October 22, 2017.
"In my skin I feel like I can't be myself. Would you like me more if I was someone else? Through the glass I see someone that looks like me. Mirrors always show what you don't want to see. Can you fix me now? I don't know how. Can you fix me now? I don't know how. Can you fix me now? I don't know how."
“Malformed” by Mr.Kitty from A.I.
Homophobia is in the very air we breathe, like all forms of hatred and prejudice that exist in our society like racism, sexism, transphobia, etc. It’s everywhere. We’re exposed to it the moment we enter the world. We breathe in its odorless fumes, live out the rest of our lives in its ozone omnipresence.
It lives outside of us, between us, amongst us. It lives inside of the people we share our life with. It’s in our fathers and mothers. In uncles and cousins and coworkers. In best friends, the ones you hug and cry with and would lay your life down for in a heartbeat.
It has colonized us, too.
LGBT people live in the same ozone layer. We breathe in the same air. We are corrupted by the same horror. It manifests itself in closeted LGBT politicians that pass legislation that hurts and even kills other LGBT people. It manifests itself in men who cannot withstand the presence of, and mock or bash their more effeminate, queeny, less gender-conforming brethren. It manifests itself when people say bisexual people don’t exist because you can only be gay or straight, or when a woman doubts another woman’s womanhood because she was assigned male at birth.
We are born into the world, and we soak everything up. Children are sponges. Those are the formative years of identity. LGBT children are no exception.
We come into the world. We don’t see anyone else like us, seeing as orientation and gender identity are far more difficult to “see” than features of phenotype like skin color, shapes of eyes or nose, texture of hair. We are born alone, and we often live alone, for decades, with only the toxic fumes of homophobia to inform us of who we are and what is expected of us.
What does homophobia tell us about who we are? That we are sick, evil, worthless, deeply hated, better off dead. Better not to have existed at all. That we have no place anywhere. Nothing on earth is made with us in mind, or at least that’s what it seems like when you are nine or ten years old and are already aware of yourself and how others will treat you based on that fact. The life ahead of you seems so so so long, and so full of hatred and stigma.
What does homophobia say is expected of us? To disappear. To die off. To back away, to not get too close for fear of infecting the others with the gay. To conform. To melt away. To not rock the boat. To endure the stigma because you’re too sensitive to the abuse, too easily hurt by someone beating you up psychologically or subtly calling for you to be dead. “Can’t you take a joke?”
Is this kind of life worth living? To spend a life enduring stigma, isolation, loneliness?
The hatred around us gets ingrained in us. Internalized. After all, we are just beginning to formulate who we are at that young age. How could a ten year old possibly combat a world of hatred all on their own?
Some of us have been blessed with families that are openly accepting. Communities that might actively celebrate and cherish the differences within them. Some of us might be blessed with friends who will never leave no matter what. All of these are buffers against the abyss of hatred that lives at the heart of the world. FAMILY. That’s the thing that tethers the ones who don’t belong to a cold world, which has only ever told them in loud or subtle ways how unwanted and hated they are.
Adolescence is a black hole for anyone, probably, but in particular for those who are different, and in particular, those who are different and who have learned self-hatred, which keeps them isolated and ashamed and unable to connect to others like them.
"In my head I know these feelings can't be right. I feel I'm too weak, I'll never win the fight. Through your eyes I see someone that feels malformed. Please sew shut my eyes so that I'll see no more. Can you fix me now? I don't know how. Can you fix me now? I don't know how."
Many LGBT youth opt to harm themselves or kill themselves. Put yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t it make sense from their point of view? : you have no idea whether you will still have a family after you come out. That’s a haunting idea that permeates many young peoples’ minds for years. You have no idea whether you can have a family of your own someday; after all, it’s only until recently that LGBT families have begun to exist. You have no idea if you will have friends. Can you find love? What kind of life will you live, when all the milestones of life that have been sold to you since day one like home, family, security, retirement, old age, grandchildren, all are predicated on the prerequisite of heterosexuality? Can you grow old if you are LGBT? If you could not have a family, who will give a shit about you then? Can you ever, EVER truly just BE YOURSELF? Will you always have to cut and edit yourself around others, always have to temper yourself so as not to alienate and put off the others around you? What kind of prospects are these?
Depression, anxiety, self harm, eating disorders, substance abuse, and suicide are endemic to LGBT people. Of course, straight people experience these things too, but it’s a particularly amplified experience for non-straight people precisely because of the intersection of hatred, stigma, and isolation. There are just not nearly enough gay people. And it takes so long to find each other; we spend so many years ashamed and questioning the value of our own lives that we might only knowingly, intentionally meet another fellow gay person until we are well into our adult years. If you are straight, can you imagine not meeting another straight person until you are 20, 22, 25 years old? How absurd is that!
We are like a species on the verge of extinction. Or, at least, that’s the way it’s felt like to me.
I am a young adult now. But I feel like I have been flash-frozen at age 15, 16, 18. All of the experiences that my straight friends and family had growing up, first kisses, going to prom, first loves, the loss of virginity, moving in with a bae, all of these are experiences that I have either come to late and with deep anxiety and uncertainty, or have not experienced at all because I am so stunted in my life.
To me, life has been an experience of deprivation. My family, I love. They love me. Coming out was not an easy experience even with that love being a given. Maybe I’ll write about that at some point. It was a harsh and difficult experience. Same thing with friends.
Coming out is not the endpoint for LGBT people. Most of life probably occurs after coming out. Most of my experiences will exist after it. Everyone has different experiences, and my experience has been that I found the most self-hatred, the most doubt and confusion and despair, after I came out.
I will write more about internalized homophobia. It is one of several stars in my night sky. It is deeply entwined with my depression, my identity, my existential crisis. It seems to me that hating myself is one of the few things about myself that I can be certain of.
Can I let go of what I was taught about myself. How worthless and unwanted and poisonous I am? Because it appears not to be true. My family, my friends, they seem to find value in me. I appear to be someone who is loved and wanted and needed in the world.
Do I want and need myself? Do I love myself?
The answer for now remains, no.
In fact, I LOATHE myself. I see only weakness and failure and worthlessness in me. I see only ugliness, stupidity, shit, in me.
And the only reason not to give in to that specter of suicide right now is so as not to hurt the people I love. But some days even that reason feels inadequate. This is the brink of everything. This is the crisis moment. Will I choose to continue to live, or not?
"Can you fix me now? I don't know how. Can you fix me now? I don't know how."
The Smiths have a song called “Accept Yourself”. The refrain goes, “When will you accept yourself?”