Homophobia - Fear
of Being Gay
Yes, it is probably a safe bet to say that homophobia almost always reveals an underlying fear of gayness. However, it may or may not mean someone actually IS gay.
I know this because for many years I struggled with degrees of homophobia myself, even though I could not even in my most honest self-examination conceive of physical intimacy with another man.
My Homophobic Beginnings
Let me begin my story at the beginning. I grew up with a father who was a bit homophobic. I remember as a young child sensing that it worried him when I would snuggle up with him rather than my mother when I crawled into bed with them. Later on I've heard him make a few derogatory statements about gays, though they were always very quietly spoken because my father is a private man who generally keeps his opinions close to his chest. (And now I blast them out openly on the Internet. Horror of horrors! I'm sorry dad, it's for the betterment of the story. You have been a great father, kind and caring if not affectionate. I'm proud to be your son and I love you!)
My father's homophobia was always a source of confusion for me because on one level I thought it meant he had homosexual feelings that he was afraid of but on the other hand he was clearly very attracted to women in ways that could not have been faked. So I never knew what to make of my father's homophobia. Which meant I had to go inside myself to explore and discover the answer.
Homophobia - Fear of Being Perceived as Gay
It took me many years, into my late 30's, to come to terms with the fact that I was my father's son. That's how long it took because of my strongly held belief system - which I still hold - that said love in whatever form is equally divine and acceptable. But sometimes a strong mental belief system only serves to blind us to subconscious (unacknowledged) emotions. Just like my father, I had a measure of homophobia too and I didn't even realize it for the longest time.
In me, it did not express itself as an openly scornful attitude toward gay men but as a strong fear that others might perceive me as being gay. I constantly felt an inner pressure to put on a good enough heterosexual presentation - or avoid appearing homosexual - so that others would not think I might be gay. I did not acknowledge it at that time as "homophobia" but now, in retrospect, I must admit that it was indeed a subtle form of homophobia. It may not have been outwardly expressed against gay men but it was an inner homophobia - a fear of any kind of gayness within myself.
Still, even as I grew into an awareness of my own inner fear of gayness, it did not resolve my confusion. In fact, it only confused me more, because I knew without a doubt that I felt exclusively attracted to women, in a physical sense. Yet I still kept being afraid of any kind of feelings toward men stirring within me. Why was that?
The Importance of Healthy Father-Son Bonding
I think men who grow up with a physically affectionate father or male role model may not have this problem. But there are many men who, like me, grew up with a physically unaffectionate or altogether absent father. As a result, I know there are many men out there who share my dilemma - the fear of having any feelings of love towards other men because we fear it may mean we are gay.
As a related side note, there is much noise these days about pedophilia, which admittedly is a very serious problem. But when the fear of pedophilia is taken to its extreme, even emotionally mature men who happen to love children and dream of working with them might find it difficult to find such employment because of society's stigma about men relating to children. This is very sad and unfortunate because growing up with an emotionally mature and affectionate male role model is very important for children's development.
Learning to Love Men as a Heterosexual
Like many other men, I did not have the childhood experience of a close and (physically) affectionate father. I did not grow up knowing that I could be heterosexual and still feel love and affection toward men. Without the childhood experience of male bonding with an affectionate father figure, it took me into my late thirties to learn the difference between the heart love and affection I may feel towards men vs. the physical and sexual attraction I feel for women.
Conclusion - Resolving Homophobia
To conclude: In some cases, homophobia may be due to a latent or denied homosexuality. But in many cases, it is due only to a confusion between love and sex - a fear of love towards other men and not being able to tell it apart from sexual feelings. It may also represent a cultural problem, with many father/son relationships lacking the expression of love and affection that's essential to a male child's emotional development. And in extension, a societal problem, where many heterosexual men feel uncomfortable with love and affection between men. The result being that close situations with other men are either avoided due to discomfort, or the affection may get substituted for meanness toward each other, which most 'guys' know and understand as a macho way of saying, "Hey, love you man, but I can't say that so I have to insult you instead. Hope you get that!"
– By author of "Illuminating Physical Experience"
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