What is Internalized Homophobia? - Step To Health

What is Internalized Homophobia?

Have you ever heard about internalized homophobia? Read this article and discover its characteristics, consequences, and how to avoid it.
What is Internalized Homophobia?

Last update: 27 December, 2021

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) dictionary, homophobia is described as fear, prejudice, or anger towards homosexuality. It often results in episodes of discrimination and violence. Although much has been said about homophobia towards the community, internalized homophobia is rarely referred to.

Internalized homophobia is a concept that has been used for a couple of years to describe acts of homophobia that happen to people who are part of the LGBTI+ community. Thus, they may even occur between gays, lesbians, gender fluid people, and others. Although it can manifest itself towards others, it can also manifest itself towards oneself.

We’ll talk about this in the next few lines.

The characteristics of internalized homophobia

Many readers will probably find it paradoxical that there are even acts of homophobia among those who are part of the homosexual community. However, it’s a problem that is often hidden.

In any case, internalized homophobia describes all conscious and unconscious homophobic acts that a member of the LGTB+ community practices with himself and with other members. Although each case is different, most episodes of this type develop due to childhood or adolescent prejudice.

Broadly speaking, it’s no different from homophobia practiced by those who don’t identify as members of the community. In this sense, it may be discriminatory acts based on appearance or even lead to situations of violence. For example, an act of internalized homophobia may even be one homosexual treating another poorly by considering him “not manly enough.”

There are many theories as to why this behavior may exist. For most, it’s because it’s a manifestation of prejudice, rejection, and the stigmas in society.

Since you grow up in a certain society, the influence of parents, religion, friends, or ideologies can penetrate so deep that you may even reject part of your own identity.

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The consequences of internalized homophobia

As one might expect, the consequences of internalized homophobia don’t go unnoticed. They affect both the person in question and those around them. According to a study published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology in 2009, internalized homophobia is an obstacle for a relationship between gays, lesbians, and bisexuals to thrive.

For example, those who develop this attitude may feel ashamed to show their relationships to the public, manifest certain behaviors, and even have an active sex life. In this regard, research published in 2016 in European Psychiatry points out that these episodes are obstacles to enjoying a quality sex life. They can also cause depression.

However, there’s more. A study published in the International Journal for Equity in Health in 2017 found that those who display such attitudes also tend to hide their own sexual identity and develop psychological distress. The evidence also indicates that the sum of all of the above is an obstacle to finding a partner.

Can internalized homophobia be measured?

Experts and researchers have designed scales to measure internalized homophobia. However, the truth is that it’s not always easy to notice it.

Let’s look at some examples of how it can manifest itself in all its varieties:

  • Reduced interaction with partners in public.
  • A bias toward very masculine or very feminine standards when finding a partner (so that the partner is completely indistinguishable from a heterosexual).
  • Denial of homophobic actions (both one’s own and those of others).
  • Feelings of shame towards one’s own sexual orientation.
  • Rejection of those who are more open about their sexual or romantic inclinations.
  • Keeping relationships a secret (avoiding talking about it to friends, family, or colleagues).

In short, an act of intolerance or discrimination towards the community or towards oneself can be categorized as such an act. Although we haven’t mentioned it, it often leads to unsafe sexual practices, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and even violent behavior.

Internalized homophobia can lead to depression
Existential depression manifests in people with high intellectual abilities.

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What can be done to avoid internalized homophobia

As you’ve seen, internalized homophobia is a real problem that affects those who experience it, those around them, and society in general. Since many cases develop due to prejudice or experiences in childhood and adolescence, psychological therapy is an effective alternative to heal.

It’s also possible that there are doubts, insecurities, or fears about one’s own sexual inclination. Therefore, this can manifest itself concerning other members of the community. In any case, therapy can be a great help in coping and overcoming this.

Another thing that can help is to spend time with healthy people who identify as lesbian, gay, or gender fluid. Hearing firsthand about their experiences is a great help in coming to terms with how society’s stigma has affected you, affects them, and learning what they’ve done to get to where they are today.

In addition to all of this, you can also remember the following:

  • Avoid making jokes about homosexuality.
  • Be open to respecting the many diverse manifestations of sexuality that are part of the LGBTI+ community.
  • Avoid negative value judgments when meeting someone who is homosexual.
  • Accept yourself as you are, with all of your strengths and weakness. And remember: homosexuality is never a weakness. 
  • Understand the role that the LGBTI+ community has played throughout history – both the discrimination they’ve suffered and all they’ve done to gain their freedoms.
  • Accept any constructive comments that you may receive regarding your behavior.
  • Condemn any act of homophobia.

You don’t have to identify with the LGBT+ collective fully. Respecting them, however, is the least you can do if you don’t sympathize with their values.

Considering that it takes years to assimilate internalized homosexuality, sometimes it also takes time to get rid of prejudices. It’s slow work that requires a commitment to move forward.

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