I am a pastor’s daughter that identifies as a lesbian. Fun, right? Here’s my story, get ready for the ride of a lifetime… literally.
I grew up in a household that never even mentioned the concept of same-sex marriage (or at least never mentioned in a positive manner). I was homeschooled for the beginning years of my education through a solely Christian curriculum, so you can imagine how in the dark I was about many social concepts. The first time I heard about homosexuality was when I was in middle school where it wasn’t necessarily accepted yet, but it did exist.
In my 8th grade year, same-sex marriage was legalized in the United States. I still remember the exact moment I found out. On the last day of vacation, my father received the notification and immediately vocalized the disgust he felt. Immediately, I got onto social media and made a long post about how “God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve”, ironic and definitely terrified that I will be canceled for this when I become famous. But as a 13 year old, I still hadn’t started fully thinking for myself. Heterosexual relationships were the only thing I knew.
Once I got to high school, I started to learn how to think for myself and not rely solely on what my parents thought. However, there is naturally always gonna be an engraved structure of how I was taught.
The first time I realized I might be attracted to girls was my sophomore year. I was so confused on why I felt the way I did. I felt insecure and knew that I couldn’t let anyone know. Now at this point, I had realized the importance of gay rights and fully supported it, but I still had this thought process that I could never be gay. This, my friends, is what we call internalized homophobia.
Moving forward, my friends started to make assumptions about my sexuality (which no one should ever do). However, the only person I had confided in was my cousin who was also struggling to accept his own sexuality. To say the least, we struggled together. We both come from conservative households, so NO! GAYS! ALLOWED! We often had long, toxic conversations about how we had to just teach ourselves to not like the same-sex. Again, internalized homophobia.
I slowly started coming out the end of my sophomore year, but when I did, I got scared and “went back into the metaphorical closet”. I stayed in there for a while, probably why I’m so fashionable now. Hiding this part of myself tore me apart every day, put me in a dangerous mindset, and ultimately affected a lot of my friendships. I prayed every. single. night. that it would just disappear. The brilliant concept that you can just pray the gay away (new flash: you can’t).
Beginning of college, I finally became much more confident in my sexuality. I came out to my friends and siblings and was relieved to have such a large support system. I came out to my parents the beginning of 2021, and let me tell you, that was one of the hardest things I have ever done. The reaction from them was traumatizing but, while it still affects me, I was grateful to have so many people to get me through it.
That’s a quick summary of my story. The point of which is to give light to the concept of internalized homophobia. Project-rainbow.org describes internalized homophobia as the effect on people “who have been taught that heterosexuality is the norm and ‘correct way to be'”. This is such an important topic that we don’t talk about enough. Most people don’t realize that they experience this because it is engraved in our subconscious at such a young age. Heteronormativity is EVERYWHERE; it’s in movies, advertisements, school curriculums, etc. Every family reunion I am asked the classic, “when are you gonna get a boyfriend”. I don’t know Uncle Bob, when are you gonna get your hairline back. Mind your own.
Ultimately, I am privileged enough to finally be able to share my story and be confident in who I am. I’ve made it my life purpose to use my past to be a role model for everyone apart of the LGBTQ+ community. You are seen. You are accepted. And you will get through this. With all being said, I ask that you take this opportunity to reflect on yourself. Are you are a victim of internalized homophobia? If so, make an effort to actively reject the engraved concept of heteronormativity. It’s hard, but we can do it. We are the change.