The Power of Fear

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).

Deep, right?

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.

11 Comments

  1. Homophobia is not a fear. Its the excuse people give themselves to be violent, hateful, disrespectful and downright awful.

    I’m not gay so you’re right I have no idea what its like. However, I hope that you know that there are scores of straight people that fight every chance they get to support your rights, in the hopes that the next generation doesn’t have to grow up with your self-hatred/fear/oppression.

    There is nothing about your sexual preference to hate or fear. Just as there is nothing about your blonde hair, preference for Mariah Carey, or ability to write that should be feared/hated. Its who you are, and you should be proud. Those who don’t understand that are not worth your time. Frankly, their ignorance is something they should fear/hate.

    1. Thank you so much for your uplifting words, Old Friend 🙂

      Ignorance is the root of homophobia, and homophobia is a giant fear, and I don’t have time for anybody who fears anything about me.

      Just keep the conversation going! 🙂 Thank you for fighting on my behalf!

  2. This article was so on point! I’m so glad you shared.

    It’s so funny, the more spiritual work I do, the more I realize just how rooted in fear nearly EVERYTHING is. Everything but love, of course — which is why we all just need to love/forgive/heal/etc. MORE! Which is increasingly difficult in probably the most fear-based society we’ve ever had, but honest posts like this one are perfect steps in the right direction. Here’s to a fear-free future!

    1. It’s funny you bring that up, because even love has aspects of fear. It’s a different kind of fear, but I think that all of these emotions are so intrinsically tied together that they play off of each other…sometimes in beautiful ways, other times in ugly ways.

      Thanks for the uplifting comment, Nic! Your writing continues to inspire me!!

  3. Both of the above comments are so true, and it’s amazing how ignorant some people are sometimes that it literally shocks me. I may not know how you feel about homophobia but I’m with An Old Friend, we’ll always defend basic human rights and freedoms, and honestly I don’t see why these homophobic people are even so angry in the first place. How does a private person’s right to marry and live a private life have ANYTHING to do with anyone but the married couple? The majority of the time marriages are done in a court room, and a significant number of people now a days, straight or gay, don’t have a religious ceremony, I’m not having one but it doesn’t make my future marriage any less legit. And if I’m, or anyone else, not trying to marry or under a religion, or have a specific religion approve my union it’s nonnneee of their business. So F them Steve, the more we simply ignore comments and craziness like that as a people the less their ignorant statements will have effect on us as a nation.

    I have faced racial discrimination before, and it gives me similar feelings to yours. it’s amazingly shocking that someone can be so hateful for something you can’t change, and honestly didn’t choose. It seems like the people who hate like that don’t see that person’s struggle with it themselves, that if they could choose an easier route that allowed them to be happy being themselves they probably would’ve. I don’t identify with my minority half at all, in fact my father isn’t even invited to my wedding, so it consistently shocks me when people label me as arab or muslim because of how I look. I’m not ashamed of who I am, or my background, but I also didn’t choose my skin color. It’s not all bad discrimination either, some people will look at me and be excited they met another Arab, but it’s still a rude awakening because I forget that just being myself puts me in a category. I get called an arab citizen or a muslim a lot actually, which is increasingly hurtful because i’m full heartedly an american and sincerely wanted to join the military and defend my country (i’m not healthy enough lol). i struggle with being half arab and half polish being that the arab side i look so much like has so strongly rejected things i hold dear. why would someone i don’t know call me out on that when all they should care about is who i am as a person and if i live my life decently.

    it’s sad how hateful our society is anymore, we may not feel your exact pain, but a lot of us feel that hate and fear in one way or another. being proud of who you are despite them and being strong despite their efforts to make you fail will show them how good you and the ones you love will be in spite of the hardships they have forced you to deal with. letting their hate affect you only lets them win. they can never destroy who you are inside, so be loyal to you steve, because you’re awesome. always remember how good it felt when you chose to be true to yourself. love you!

    1. Hate is a really powerful motivator.

      And being blind to hatred is, in some ways, worse than the act of hating itself.

      Everyone has to open their eyes.

      Thank you for sharing, Friend. It’s nice to know I’m not alone. And neither are you. EVER. Kuwaits in Africa.

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