good number of these men I didn’t have any sexual relationship with, I just had a friendship with where I could share my thoughts, feelings, and insecurities without judgement or shame. We need more of this in the gay community…AND in society as a whole.

You’d be surprised how common it is to have an issue with “pre-ejaculation” or taking too long to orgasm. You’d be surprised how often monogamy simply doesn’t work for everyone. Do you know how many people watch porn…but yet still feel like there is something “bad” about it? Cybersex? Please!! Sexting and webcam sex are more common than most people realize and saying “don’t do it” is not going to make it go away. Maybe being careful about how you do it and with whom might be a good idea…but people are going to do it and you might as well hold a space for it. Not to mention fantasies and kinks. But guess what? We all have different boundaries and comfort levels with these things. I find guys in leather harnesses hot. I also find dom and sub role play hot. But my fantasies and the realities of what I actually like to do when I am faced with sex with a real partner can sometimes be different. Could that change over time? Possibly and possibly not. That’s my choice to make and not anyone else’s. What? Just because I admit I have a fantasy I am now obligated to do something with you? HELL NO! Having boundaries is healthy and you should only surround yourself with people who respect them. If someone doesn’t, they’re probably not that great of person.

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Sex is a beautiful and life affirming experience and everyone expresses it differently. It’s important for us to coexist in our diversity and sex is no small part of that. If you personally don’t want to express your sexuality a certain way…can you hold that boundary for yourself without shaming someone who does express their sexuality that way? If someone does draw a boundary with you, can you respect it? These are the only morals that are important in sex…otherwise it should be celebrated as a beautiful and fun part of our lives and our humanity. We need to talk about sex more. So that people suffering in silence can heal. So that we can educate each other about our differences. So we can develop proper ethical etiquette in what is “true” moral behavior and what isn’t. So that we can embrace the true diversity of our humanity…SEX…and all.

Cass’s Pride Identity Formation and Anger Management

Vivienne C. Cass is a sex therapist and Psychologist that came up with an important model for gay and lesbian identity formation in 1979. While there have been plenty of valid criticisms of her model, it remains to still be a useful tool for homosexuals to reflect on their development. Reflecting on this model and the issues that are encountered in each stage of development has helped me understand my internal reality as a gay male. I’ve focused a lot in this blog on external realities primarily in social issues both within society and the gay community. But this pride month I thought I might write an internal reflection inspired by Cass’s homosexual identity formation model.

Vivienne C. Cass

Vivienne C. Cass

Summarizing Cass’s Model and the Pride Stage

I have left some references about Cass’s model below for those interested in exploring it in more detail. For those looking for a light summery there is a Wikipedia link[i], for those wishing to have greater depth I’ll put in some academic references[ii] [iii](assuming you have access to academic databases). Essentially Cass purposed gay and lesbian individuals go through 6 stages of identity development. We often talk about the significance of “coming out” but our issues of identity do not simply stop there and are more complex than that. Each stage of development has its own tasks, challenges, and issues to consider. I personally am long pass the formative stages of telling heterosexual people who I am. If anything, I am closest to the 5th stage “Pride.” At this stage homosexuals are less concerned about how they are perceived by heterosexuals and gaining their acceptance, and more concerned about establishing and maintaining gay community exclusively around them. I’ve seen some media about Cass’s model that implies this stage can last nearly 10 years or potentially never really end once you’ve established yourself in it. However, it should be noted that not everybody fallows Cass’s model perfectly, and not everyone goes through all 6 stages to “synthesis” at the very end (nor do I feel they have to, to be fully fulfilled as a homosexual).

The 6 Stages

The 6 Stages

At the 5th stage of “Pride,” a sense of anger tends to be a common experience towards the heteronormative nature of society, sometimes even at heterosexuals themselves. For those of us that have watched Queer as Folk (American version) we all know that famous line from Bryan Kenny “There are only two kinds of straight people in this world. The ones that hate you to your face and the ones that hate you behind your back.” That’s an example of the kind of anger that can be common in this stage. There is a greater comfort around other homosexuals then there is around heterosexuals. The gay community is seen as the primary source of social support and community. People in this stage often intentionally distance themselves from heterosexuals in order to pursue and focus on homosexual community and relationships. I know this has been very true of me. Cass also recommends anger management during this stage as it’s a natural side effect of becoming less tolerant of heterosexism.

