How can I overcome the fear of publicly displaying my sexuality?

Illustration: Nadia Snopek

@AskPeaches: I’m always worried about being clocked in public and put all my business out there. But sometimes I feel I’m being irrational. How do I get over this fear? 

@Kenny: Thanks for asking this question. It’s a very important one. Perhaps the most important. The fear you feel is internalized homophobia. You may not consider that you could be homophobic as a queer person, but in fact, as queer people, we can be the worst at it. This is because it hits so close to home and can be so self-destructive. For so long, society has taught us to hate ourselves. It’s the result of living in a heterosexist and discriminatory culture. Just look at the statistics, LGBTQ+ youths are 5X more likely to attempt suicide than straight youths. 

Internalized homophobia manifests in a number of behaviors that cause us to disassociate from our own person or oppress our spirit. These may include shame, depression, and a low self-esteem, as well as constantly monitoring our mannerisms, trying to pass as straight, and even showing contempt to members of the LGBTQ+ community who are more open. 

You may not agree with the sentiment, because, perhaps, you feel that you love yourself, but homophobia has a way of making us compartmentalize the different parts of who we are. We treat the things we love about ourselves over here very differently than the ones we despise over there. 

I’m happy that you are at least acknowledging this pattern of behavior, because it suggests you might be on a path to full self-acceptance. In order to develop a positive sense of self, you must embrace yourself as you are. If you don’t, this could lead to serious mental health problems and other issues in your personal and romantic life. 

Set yourself free! Be you! However, if you’re in immediate physical danger, it might not be wise to draw unnecessary attention to yourself. Here, I could understand the desire to blend in. But don’t let the opinion of others hold you back from being your truest self. I don’t consider this as a copout but as a life-preserving move. 

There’s a great book you can read called Pink Therapy by Davies & Neal that speaks about how gay and bisexual men carry internalized homophobia. While it lacks some cultural diversity and is designed as a guide for therapists, it gets to the heart of the problem. I recommend you have a read.   

Love yourself. No one will, if you don’t.

The @AskPeacheas column is prepared by committee but written from one person’s experience. Send emails to askpeaches [at] freshfruitinc [dot] com with “@AskPeaches” in the subject line. Be sure to give enough background, so the advice can be more specific and relevant.

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