internalized homophobia

i am changing

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image credit…. paul mahder 

All of my life I’ve been a fool
Who said I could do it all alone
How many good friends have I already lost?
How many dark nights have I known?
Walking down that wrong road
There was nothing I could find
All those years of darkness
Could make a person blind
But now I can see

i didn’t really watch the glee project much this season. it seemed contrived and i have been preoccupied and in quite a bit of transition this year. my primary job is shifting, my finances have shifted, i left my second job (which connects to the prior), the funding for ryan white is beginning to shift, and i think that some of the dreams i have for my life have shifted as well.

it’s been a tough couple of years, actually. as i grow in my clean years, i continue to unearth old bones that need to be handled. self-esteem issues, ptsd, inner child crap, a small yet very persistent and annoying porn fixation, internalized homophobia, shame based trauma- just to name a few. damn- it continues to make sense that i chose to get high… who in their right mind would want to deal with this list of cuckoo?

but deal with it i try. and as i try to ride out the current state of mercury in retrograde with almost white knuckle precision, i tuned in for the last couple of segments of glee project. and the very last show captured my fascination. what a complete (yet short) birds’ eye view of young adults realizing their dreams. no doubt they will not turn out as they dream, but they are connected to these dreams of theirs and weaving in the reality of glee to create a tapestry for themselves. at 18 -22, life is so very less complicated. so very more concrete. the possibilities and experiences tend to be rife with black and white, not yet revealing all the shades of gray that more years of living unveils.

so i watched, captivated, as alex did his rendition of “i am changing”. i felt stunned as a deer might as he is caught in a set of headlights. i confess i watched the performance several times because it made me feel comfortable or safe in a way i couldn’t really pinpoint.

but then i thought back to the 1st time i heard that song. i was living in chicago, working at an after hours club, and partying exponentially, avoiding grief and fear, and nano-recovering as needed. there was a gay video bar on halsted named sidetracks which was unequivocally popular from its inception. i really dug the vids, but i didn’t care for the nipple pony, jock-a-like clientele. gay men offered me my first real taste of shame based trauma. i just didn’t realize it back then. anyway, dreamgirls had been playing in new york for a season or two, when the vid of jennifer holiday hit the circuit. i first beheld her linebacker-like choreography and drank in her complete command of words and melody in that song at sidetracks. and i first noticed that the people who were actually lip syncing or singing along were the buffed-up jockabees and the muscle boys. that particular irony is with me still.

i found all that broadway show tune business uber-syrupy back then. i couldn’t connect to similarities in the guys who listened to this music, or the clones in the gay community and myself then. i was certainly queer, but i had also branded myself as alternative and worked hard at maintaining boundaries about this.at home, in bars and social settings,  i had heard and  felt the sharp tongues of gay men steeped in self-loathing and it had pierced my heart and left a dark empty space. i carried that wound for many years. it was toxic. it had made me wanna run for a long time.

i remember that when i first heard it, and i saw so many cute butchie-boys celebrating their inner dreamgirl, i became less afraid and felt just a little less apart that night in sidetracks. but as i listened to it today, with that sweet and complicated young man standing on stage in 9-5 drag, i understood that my heart is in a very different orbit.

i believe in possibility today. i am with fear, but not swimming in it. today i work to see an individual’s human qualities first. i continue to struggle with sharp tongues, but mostly my own. i want others to succeed, even if i don’t. i continue to struggle with many of the same issues, but now i struggle- i don’t ignore.  i am so happy that things are different. and blessed. i certainly found life very frothy when i was young, but i know things are in a much better place now. happy birthday to me (friday).

and to alex newell…. work it..

work to do

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photo credit : myfoxny

after hearing tyler clementi’s tragic story, i have been wrestling with the idea that i might need to be doing more to reach out to young gay people. i understand only too well, the challenges of being different coupled with guilt and self-loathing that many of these young gay men and women must work through. it is a dark dark journey that on some days takes all one can muster just to make it through a day. the internalized shame is completely toxic.

at the root of all of this is homophobia. people make fun of the characteristics of others because they are different and people are afraid. and this fear of gay people oftentimes is rooted in the perpetrators’ own self loathing.