I have often advocated for the need of the “gay vacuum” effect of exclusive homosexual spaces. There are some things a homosexual will NEVER discover about himself, without a vacuum where heterosexuality is absent and homosexuality is normalized and accessible. I’ve seen it time and time again where we internalize the homophobia and heterosexism around us in statements like “I’m not like most gays…I only like guys, otherwise I am just like straight people…I don’t identify with the gay community.” I use to say stuff like this myself, having no idea how self-defeating and self-isolating these statements were. I would complain, complain, and complain about not having a boyfriend and not knowing any gay people that I liked. Yet held this internalized homonegativity that wanted straight people to feel comfortable with me by distancing myself from the gay community with damaging false beliefs about what the gay community was and what being gay meant in general. It wasn’t until I experienced a week-long retreat at a camp ground of exclusively around 180 gay men, where not a single heterosexual was in sight, that I came face to face with my own internalized homonegativity. Where I began to realize how my desire to feel comfortable around heterosexuals and to make them feel comfortable with me when I came out…ultimately caused irrational and self-isolating beliefs about the gay community. So few gay men ever experience that “gay vacuum” effect at depth where they are forced to acknowledge how indoctrinated they are by heteronormative society and how unnecessary that self-isolating and self-damaging inner voice is. I deeply believe more gay men need access to this experience, I’ve seen it time and time again in myself and in other homo-brotheren. Gay men need community exclusively with each other to put a mirror in front of ourselves and tear down our internal barriers to feeling connected to each other. Having allies is great and when we have a political rally I think they should be valued and welcomed, but when it comes to our social need to have community and relationship with each other…they can’t help us with this process specifically nor is it really about them. There is no point to being gay, without quality gay relationships in our life. We don’t get access to this through a hetero-dominant society, even when it is supportive.

So that’s the important task of Cass’s 5th “Pride” stage. Seeking out gay community exclusively. This can be somewhat politically and social justice oriented, but more importantly its about developing homo-sexual/social relationships and less about disclosing your identity to straight people and trying to feel okay about that. In this process, you become more aware of how heterosexism and heteronormativity has impacted your own psyche. So OFCOURSE you’re going to feel anger towards the fact you had to deal with that, when you realize you really don’t “have to” passively accept it. You can start focusing on gay relationships and unapologetically seek them out. It causes you to face the reality of your sexual desires and feelings. It makes you focus on developing sexual, romantic, and even social connections that heterosexuals could never give you and you never are going to apologize for that birth right ever again. You’re going to respond to straight people saying “I’m not homophobic but…” by cutting them off and saying “…but you can stick whatever your about to say up your ass!”

My Pride and Anger

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My entrance into my Pride stage was characterized a lot by cutting people out of my life. My identity was no longer about just wanting to be accepted by straight people, it was about wanting to unapologetically find and maintain gay relationships and community. Straight people couldn’t give me that even if they were trying to be supportive. After all they are heterosexual and not homosexual. I often found when I would attempt to find gay relationships they would often make it all about them. “Its hard for everyone to find relationships, not just homosexuals.” So when have you ever been in a public space where you had to assume everyone around you was gay and to assume someone is straight could get you heterophobically assaulted then? Have you ever been afraid to hold hands with a date in public out of fear you could be harassed or assaulted because your date is the opposite sex? Have you ever felt like there are so few heterosexuals around you that you have to use a mobile networking app just to feel connected to them? Not even just to date them, just to simply feel connected to them and feel like they are out there? Sure, heterosexuals have relationship problems too…but none of those problems are due to there being a lack of other heterosexuals around them. So I got tired of being silenced by those that could not relate. That couldn’t really appreciate or understand where I was coming from even when I tried to explain my perspective to them. My fuse got increasingly shorter, and my angry reactions to even the smallest microagression increased in intensity. My boundaries turned into a big gay, liberal, feminist, sex positive bubble that had no room for conservative, heteronormative, patriarchal, slut shaming bullshit.

I am not the only queer that has gone through this experience. I think it’s a natural part of our development. I may happen in different ways for different queer identities (ie someone who is Trans might not have the same exact microaggressions or social oppressions, but might be similar in that at some point they start cutting people out of their lives that remind them of or want them to be who they were before transitioning). It was a transformation for me, becoming an unapologetic homosexual and choosing to only be around people that could affirm that or that could support the process of gay socialization. But, especially after this last election cycle, I am beginning to see the wisdom of Cass recommending anger management to homosexuals in the Pride stage. I’ve seen, shared, and expressed a lot of anger with the LGBTQ community. I think anger is a legitimate expression of injustice and the oppressed, but it can easily become so common place that it stands in the way of social harmony in our community and personal resilience and well being.

