Sunday, June 28, 2009

Internalized Homophobia?

When I came out to my wife and members of my extended family more than a decade ago, I sought hugs and I got them. Slowly my situation faded into the background and so did much of the physical affection. I still want it, but I no longer initiate it, and except for the occasional hugs from three women in our family circle, it rarely happens.

Every now and then I'll let a handshake with a brother-in-law linger a little longer, but they'll usually break it off. Sometimes I'll put my arm around someone, but the gesture is rarely reciprocated. I look at the photo above and wish that kind of easy, affectionate touch could again happen in my life. But for some reason I have become largely untouching and untouchable. It seems rational that this is but a spiral that can be broken.

I can even imagine a scenario where I give someone a bear hug which is warmly reciprocated and I say "Thanks, that sure felt good. I've needed that for a long time." And the person I'm hugging says, "Well it felt good to me, too. I've missed your hugs. I hope you'll continue to give them." And then he gives me an even longer, tighter hug than I've just given him.

But a darker part of me says, "It's not about breaking a spiral, it's that you're broken. From the moment you came out you've been damaged goods and there's no amount of fairy tale scenarios that will change it. The real reason they don't touch you is because they find you and your desires repugnant. They did back then and they still do. They haven't forgotten what people like you want to do. Spare them any more nausea. Keep your hands and your thoughts to yourself."


  1. :( touch is a very good thing. something we all need.

  2. I like to give bear hugs. I have one waiting for you.

  3. Hugs are incredibly healing. I wish we all used them more.

  4. I say "to hell" with those thoughts! The idea that you are broken or that the idea of giving a bit longer hug is repulsive or somehow seen by others as inappropriate or worse yet, somehow perverted, is insane.

    Physical touch is enormously important to the human experience. I don't know where I would be without it. I crave it. I desire it. I have been labeled as "touchy feely" and "odd" by many, but I don't care what they think. I am still going to give hugs and kisses, long embraces and affectionate touches and caresses as I see fit and feel the need to do so.

    I hope you will break this spiral and come to the same conclusion. This world would be a much better place if we weren't so paranoid about hidden meanings behind every ounce of affection shown, and just be as the guys in your photo. I love the photo and hope for the day that such shots are the norm, not abnormal.

    Big Beck hugs...

  5. Troy: 100% agreed. :)

    Bror: I knew I had some good reasons to visit Southern Utah. I'll just add this to the list. Thanks, my friend. I'll "hold you" to it.

    Grant: Thanks for the reminder. Wouldn't it be great if our docs just wrote out a prescription for a minimum 3-5 hugs per day and made it clear this is medically indicated for health and well being, just like like keeping your prostate healthy! :D Maybe I just need to be my own doc and make it happen.

    Beck: You are a good example to me. Thanks for helping me quiet my sometimes jangled thinking. "Get thee hence, oh ye thoughts of darkness!" Glad you like the photo. I'll gladly take you up on those "Big Beck hugs" !

  6. I'll gladly offer a big old hug to anyone at any time--so you just let me know next time you're in LA!

  7. Internalized homophobia? Yes, sure sounds like it to me.

    The only way I know of to combat internalized homophobia is to surround yourself with “gay positive” glbt and straight people.

    The glbt people to provide role models to debunk the stereotypes you grew up with.

    The straight people to cancel out all the negativity that was part of your socialization.

    Basically, for me, the internalized homophobia were emotional tapes I played in my head over and over again and the presence of these people in my life forced me to first challenge the messages being played then the underlying belief(s) behind the messages.

    For instance, one belief I had was that the best a straight person could do was tolerate a gay person. With relative strangers, the emotional tapes playing were “They will reject me if they find out”, “They will tell others” and “It is not safe to be around them.” With straight loved ones, the tapes playing were “They love me despite my being gay” and “I know they will still love me but finding out will only cause them pain”.

    When I surrounded myself with “gay positive” straight people, first the messages were proven false (They didn’t reject me) then the underlying belief could no longer stand up to scrutiny (these straight people can accept me just as I am). The old belief was replaced with a new belief and the negative messages were replaced with positive ones.

    One little caveat…I made very little progress while still very closeted. It took coming out and having greater interaction with these folks before I was forced to question my messages and beliefs.

    Good Luck!

  8. May I recommend PFLAG.

    The PFLAG chapter in Salt Lake is probably a very active chapter.

    You can find the chapter nearest you by going to their national website,