The Victims Of Homophobia

From the book: "Outing Yourself" by M. Signorile

The best way to understand how hatred becomes self-hatred is to think of homophobia as a disease, similar to alcoholism and drug abuse-afflictions that cause people to behave in irrational ways, even as they often in denial about what they are doing and saying. Thus it becomes easier to understand that the people we love can be homophobic. Like the people we know and love who may be alcoholics or drug abusers, they don't mean to hurt us, but they do. They are driven by an ugly disease. We must have compassion for them and understand how familial predisposition and societal pressures have caused them to behave and think in the manner in which they do, and we should summon up the courage and patience to deal with their disease. But we must not allow them to harm anyone, emotionally or physically, especially ourselves.

Though we may love and care for someone who is an alcoholic, we would not allow that person to get behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated and we would certainly not let that person drive while we are in the car. Similarly, we must not allow those whom we love who happen to be homophobic to make us feel terrible about ourselves, so terrible that we think about taking our own lives.

Most of us know only a few (if any) people who are alcoholics or drug abusers. In the case of homophobia, however, it is possible and probable that almost everyone around us is afflicted. We cannot let this lead us to believe that they are the healthy ones simply because they out-number us. Homophobia is a widespread affliction, and homophobia is curable.

Like other diseases, homophobia is also, unfortunately, contagious. Parents, teachers, and clergy pass it on to their children and those they influence. When the children are gay, it is passed on as internalized self-loathing.

Once you view homophobia as an affliction suffered by your parents and others, an affliction they have passed on to you, you begin to recognize that they don't know that their homophobia is destructive for you as well as for all gay people. You will find it easier to continue to love your family while at the same time understanding that they have a problem that endangers your emotional well being. You can be patient and understanding with them, but you must empower yourself to feel good about being gay in spite of what they may say or do. You must firmly resolve, right now, that even if they have passed this disease on to you, you are going to rid yourself of it and not allow it to eat away at you.

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