Critical Issue: Internal Integration, Not Heteronormative Synthesis

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I use to think of Cass’s 6th stage “synthesis” as it is described in some media being rather heteronormative itself. Why does someone “have to” reintegrate into heterosexual society to be a fully realized homosexual? Is it wrong to want to focus on gay relationships, community networking, and so on? If someone feels they are deeply defined by something they are passionate about, such as being an actor…why do they have to belittle that passion and social experience as “just another part of who I am?” Yes there are many other things beyond being gay that make up who I am…but why do I have to compartmentalize that part of me or separate it in any way from the totality of who I am? Especially if I have a deep passion, interest, and enthusiasm about it. I love homosocial experiences. I love watching other guys go through homosocial experiences and discover things about themselves. Watching them process things they never could otherwise, and discover a sense of community and connection with each other. Even when that experience comes with stressors and melodramas, I still love it. No different than would Barack Obama always attach importance to being a Politician. As would Patrick Stewart always see being an Actor as a defining part of who he is. If being gay has so much passion, experience, and meaning attached to it, I do not feel it’s fair to expect me to belittle it as “just another part of me” (as some people describe Cass’s model, though others word it differently) in order to be a wholistically integrated homosexual. I realize not all homosexuals feel this way, but not all homosexuals have nearly as much passion and emotional investment in their community either. That’s really the issue I have with Cass’s 6th stage in  how some people define it as no longer seeing gay identity as a central and important part of oneself. But, that said, I do think there is some wisdom in at least getting to a place where the anger is processed and expressed in healthier ways. This is what I think we should take away as the important experience of the 6th stage. After all she does mention anger towards heterosexism “diminishes,” but does not “go away,” during the 6th and final “synthesis” stage. I take that as being better able to choose your battles. Being able to walk away from that microaggression you may not like, but decide its not worth the emotional energy and there are more important things you could focus on. Essentially being able to “respond” instead of “react.”

Healing Means a Healthier Relationship with Anger

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I am sure some of my readers have seen the commentary that went viral by Lady Bunny the drag queen.[iv] While I do not think it’s realistic or fair to expect queers to stop getting angry and having the knit picky arguments we have, I do think she has a point. Are we letting knit picky battles over microagressions distract us from larger issues? Are those battles even worth fighting half the time? Maybe they are worth fighting in some situations, in which case by all means assert yourself. However, do you find yourself getting exhaustively angry all the time and you can’t just simply take a break from it and enjoy what good things we do have? Queers have a natural process of healthy development that they eventually get to a place where they assert themselves more and cut out toxic relationships that prevent affirmation and happiness in their experience. But with that process unresolved issues in our consciousness surface. After the extreme cultural polarization from the 2016 elections, I know it was getting hard to focus on bigger goals and keeping things in perspective. The cultural wars made me and so many of us so angry and reactionary. So much of my personal wounds festered and came to the surface. Now that I am going to grad school to become a counselor, I am having to challenge myself to monitor my emotional reactions to things and get them under-control. After all someday I may have a LGBTQ youth client who’s coming out, and I will have to work with their parents who may or may not need to process homophobic/transphobic feelings. I cannot be an effective counselor for either the queer youth or the parent if I react instead of responding and allowing it to be a process of slowly getting to a better place.

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Lady Bunny

The anger I’ve carried for so long has been like a defense mechanism, trying to override the anxiety that is triggered by the traumas of my past. I think if most angry social justice queers are honest with themselves, they probably have a similar internal reality. My anger protected me, gave me the strength to assert boundaries and advocate for my needs, and helped me challenge toxic oppressive things I internalized. It was also very useful when I ran an LGBT organization and gave me the motivation to push an agenda to a school administration and get things done. There are times anger is useful and healthy, but there are also times that it’s just masking a deeper distress in your consciousness. Are you really doing yourself or others any service if you just let those wounds remain unhealed and unprocessed? We are so focused on the external realities (which are important and should be addressed) that we can neglect nurturing our internal realities. I am not a fan of shallow New Age approach that would tell you to just “think positive” and pretend like all your raw and very real human emotions don’t exist. I am not telling you that your (or my) anger is something to avoid or that you can easily just let it go.  But I am saying to address where it is internally coming from and own it. Work on processing those emotions, if you doubt it will undoubtedly come out in other ways such as alcoholism, substance abuse, and other self-destructive behaviors. I can’t change the past, the homophobic bullies of my past have left a deep scar on me that will likely never go away. But I can treat and mend the wound…and though the scar will be there forever, hopefully it will become less tender and venomous over time. With such healing work, hopefully I can become a better person everyday, and be a more effective advocate for generations after me who need us to pass on the torch. Hopefully as Lady Bunny said, we should model the gay community, and the larger LGBTQ community as well, to be a community they’d be proud to be a part of. Is a community that only focuses on what there is to be angry (while ignoring what there is to be celebrated) really a community to be “Proud” of?

