Internalized homophobia. We have all heard the words before, but how many of us are aware that we suffer from it? Do you think you are over it?
From the youngest of ages, we have been seeped in a society that scorns the odd and encourages the average. No matter how loving our family may be, society sends a very clear message -- be like everyone else -- be heterosexual. Movies, television and radio promote it. Magazines, best-selling books and newspapers promote it. Schools, churches and clubs promote it. Everywhere you turn the message is out there -- men want women and women want men... Don't they?
Not Recognizing Lesbian Feelings.
With all the shouting, why are we surprised so many of us do not hear our own internal voices until later in life? And no matter what age we may find ourselves, how can even the bravest of us dare to stand up for what we want and need?
Of course some of us continue to live in denial so deep, anything seems to be a step up. How many times have you heard -- I am not a lesbian! I just happen to love this one woman. -- Of course.
The signs of homophobia can be extremely subtle. When internalized it can be spotted in small ways. Ask yourself -- is this something that indicates I am maintaining any hope that I am not a lesbian? Is there any shame in my behavior, no matter how minute?
Uncomfortable With Sexual Intimacy.
Many women clue in to that internal voice, or need, after much confusion and soul-searching. Even then, the test of feelings against fear is covered in minute detail, just to be sure. Some women will not fully accept their lesbian feelings -- insisting they cannot be sure of their orientation until they experience their first lesbian liaison. If you doubt this is a sign of homophobia, consider that no one would ever suggest a sexual experience is necessary to confirm heterosexual feelings.
There are many women who can only enjoy sexual relations once their inhibitions are removed. Sadly, the obvious choices of either alcohol or drugs leaves many of us full time addicts and chemically dependent. However, once under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the inhibitions do drop away and these women can become sexually free. However, when the chemical leaves the body, not only do the inhibitions return, but guilt and shame are added to the mix.
If you see yourself going down this road you may want to consider some support groups and/or therapy. You need to resolve this issue to at least the point where you eliminate the danger of destroying your life or killing yourself with chemicals.
For the deeply frightened, or those who live in areas with the least amount of support groups, I would suggest online help. Nothing fancy is really necessary, and depending on your personality or interest, there are different choices. The overall goal is to become comfortable with and around lesbians.
Do you find yourself cringing when seeing two women flirt with each other? -- Immerse yourself in a lesbian chat room where there are many women who flirt. There are many to choose from so find the one that you can enjoy beyond just getting comfortable.
# Are you the shy type or want more substance than chatter? -- Find a lesbian forum where you can pick and choose topics that interest you. This is also a wonderful source of information and resources for learning about political, religious and relationship issues -- all with a lesbian slant to them.
# Feeling a little bolder? -- Check out your local PFLAG group for support meetings. If you have a local LGBT Center, give a call and find out about their schedule of offerings. Volunteer your time -- a nice way to meet women without the pressure of a bar scene.
Just taking small steps to acclimate yourself to the idea and the reality of lesbians and community will help lessen homophobia.
With all of societies messages -- both past and present -- I doubt that any of us are completely free from internalized homophobia. But like much else in life, we are going through a process. Being aware of the pitfalls can be a large enough goal for all of us.