In the United States, many of us are brought up to believe that Homosexuality is a sin, it's wrong, it's a perversion and so on. We have been taught this by our churches, our family and friends, the media, and especially the legal system. Until 1970, every state in the U.S. except for Illinois criminalized homosexual sex between consenting adults in a private home.
An adult convicted of the crime of having sex with another consenting adult in the privacy of his or her home could get anywhere from a light fine to five, ten, or twenty years—or even life—in prison. In 1971 twenty states had 'sex psychopath' laws that permitted the detaining of homosexuals for that reason alone. In Pennsylvania and California sex offenders could be locked in a mental institution for life, and in seven states they could be castrated.
Castration, emetics, hypnosis, electroshock therapy and lobotomies were used by psychiatrists to attempt to "cure" homosexuals of their desires throughout the 1950s and 1960s. While we may not have been fully aware of these laws as children, the homophobic feelings they fostered would have been very noticeable to us. Not all of these "therapies" have gone away either. The Ex-Gay or Reparative Therapy advocates still use hypnosis and have even added aversion therapy among others.
Things didn't begin to change until 1969 an event happened that we now just call "Stonewall." The Stonewall riots were a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. They are frequently cited as the first instance in American history when gays and lesbians fought back against a government-sponsored system that persecuted homosexuals, and they have become the defining event that marked the start of the modern gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.
Slowly, individual states began to repeal these laws, by 1989 "only" 26 states had "anti-sodomy" laws. It wasn't until 2003 that the US Supreme Court found the remaining laws unconstitutional. Incredibly, 15 states still had these laws on their books. 2003......yes, just 6 years ago.
Until we come into contact with accurate information and meet other lesbians and gays to challenge these negative beliefs, we often believe the bad things we have been told. This is called "Internalized Homophobia." It usually means that we basically hate ourselves. The self hate manifests itself in that we have low self-esteem and try to hide or suppress our sexuality. Some of us are outwardly homophobic. We may not even be aware that this is going on within us, and it may manifest itself in different ways.
Since we have been actively bombarded with anti gay rhetoric we need to actively combat these feelings they produce in us. There are many things you can do to change your own self image:
Read materials to help you get rid of your internalized homophobia - to challenge all the negative beliefs. Amazon has quite a few. Download and read "The Blue Book" a manual written as a gift to the congregation of The Presbyterian Church, Mt. Kisco, New York, in recognition of the love and support that their church members have given to individuals and families whose lives have been touched by the issue of homosexuality.
The process can be even more difficult for those of us who have developed harmful ways of coping with the suppression of their true sexual orientation. I am talking about using drugs and alcohol to help cope. It is important to understand that this strategy will seriously hinder not only your developing positive lesbian identities, but your positive self image as humans. Understand that the more accepting you are of yourself, the more your own self esteem rises, and the reasons for continuing to use drugs and alcohol decrease. But we cannot always stop using them on our own, if you can honestly say you have a problem, I suggest you start by visiting the Pride Institute to get the help you need.
Finding other LGBT folks to just be friends with is another very important part of learning to accept yourself. You can meet people at an affirming church, at support groups, even queer bars and online.
Remember to be the healthy, complete human being that you were created to be, you'll need to do quite a bit of work emotionally in order to undo all the negative stuff you've internalized. The longer you've suppressed your true sexual orientation the more time it will take. If you're ready to take that step, good luck but remember it is ALWAYS worth it! And SO ARE YOU!!!
Partially cross posted from Truth And Love After 40
4 days ago