References:

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cass_identity_model

[ii] Journal of Homosexuality: “Homosexual Identity Formation: A Theoretical Model” by Vivienne C. Cass, MPsych, MAPsS; 1979

[iii] The Journal of Sex Research: “Homosexual Identity Formation: Testing a Theoretical Model” by Vivienne C. Cass; 1984

[iv] https://www.queerty.com/lady-bunny-lets-cancel-gay-pride-20170616

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Over the past several years I got increasingly tired of participating in the Pagan/Witchcraft community as a whole. Especially after going to college and hyper focusing on a more academic critical thinking view of witchcraft. The greatest down fall of our community is we have a dogma we don’t like to admit we have. We are each very set on a particular belief system that reinforces our perception that what we do is legitimate. In our attempt to break away from a monotheistic-dogma dominate society…we internalize the need for dogma to feel legitimate in other ways. For example trying to claim that what we do is more ancient and rooted in old ancestry, that goes back thousands of years, more so then others. Yet from an academic critical-historical perspective next to no evidence exists that the majority of what we do, how we conceptualize it, and how we practice it looks anything like said ancestors might of perceived their connection to nature, spirits, and old Gods and Goddesses. Essentially everything we do and think is informed by people using imaginative reinterpretations of what they thought and felt it “might of” been like…but there is little to no evidence anything we do was actually done that way in time immemorial. If anything there is evidence to show dramatic inconsistencies in the things we do to what little things we know about ancient societies when you really put it under a critical microscope. Yet so many Pagans and Witches are convinced their version of witchcraft or Pagan Mysticism is more legitimate then others around them, and the more dogmatic they are about it…the more I question “who are you trying to convince…me? Or YOU?”

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I have come to accept my personal path of witchcraft is not about ancient legitimacy, its about both personal and modern applicability. I do not seek my perception of the Gods and Goddesses I worship to match perfectly the ancient world they came from. If they do indeed exist, I feel it reasonable they would change with the time to continue to be applicable to the modern world and those that wish to build a relationship with them (who live modern lives). Or if (as many more psychological modeled witch theorists suggest) they are simply archetypal symbols conceptualized in our mind, then they are more applicable to us being adjusted to our modern perception of the world. I also do not feel my relationship with Gods and spirits has to be the same to other practitioners to be legitimate. The God Lugh comes to me as an youthful very homoerotic image…to you he may appear gruff, aged, and full of old wisdom and completely heterosexual. To me his personality could be very nurturing, gentle, and sensual, where to you he is destructive, powerful, and forceful. Or he could be something grey in between. Does a deity have to appear the same to everyone? Would a deity be effective in connecting to mortals if it could not change its personality and appearance to be effective in connecting to different people that seek it out? Or is the sum total of Lugh only to be rigidly interpreted by what can be found in texts like the Book of Invasions, the and his phonetic counterpart in welsh: “Llew” in the Mabinogion? If there is one thing I learned as a Religious Studies B.A. in college…spirituality and religion is in NO WAY objective like science. Even when spiritual people attempt to borrow concepts from science to legitimate themselves…its still ultimately a subjective and creative, and entirely NOT objective, reinterpretation of the scientific information full of gap assumptions to reinforce a per-existing bias. Is it fair to say no one has a monopoly on what is the most correct perception of deity and spirits? That the spirit realm, rather nothing but symbols interpreted by our minds or conscious beings that operate independently from us (or some grey obscurity inbetween), is not something we can measurement like gravity or chemical compounds. It’s something that will never fallow a 100% objective consistency. Nor will it be consistent with one person’s perception of it versus another person’s perception entirely.

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Lets also consider less theological aspects of our tradition and other supernatural aspects. Such as psychic/intuitive skills. I can tell you now, even the most skilled and respected psychic-mediums are only going to be accurate about 80% of the time. And that’s just talking about people that teach and do said practice as a professional living. Growing up in a community that valued intuitive skills, I can say now watching how intuitives can get dogmatic or locked in a self-referential universe can be rather exhausting. No doubt, in a good group people are going to pick up similar perceptions of things without using words to communicate. It’ll seem and feel miraculous and compelling to assign them an almost blind faith “legitimacy” to lift them above other perceived “fakes.” But I guarantee you that does not make them right about everything all the time, nor does it make people who might perceive things differently or that use different methods less legitimate. Ever gone to ritual where you felt a strong supernatural experience, then to another where your perception of the supernatural mechanics doesn’t feel as strong or even non-existent? Often when people go through this experience what is the first typical thoughts they seem to have? That the less powerful experience is less legitimate? Yet not everyone there is perceiving the experience the same was. Some people there may very well find something “powerful” or something otherwise meaningful which makes them find a sense of legitimacy in that experience. Who are you grand pumba Pagan self-defined High Priest(ess) to tell them they are wrong in that feeling and you are right? OR that you are somehow are more spiritually evolved or more “powerful” because of it. It’s one thing to feel you are simply not compatible with a group, another to try and establish yourself as more legitimate then they are.

