What is it like to live in constant fear and self-doubt?
It’s probably not a concept many understand. I don’t quite understand it myself. It’s a feeling that’s indescribable, in all the worst possible ways. It’s a knot-in-the-stomach, tears-on-deck, total-confusion-and-borderline-depression, all-consuming sort of feeling.
When I was in undergrad, the professor I had for Autobiography said something that I’ll never forget: “It’s impossible to accurately write about something true if it’s still happening. You need time to process. You need to distance yourself in order to write about it.”
So right now, it’s hard to accurately write about this fear and self-doubt because I’m currently experiencing it, and it’s rendering me completely wordless. I can’t really seem to find myself through language and metaphor, like I normally can; I feel utterly paralyzed.
It’s 2013, and I’m still confronted with prejudice and homophobia. I stayed locked up tightly in the closet for 23 years, and when I was brave enough to come out and face the world, I was welcomed with open arms. For the most part. But for 23 years, I was absolutely terrified of being who I was that I wrestled with thoughts of suicide. (More on that for another time. Maybe. Probably not. Best not to dwell).
So it was a huge step for me to be honest. My friends, who were already like family to me, became closer than ever. They were my safety net, my home, and gave me the strength to know that I no longer had to hide, that I didn’t have to be afraid or doubt myself.
One day and a series of periodic exchanges changed that.
All it takes is one (two, three, I’ve lost count…) tasteless homophobic joke(s) to send me back to that dark place, a place so far removed from where I’ve been over the last 3-4 years that it’s giving me nightmares.
I’m afraid of losing important people in my life.
I’m afraid to put myself in a situation that makes me vulnerable.
I’m afraid of this feeling.
Fear is a powerful emotion. It can create a set of unconscious beliefs. It can lead us down paths we shouldn’t follow. It can infiltrate our choices and prevent us from seeing the truth. It can disarm and destroy us.
But what is the basis of fear? Is it the fear of deep-seated self-hatred? A severe lack of knowledge? Is it taught? Is it learned?
I would have to say the answer is an amalgamation of all of the above.
Homophobia is one of the biggest and worst fears. It’s a problem that’s not just seen on the news in hate crimes or in After School specials. It’s real, and it’s — for a lack of a better word because I’ve recently experienced the power of homophobia and its after-effects — horrible. In all honesty, even for the most open-minded liberal, it’s hard to know what it’s like to be gay and feel such a deep self-hatred. Sympathize and protest the hate and walk with me at Pride all you want, but you will never know unless you, yourself, are gay.
Homophobia is a fear; it’s not an excuse.
We have to stop excusing this fear.