Internalized homophobia is characterized by a “gay person’s direction of negative social attitudes toward the self”. This experience is, unsurprisingly, not an uncommon experience. With so many stigmas and negative stereotypes placed around being LGBTQ+, many LGBTQ+ people tend to reject or develop contempt toward their sexual orientation or identity. This internalized homophobia can show itself through bullying, rejecting one’s identity, and in many other ways. The person dealing with internalized homophobia will likely experience feeling isolated and alone due to them not allowing themselves to accept their full identity.
What is Internalized Homophobia
Internalized homophobia is a negative feeling an LGBTQ+ person will feel toward their sexual identity or orientation. It can show itself in many different ways, like denial of identity or orientation, attempts to change identity or orientation, the person feeling like they aren’t good enough, obsessive thinking, under- or over-achievement to seek acceptance, and low self-esteem. They may also show contempt to other members of the LGBTQ+ community who have openly accepted their sexual identity and orientation. This could lead to the person experiencing internalized homophobia harassing, bullying, or acting violently toward other members of the LGBTQ+ community.
What Causes Internalized Homophobia
Internalized homophobia is a complex experience to deal with. It often begins to take root in childhood. When a person is raised being told things like “Being gay is a sin” or “Being lesbian is wrong”, it is hard not to internalized these beliefs. Same-sex marriage has only become legal in all fifty U.S. states as recently as the year 2015. This means that as recently as 2015, LGBTQ+ individuals in the U.S. were still told that loving who they love was illegal. Countries around the world still have laws that make being a part of the LGBTQ+ community a crime. Those who struggle with internalized homophobia have been raised in a society that has placed a stigma around their sexual identity and orientation, making them believe that who they are is wrong or sinful.
Do You Struggle with Internalized Homophobia?
Internalized homophobia can be tough to deal with. Many people may not even be completely aware that what they are struggling with is internalized homophobia. A few psychological scales have been developed to determine if one is struggling with internalized homophobia, like the Ross and Rosser Four Dimensions Scale. On this scale, there are four dimensions that are analyzed for internal homophobia. They include “public identification as gay, perception of stigma associated with being homosexual, social comfort with gay men, and the moral and religious acceptability of being gay”. There are a few signs you can watch out for to determine if you may be struggling with internalized homophobia yourself. They include:
· Rejecting your own sexual identity or orientation
· “Acting Straight”
· Avoiding being associated with other LGBTQ+ people
· Feelings of resentment toward other LGBTQ+ people
· Being hyper-aware of self image when expressing yourself or participating in activities
· Relationship troubles, like lack of intimacy or short-term relationships.
· Defending acts of injustice to the LGBTQ+ community
How Internalized Homophobia Affects Relationships
When one is dealing with internalized homophobia, they tend to struggle with negative relationships in all aspects of their life, whether it be romantic or non-romantic relationships. Focusing on the romantic relationships, one who is dealing with internalized homophobia will truly struggle.
Internalized homophobia can prevent one from entering into intimate relationships. Instead, they will often perpetuate the untrue stereotype that LGB people are incapable of maintaining healthy and long-lasting romantic relationships. Because of this, those dealing with internalized homophobia often feel low satisfaction with their romantic life because they feel that they cannot form a true connection with their partners.
Internalized homophobia can also develop a resentment toward their partner because they may serve as a reminder of the person’s sexual orientation or identity. Because of this, their relationships may be tumultuous and full of ups and downs. Studies have found that men who reported higher levels of internalized homophobia were less likely to engage in intimate relationships. They were also found to report shorter relationships than those with lower levels of internalized homophobia.
Research has also found that men who struggle with internalized homophobia tend to struggle in their sexual intimacy experience. They tend to experience image concerns, fears, depression, and anxiety associated with their sexual intimacy.
Regarding non-romantic relationships, those who struggle with internalized homophobia tend to also struggle with the familial relationships and friendships. It has been shown that those suffering from internalized homophobia tend to feel more lonely, have less social support, and feel less supported by the LGBTQ+ community. People struggling with internalized homophobia may begin withdrawing from their friends and family due to the internal issues they are experiencing.
Internalized Homophobia and Mental Health
Often, internalized homophobia forms because of a view that being heterosexual is the “correct” way to live. Feeling a resistance toward one’s sexual identity or orientation can cause a lot of issues for their mental health and wellbeing. People struggling with internalized homophobia can develop symptoms of depression or anxiety. They may lack in self-esteem or struggle with their body image and constantly find themselves question their own worth. They may feel angry and resentful toward those who are able to feel comfortable in their own sexual identity or orientation. Their feelings of shame, defensiveness, and bitterness may lead to them feeling more alone and afraid than ever.
It is entirely possible that a person dealing with internalized homophobia may develop a substance use issue. They may turn to substance like drugs or alcohol in order to help them cope with their pain and suffering.
If you are walking the lonely road of internalized homophobia, it can take a toll on your relationships, school or work success, and overall quality of life. But, you can begin journey to self-acceptance through therapy. At Rhapsody Behavioral Healthcare, we have a therapist who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and committed to serving the LGBTQ+ community. In therapy, you will learn to identify the origins of your own negative beliefs about yourself and learn ways to reject those learnings. Contact us today to get started.