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Here in lies the problem, our need to feel like the uncertainty of something supernatural is “real” and legitimate for us…turns into a competition of who’s arbitrary and self-referential dogma is more correct. This kind of mentality destroys good Pagan communities…and frankly makes having a quality community based on mutual love and respect almost impossible. We draw many to our religion because we wish to be a safe house free of the dogma found in our society’s main stream monotheistic religions. However, we recreate the problem of dogma in our own way. Yes you have STRONG SPIRITUAL feelings about something, but so do others and sometimes they are going to not be consistent with each other or they may even conflict. Does it have to be a clash of ego where you have to decide who’s personal experiences are more valid? Or is there a way to realize personal experiences are not the monopoly on Truth? They are not meant to be universal to all. You can co-exist with one who doesn’t share the same perceptions of the supernatural…without being an asshole about it.

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The Pagan communities over the years I have come to respect the most and enjoy the most are the ones that do the best at not getting destroyed by competition to prove who’s personal belief system is more legitimate. They have a good understanding of what the difference is between a scientific fact and personal perception of an experience. They don’t confuse the two as the same. My deity’s are highly queer and homoerotic. They defy traditional heteronormative and gender binary definitions of what occult systems typically define. My Sun male Deity is receptive. Poetically the Sun is the center of the solar system. The planets revolve around it. He explains this as from his brilliance and beauty he draws those in other Gods and people who seek to merge with him and adore him. He’s seductive attraction makes him a Gay bottom God. Totally defying the common idea that the Sun is projective and hetero-masculine. Indeed my Sun God is male and has masculine homoerotic features but he is by no means primarily projective. Does that mean than, that I do not have a legitimate relationship with a Sun God? Pagans who are relying on a more heteronormative model and do not experience his mysteries in the same way. Does that mean those who do not experience the Sun God as homoerotically “receptive” and not “projective” do not have a Truthful connection to him? No, I do not feel this way. I feel its important that if I participate in a larger Pagan community for me to be around those I can express and share my experiences. But also respect and share the experiences of others that do not perceive it the same way.

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Just as my undergrad research on a psycho-social theory application of the study of Paganism found. We are all draw to this counter cultural religion…because the majority of us are marginalized or disenfranchised with society in some way. We have an unhealthy relationship with power in our daily lives, and we need a space to feel “empowered.” But that often becomes an imperfect process of healing for many of us. I know it continues to be with me. Having to challenge myself to constantly ask “am I reacting instead of responding right now?…how can I be more conscious about my emotional reactions to things?” It’s an imperfect process of healing that takes a lot of time and a loving and understanding community of people conscious about the same work. That’s what for me has determined, over the years what a “quality Pagan” community is. These are people who are aware we are a counter-culture of outcasts and have difficult wounds with abusive power in our lives because of the society we live in. Lets create a community where we can heal, and disarm each other with love when we go on unhealthy power trip and compete for legitimacy with each other.

Witch Competition: Destroys Witchcraft

The Next Step Forward: Evolution of Gay Space

One thing I think is often the next step forward in gay progress, is what we do with our unique culture and space. We see a mixture of frustration at the slow death of gay bars and a growing complacency about it. Some of us are sad to see gay bar after gay bar close and/or get over run by sorority girls and brital showers to a point there isn’t enough homosexuality in them to make them worth going out too as a homosexual looking for homosocial oppertunity. Yet heterosexual insensitively taking over the space is only partially to blame…there is also a less motivation for new generations to be proactive and out going due to two things. The prevalence of gay apps and less persecution from heteronormative society that drives one to seek out safe gay spaces. Many guys I talk to of all ages seems to reduce the slow death of gay culture to one of these three reasons. I do not think this problem one of these things alone…but rather a big combination of all three. After all plenty of guys have Grindr, Growlr, Scruff, and the like…but still go out to the gay bars on weekends too. While yes we are getting more comfortable in a heterodominate society…that doesn’t change the fact that society remains heterodominat and because of this we will ALWAYS require spaces dedicated to homosexual socialization. 


