We have come a long way towards greater acceptance for the LGBTQ community in America. Despite those gains—as Orlando attests--we have a long way to go.
Today’s guest blogger writes in anonymity. She is a certified Psy.D in Psychology who treats a full-time caseload in an agency affiliated with a mainstream church. Her supervisor has advised her that if she were to “out herself” in an article in Psychology Today, her clients would transfer to someone else. Nonetheless, she has written extensively and with keen insight about her situation. She demonstrates candor, has researched her subject formally and also recorded perceptive observations of her experience as a therapist and as a woman. In her own words----
It’s no wonder so many LGBTQ individuals are depressed, guilt-ridden, ashamed, suicidal, angry, self-injurious, self-hating and self-rejecting. The conflict between conforming to the implicit demands of the heterosexual majority and the wish to live an LGBTQ lifestyle can have extremely negative, even fatal consequences. I have punished myself with self-mutilation, over-indulged in illegal substances and alcohol in an attempt to numb my guilt. I was dying inside.
Some of us are simultaneously, the accuser and the victim, the homophobe and the homosexual. I vacillated between the two for over twenty years, voting against gay rights, while lying in bed next to my girlfriend.
“What does it matter if the entire world accepts me as a lesbian, if I can’t accept myself?” I’ve asked myself this question many times. Like me, many LGBTQ individuals are raised in religious cultures, which teach us to hate the part of ourselves that identifies as non-heterosexual. Traditional Christianity, Catholicism, Evangelicals, Baptists and Muslims insist that being LGBTQ merits eternal damnation. The vast majority of LGBTQ individuals are raised to believe they are hated by their Maker and worthy of humankind’s scorn.
I realized that, despite the intense religiosity of my family background, my love of family and their love for me outweighed the homophobic strain that haunted me. I grasped that those who do not appreciate that the power of love is greater than hate, do not understand the true value of the spirituality of humanity. The leap to self-acceptance had to do with claiming my love for women to be at one with my love for all that is decent and precious in my relationship to my humanity. I realized that, as a therapist, my struggle for self-acceptance was necessary if I was to help my clients achieve the self-acceptance they needed to achieve-- whether they were gay, straight, trans or any other variation of self-discovery and expression. In order for me to guide others towards being true to their own natures, I needed to believe in that possibility for myself. Without that my work would lack core authenticity.
I have met scores-- hundreds, perhaps even thousands--of LGBTQ individuals who admitted to feelings of self-hatred, guilt, shame and fear. No matter if I met them at a gay nightclub, Gay Pride festival, at church, school or in a therapeutic environment, somehow, the subject of internalized homophobia always seemed to enter the conversation. In most cases, their negative attitudes about their own sexual identity stemmed from society’s disapproval of ‘other than heterosexual’ practices as well as the religious training they have received. I have written of my journey to self-acceptance in my upcoming book, ‘You Mean I Can Have God And Be Gay?!’ which will soon be available to the public.
In 2013, I conducted a survey (D-CASIS) as part of my doctoral dissertation project. There were 307 adult participants, various ages and from different racial and religious backgrounds. The study included male and female participants with variance in sexual identity, orientation and backgrounds.
Ninety-nine percent of the LGBTQ population who, participated in the D-CASIS survey, identified themselves as having a religious affiliation of sorts. This is significant because it demonstrates how many people place importance on having faith in a higher power, or a creator, particularly those in the gay community. Unfortunately, on many occasions, those in the LGBTQ community have been told, we can have nothing to do with the deity others worship unless we hide our sexuality so well, that we ourselves can’t find it. “Pick one, be with God or be gay!” we are told.
The recent shooting at the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida is a vivid example of how hatred of the LGBTQ community continues to drive people’s destructive behaviors. If the shooter was himself gay—as some suggest--it is possible that he projected his internalized homophobia onto his victims and sought to kill the part of himself that he despised through discharging his long rifle. If the shooter was heterosexual, his attack against the LGBTQ community likely derived from his religious and personal prejudice against a group whom he had been taught was depraved and deserving of death. In either case, homophobia, whether externalized or internalized, resulted in the brutal assassination of the innocent.
When this tragedy occurred, I waited to see if my religious community would react with compassion, despite their disapproval of the gay lifestyle. A few people offered condolences, while many demonstrated disdain by remaining silent, as if nothing had happened.
I believe I have come a long way in my struggle against internalized homophobia. And we, as a society, have made strides. Still, we have a long way to go before love of Self, acceptance of our personalized sexual nature and anticipated acceptance of our sexuality by our chosen religious group can co-exist in peace and harmony, out loud and proud. ----Dr. Anonymous
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