but to have one’s initial sexplorations secretly videotaped and then posted online amid a small cloistered community like a college likens itself in my mind to torture. hazing, taunting, and torture. certainly the culprits did not intend for tyler’s reaction. no, they probably didn’t see it as an option. and that is the high crime here. that something could be funny takes priority over someone getting hurt is negligent, self-involved, and criminal.

i do have to admit that this does not seem far out of character for those in their late teens and early twenties. the dark possibilities in life have not yet reared their ugly heads to young persons in that age group. they (as did i) have a tendency to live in a safe bubble and still hold a belief that nothing will hurt us. but as the experience of actual living reveals to us, that we do get hurt. really hurt, seriously and permanently hurt sometimes.

my experience shows me that much of this early adult trauma that is both felt and perpetrated morphs into a life of heavy substance abuse and addiction,  self abuse, and hiv infections. there may be an internal self-hating that never really goes away if it is not addressed. it can lay dormant for long periods and then resurface when life situations take a southerly direction. and life does go south now and again and when it does, the roots of  shame can return as an infection, a virus, and a bacteria all rolled into one. we can find ourselves feeling as unprotected, vulnerable, and weak as we were when we were 17.

dan savage, dave navarro, ellen degeneres and many others are stepping up and beginning what should be an ongoing quest. how do we make the world a better place than when we got here? how do we squelch this force of hatred and separation that confronts so many lgbtq youth?

i don’t have the answer. i don’t know that i am sure where to begin. but i will become kinder. i can make an effort to reach backwards and become more inclusive. and i can make sure i don’t forget.  i got work to do…

love come down

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Love come down
all the way down
no sleep last night
been dreamin’ of you
please hold me tight
’cause i can’t help the way that i feel
i just can’t help the way that i feel
thief in the night
you took my heart
now danger’s in sight
’cause i can’t help the way that i feel
i just can’t help the way that i feel

there are aspects of being a “sissy” that have caused me grief my entire life. i am not speaking of being gay, but more about being somewhat effeminate- less now than when i was younger. today, on Pride Day, i find myself thinking about what it has meant being gay all these years. i know that “coming out” was a real event and i was thrilled when i had stepped beyond the glass closet and found myself inside with the rest of my tribe. at the same time however, i found myself distanced by many because of my  effeminate mannerisms and characteristics. i would imagine this is most easily explained by internalized homophobia. but on a spiritual level, this understanding takes time and work to reach. initially, it just felt like more hate pointed in my direction, and reaffirmed the notion that i was, indeed, unlovable and not what others wanted.

this is a poignant place for me to arrive on this Pride day. i still struggle rigorously- even after 36 years being out- with this same theme. and sadly, i have turned my insecurities outward and aimed them at others over the years. maybe, i still do periodically. i hung out w/ a friend last evening that i dated for a very short time about 16 years ago. never has there been a question that he cares about me. never have i felt judged or as if i might be an embarrassment. to the contrary, he seems to admire and respect the parts of myself that i have struggled with all these years.

this perspective that he seems to hold about me is where i would like to find myself, too. the deep-rooted shame that has accompanied me through this life may no longer be of service. maybe  it is long overdue for a departure. i don’t quite know how i will work toward this, but i do completely believe it is the direction i have to go.

SHAME AND GUILT



Shame is not the same as guilt.
When we feel guilt, it’s about something we did.
When we feel shame, it’s about who we are.
When we feel guilty we need to learn
that it’s OK to make mistakes.
When we feel shame we need to learn
that it’s OK to be who we are!……… more about shame here

as i sat with my friend, i realized what a gift this across-the-board acceptance is to me. i didn’t ask him for it, but he has it completely- no questions asked. and i realize that i need to strive towards more of this naked acceptance in my world. truthfully, i struggle quite a lot with my own self-judgement as much as i am challenged by the rest of the world. now all i need is another 50 years or so…:)

Prayer to Overcome Shame


There are dark places in my Being, God. There are memories, circumstances, and scars that are unspeakable to me as I come before you. Heal my broken places, Dear God, and help me to feel my Wholeness. Bring me into the Light with You, God, and let me feel my fullness of Being as a Child of God…. from the prayer goddess