As far has hetero gay bar take overs…well that’s just a lack of sensitivity on their part…more conversations need to be had with our allies about how important it is for gay spaces to remain homosexually dominant. We want them to feel comfortable with us, but at the end of the day a straight person never feels isolated from other straight people in everyday life in society at large. They may struggle with dating oppertunities for various reasons, but thats not because of a lack of heterosexuals around them that’s due to other issues which they need to work out amongst themselves. Gay people do feel isolated from other gay people…no matter how many supportive straight friends they have, their supportive straight friends are not gay and do not provide homosexual oppertunities. Gay bars must remain focused on their purpose, which is to provide a space for homosexuals to socialize and connect. Heterosexuals have literally everywhere in society for that. They are not being victimized when we ask them not to invade our homosexual spaces. So perhapse they should be thankful they don’t need to dedicate special spaces to connect to other straight people because of lacking that oppertunity and respect what gay bars are actually about. Gay bar tangent aside, my point is no matter how much social progress we enjoy in society, we will ALWAYS need spaces dedicated to gay socialization. Not because of persecution alone…but rather the need of having access to oppertunities to sexually develop, find romantic oppertunities, and develop a comrodery with those that share homosexuality in common and relate to the nuances of homosexual experiences and perspectives. Thats the next frontier of gay culture.


Thats going to be what the next generations need to talk about. Instead of focusing on gay rights as a political issue alone…its going to become more and more about socialization. How do we create a better future (and present) where homosexuals feel more connected and have more oppertunities to have social experiences togeither? In more metropolitan areas there are more then just gay bars alone, there are gay sports teams, gay special interest groups, gay cafés, and even “gayborhoods.” But not every homosexual has a desire for big city life, we need more things like that in small metropolitan areas. I know in my own hometown of Asheville NC, we have a small amount of gay special interest groups (that frankly often struggle to stay alive). We use to have a plethora of gay bars and all but one has pretty much become hetero-dominant or closed down. We have an annual pride and a LGBT center that is in its forming stages. For better or worse we are a decently small-sized metropolitan area with resources that make up a simi-gay culture. But sometimes I feel there is such apathy to actually participating in that culture. Aspects of it have slowly declined (like the amount of gay bars that can actually be called “gay”). Others have slowly begun to grow (like our annual pride and the proto-formation of an LGBT center). But when I talk to other gays in our area, a good number seem to have a complacency about it all. Feeling comfortable about how gay friendly the general population of Asheville is…why do they NEED gay friends and gay community? To that I answer…why do you always complain about never having a boyfriend? I don’t know maybe because you don’t care enough about there being a thriving space, culture, and community of people where that oppertunity is accessable? Sure in a progressive place like Asheville if your outgoing enough you’ll run in a few fellow gays every now and then…but still the ratio of gay to straight in any given crowd is still going to be 2.5:20 on average. Is that really a “thriving” homosexual social experience? Better then it could be else where…but still not “thriving.” Not all gays feel this way obviously…but just enough of us are complacent and lacking in motivation to care about having a thriving gay community…that its barely able to stay alive. Its not only in my hometown…its happening all over the USA. While I cannot speak for other developed countries at similar phases of social progress in gay rights…I am sure its a similar issue for them too.


We need to challenge each other to think about our needs as more then just political progress. Our needs in society don’t just stop with anti-discrimination laws, marriage equality, and adoption rights. Having those things established are seriously just the beginning to making a better tomorrow for homosexuals in society. Simply not being treated like shit in society and having supportive heterosexual friends are not enough to having an optimum and functional homosexual existance. Having a fully realized thriving homosexual life also includes homosexual relationships and easy access to them. So we need to change how we think about what the purpose of a gay community is. Its not simply to fight a political battle to be accepted in a hetero-dominant society…though that certianly is important…its also about homosexuals meeting other homosexuals and developing relationships with each other. That’s certainly not limited to sexual and romantic ones alone, its also friendships with people that share a common experience. We need to stop limiting our ambition for progress to simply being accepted by straight folks…we need to add the ambition of having more and better oppertunities for homosexuals to connect to each other. 


