Gay and lesbians have been experiencing a great deal of violence and horror living in a homophobic world. Examples include: the burning of lesbian women and labeling them witches; the stoning of lesbian women in the Middle East; serving in concentration camps and being sent to the gas chamber; getting arrested by undercover police agents and thrown into jail for acting on genuine homoerotic feelings.
Every gay man and lesbian woman willing to talk about their experiences can give testimony when they were mistreated and made to feel ashamed of their existence. The violent homophobic treatment that gay people are receiving can get internalized, and this internalization of the violence that is happening to us including being made to feel less than by the heterosexual collective contributes to the development of internalized homophobia.
The internalized homophobia, when it stays unconscious and does not get challenged, becomes an inner oppressor and prevents many of us from experiencing our feelings and being real. Essentially, it severs us from our life force. A common example occurs when a gay person believes coming out and living an authentic life would jeopardize his parent's health!
Another common example of inner homophobia is when a gay person who is dominated by his homophobic shadow claims being gay is a small part of him and reduces his Gay Soul to “it's about what I do in my bedroom.”
Prevalent drug and alcohol abuse among many gay and lesbian people is another manifestation of internalized homophobia. Since internalized homophobia demands lack of empathy for our inferior feelings and our painful experiences growing up, substance abuse becomes the means to escape these agonizing feelings. With mood altering drugs and alcohol, many gay and lesbian people attempt to soothe the hurt they feel inside themselves.
The lack of knowledge and proper tools to work with these inferior feelings makes one vulnerable to drug abuse. Being conscious of the internal toxic shame and humiliation and having empathy for those feelings is an act of activism, and an important step toward inner coming out and gay liberation. Substance abuse is not going to free us from the bondage of homophobia.
Many gay and lesbian people are searching for a weapon of liberation. Not only are they looking for external liberation and equal rights, but also for the internal experience of liberation as well. Perhaps, some of us have a childlike wish for a gay prophet to come and rescue us from the dungeon of homophobia. Our savior is the psychological tools.
We need to work on our inner coming out and stop various acting out behaviors, such as substance abuse and bareback sex. By becoming psychological and taming the demons of inner homophobia, we can become healthy gay individuals and create strong gay communities. As a result, we can form societies to match our internal feelings of liberation.
It is time to ask deeper questions regarding gay liberation and look for answers within us. Is politics and extroverted activism enough for achieving gay liberation? Can we achieve equal rights or gay liberation without facing our dark homophobic shadow? Can one achieve external liberation without challenging the internal oppressor?
I believe a community that consists of wounded individuals needs to spend more time on its healing process. By having a psychological perspective on gay liberation and not just a political one, we can open a new frontier in our struggle for freedom.