At this point in my life, I’ve been “out of the closet” more than I was ever in. I am open about my sexuality with everyone (family, work colleagues, students etc.). The only place I refrain from explicitly sharing my sexuality is with clients (unless the disclosure is therapeutically appropriate). That being said, when I think that I have worked through all my internalized homophobia, something creeps up on me and makes me question my comfortableness about being a queer man.
Authors Meyers and Dean (1998) define internalized homophobia as ‘the gay person’s direction of negative social attitudes toward the self, leading to a devaluation of the self and resultant internal conflicts and poor self-regard.’ After coming out, a lot of my internalized homophobia was not so much about sexuality but about gender. I was constantly “checking” myself to make sure I did not appear too effeminate. In my mind, too effeminate meant too gay.
Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have some fabulous professors that introduced me to Feminist theory (Judith Butler saved my life in many ways) . That coupled with a good therapist and supportive friends helped me to work through the internalized homophobia become comfortable with wherever I was on the gender spectrum. Since moving from Idaho to Oregon (a much more liberal environment) and obtaining more social capital, the internalized homophobia has markedly lessened.
Recently, while having lunch with a dear friend/colleague/mentor (a self identified “butch, black, dyke), I was called out on having internalized homophobia in regards to my curriculum and teaching. I made a comment that I might have too much “queer theory and gay culture” in a course that is not designated as such. My friend made the comment of “. . .if the theory and the culture is teaching them what they need to learn to meet the objectives of the course, then really what you are doing is dealing with internalized homophobia. I can promise you that there isn’t a straight professor alive that questions if their content is too straight”.
She went on to discuss how when she first started out teaching at the university level (almost 20 years ago), she constantly questioned and had to work through not only internalized homophobia, but also internalized racism in regards to her curriculum not being too queer but also too black. She further went on to make the point that not to worry if the students had too deal with too much queer theory and gay culture in one class, that as a queer person 99% of my classes had been from a heteronormative perspective and that the theory and culture would do them some good.
Needless to say, the conversation left my head spinning. Internalized homophobia (like other types of internalized oppression) is often hard to identify. I am fortunate enough to have friends who point it out. I am also fortunate enough to have the privilege to be able to work through it. I recognize that for many people of color, women and other queer people, they are in a state of survival and working through their internalized oppression is difficult as it is constantly reinforced by the systems in which they exist.
In regards to my class, the conversation with my friend made me feel empowered enough to embrace the curriculum that I want to teach. The students will be getting a lot of queer theory and gay culture. Just for good measure, I am also going to throw in a lot of Feminist theory about intersectionality.
I am currently working on another hat, using Noro yarn. I wanted to start a new pair of socks, but had to order some new needles for them. The socks when I start them (probably next weekend) will be TAAT toe up socks. I am going to finally try the fish lips kiss heel. I’ve heard good things about it.