No body said this would be easy, that you even have to like every homosexual you meet, or that any true community of people sharing common identities is a perfect flawless experience. I certainly don’t “like” every single gay person I meet simply because they are also homosexual. However, I know the value of them being apart of a larger community we share…regardless of my feelings about them personally. Gay people are just as diverse as any community. Some of us are masculine, some femme, some don’t even care to own a gender identity. Some of us are geeks, blue collar, white collar, academic, rich, middle class, or poor. Some of us only want monogamy, some of us want the freedom to explore non-monogamy without judgement or disapproval. Some of us are into kink and BDSM and Leather, others are vanilla. Some are liberal and even though it boggles my mind and makes absolutely no sense to me some of us are conservative. Most of us are some grey obscurity of all these things and more. Having a gay community is not always about having perfect and ideal personal connection to everyone you meet. Its about a diverse population of homosexuals uniting in a common goal. Which I think needs to evolve to become more and more about having oppertunities for homosexual relationships. While some of those relationships are not always going to be an ideal connection…the point is the oppertunity for them is there and that there is more then just one or two rare oppertunities.

Revisiting The Importance on Addressing Internalized Homophobia in the Gay Community.

 

In my undergrad career I spent a lot of time deconstructing the gay community with different psycho-social theories. This process was inevitably reflective on myself and my personal experiences as a gay male. The more I tried to understand gay men and the psycho-social mechanisms that influenced our behaviors and perspectives…the more I had to challenge my own preconceptions about other gay men as a gay male myself. With only very few rare exceptions, gay people are not raised by gay people or in a gay society around them. They grow up with the expectation that they are heterosexual and will sexually mature with feelings and intimate relationships for the opposite sex. They also see homosexuality represented around them if not bluntly with homophobia, then with undertones that always see it with indignation “that’s so gay!” With a combination of wanting to earn respect from heterosexual friends upon coming out and wanting to distance oneself from a negative view of homosexuality…gay men often do internalize negative impulses and perceptions of homosexuality. But we have to understand that internalized homophobia isn’t simply blunt homophobia, it’s a spectrum of attitudes, behaviors, and subtle internalized preconceptions about homosexuality itself (either or both in oneself and in others). You can be completely out as a gay man, have supportive and open minded heterosexual friends, and even have a boyfriend and still suffer from internalized homophobia. Or you could be completely closeted and live a double life hooking up with guys while dating a girlfriend and have internalized homophobia.

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I am revisiting this subject because I am planning on building on my research from my undergrad years in my up coming graduate school years starting a month from now. It is my experience and belief that most of the barriers to having a positive and affirming experience in the gay community is rooted in our internalized oppression. Many gay men suffer from feeling isolated from others like themselves but don’t even realize so much of that isolation is self-imposed by beliefs, prejudices, and preconceptions they hold against each other. From the monogamous gay that “wants to be just like the straight people” who thinks all gays are any number of negative stereotypes because we don’t want the same things he does. To the free spirited gay that owns his sexuality and explores it uninhibitedly that still has a certain discomfort or aversion with particular kinds of gay people. Its always there, influencing the attitude, behaviors, and preconceptions we bring to the table in our common spaces. We need to bring more awareness to how internalized homophobia and homonegativity influences us in a large spectrum of ways and how we can treat it.

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As a growing number of people in mental health, LGBT studies, gender and sexuality studies, and social science fields continue an ongoing discussion about internalized homophobia and it’s effects on homosexuals, more and more studies reveal a large range of ways it can impact us. Substance abuse for instance, risky sexual behaviors, emotional intimacy issues with our lovers, behaviors and prejudices that self-impose isolation from the gay community, and so on. Think about substance abuse for instance. I don’t know about you but my first gay bar experience came with A LOT of anxiety. A place where homosexuality was for the first time in my life, accessible, concentrated, and common place around me. There was a curious and irrational discomfort inside of me because it was so new and unusual. I had been out of the closet for years before my first gay bar experience and even had a boyfriend or two…but I had not previously ever been in a space where I could assume all the men around me were also interested in the same sex and that it was socially acceptable to openly pursue that desire without shame or fear of homophobic response. That anxiety can drive you to seek out intoxication to calm your nerves…and right there in that very moment of internalized homophobia (the discomfort of having sudden access to homosexuality for the first time) leads to a developing alcoholism…something that easily can become a dependency every time you interact with other homosexuals if there is no interventions to change the pattern of behavior. Given that the most accessible and common gay space for us is bars for the most part…its no wonder they are finding LGBTs have high rates of drug and alcohol dependency issues. If there was less general discomfort and anxiety when socializing with other gay men in a gay-normalized space…would there be as much substance abuse in our community? I believe so myself. Some studies suggest that risk factors for substance abuse are reduced when individuals feel connected with positive relationships and live in a quality environment (though they do not go away because other factors can contribute to substance abuse, they are generally reduced and become less common).

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Lets also talk about partner selection behaviors. Holding preconceptions against a generalized belief about what the gay community is or is not (that carry undertones of disapproval or dislike) significantly reduces your openness to meeting the diverse people you can encounter in the gay community. It reduces your motivation to go to places where making gay connections are more common and accessible. It also puts out an off-putting attitude to gay people you encounter. If you want a same-sex boyfriend…but the entire gay community is this terrible thing and you say that every time you introduce yourself to other gay people…that comes across a bit negative and stand off-ish. With a changed internalized relationship to how you regard and relate to other gay people. You may find a totally different social experience with them. Mainly that your social network will get significantly larger and you will find gay people are significantly more diverse then you allowed yourself to believe.

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Not only does internalized homophobia effect how you perceive others…but it can impact your self-esteem as well. Now we all know the stereotype that gay people have a huge ego and are narcissistic, but again it’s a stereotype that is only sometimes based in truth and we have to differentiate between a healthy sense of “self-esteem” and an unhealthy narcissistically enhanced ego. These are totally different concepts and impact peoples behavior in different ways. Someone with a healthy sense of self-worth is going to feel more worthy of love, respect, integrity, and emotional well being. Someone who has a massively inflated ego is going to be dismissive others, probably compensating for a poor sense of self-worth by replacing it with self-gratification, and little to no empathy for others. Self-esteem is more important then most people realize and the pop discussion on how emphasizing it creates narcissistic “little special snowflakes,” has a poor sense of accuracy is what “healthy” self-esteem is and isn’t. With a strong sense of self-esteem you become less needing of gratification from others. You are less likely to put up with harmful and unhealthy behaviors from a partner just so you can have a boyfriend that says “I love you.” You can handle a rejection in more resilient and positive ways. You also are going to be less likely to settle for something unhealthy to find a false sense of being loved. Internalized homophobia does impact a sense of self-worth both in how gay men treat each other and in the more subliminal messages we internalize from a society that holds homosexuality in contempt. So realize you are worthy of love, respect, dignity, and a life where you are emotionally healthy and happy. Realize other gay people are worthy of that to and we all play a role in the social reality we create with each other that impacts that.

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Our sexuality itself is often impacted by what we internalize. As sexually liberated as we seem to be…it’s actually very common for gay men to feel discomfort with sex. Internalized homophobia could manifest in the guy that is perfectly comfortable giving you head, but really uncomfortable getting to know you and your name. Or it can manifest in the gay that is comfortable getting to know you and your name, but struggles to feel comfortable being sexual with you (even when the mutual interest is there). Holding on so tight to being perceived as a model homosexual that makes a heteronormative society comfortable with you can really erase the reality of our sexual desires sometimes. Its dangerous to remind those around you, that you are in fact a sexual being and like having sex with men…and that can internalize into sexual aversion. Or a discomfort with homosexuality as a dirty thing, it can create a cycle of trying to separate personhood from dick. In such cases, it feels a lot easier to get that primal dirty sexual urge scratched then it does see a person with the urge you are releasing. I personally do not like placing a monogamous expectation on gay people, nor do I think it’s fair to discourage traditional monogamy for those that want it. I do think both gays that want traditional monogamy and those that practice ethical non-monogamy do have to examine their sexuality though and try to deconstruct their motivations, discomforts, and behaviors to ensure it comes from an authentic and healthy place. Maybe you might need to challenge yourself to try out a hook-up for once…its not as bad as you think and you may enjoy it (or if you’re in a traditional monogamous relationship…explore outside your sexual comfort zone with your partner). Or maybe you need to challenge your personal barriers to emotional intimacy with gay people. Both issues can come from internal barriers that keep us from our optimum sense of happiness and fulfillment in our gay experience. Wanting to be loved but always denying ourselves the opportunity, or wanting to engage our sexual impulses but never allowing ourselves to enjoy it.

This and so much more makes up the realities of the lives of gay men and our internal struggles. Sometimes we see our identities as so attached to political issues…we neglect that sometimes to live happier lives we have to focus on the things that are less about how society treats and accepts us and more on our relationship to each other exclusively. Granted internalized homophobia does stem from the oppression we face in society, which is why social justice will always be important. However, we cannot erase the damage that’s already been done and that continues to take place (although progressively becoming more contained and reduced) and impacts our internal experience. We must take a moment to think of ourselves as an internal community and work on the problems that take place between us exclusively. We need to interrogate where our feelings of disconnection come from and challenge the internalized mechanisms they come from. What is having the right to marriage equality worth to us…if we all feel isolated from each other?