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Dear gay men: Internalised homophobia sucks, but paying it forward sucks more

It’s time to talk about internalised homophobia.

I’m pretty sure we’ve all seen posts on social media when there’s an outrageous, sassy gay man in the media. Someone posts about it on their feed, followed by hordes of gay men joining in, tearing them apart… And then that phrase rears its ugly head – “They make me ashamed to be gay.”

Let me make this very clear, they aren’t the ones making anyone ashamed – It’s your own deep-rooted views on homosexuality that make you ashamed, not the way other people are living their lives. It’s all the negative comments, ignorant insults and heteronormative ideals society has forced into your head that make you ashamed of your sexuality and making you lash out.

The sad truth is it’s all too common in the gay community to attack each other, picking apart characteristics. But the reality is some people need to redirect their anger where it belongs… To the people who bullied them when they were younger, to their homophobic parents or siblings. Not someone who’s been through the same if not worse situations. It’s no secret self-esteem is lacking in our community, so maybe be a little more conscious about how you treat others and how you feel about yourself.

Then there are those that try to cover it up as ‘shade’.

Save the shade death match for someone you know can handle your sense of humour, and even then maybe try and focus your punchline on something that doesn’t chip away at the confidence some of us have taken years to rebuild after coming out.

The things that get said to us when we were younger, the names we so often get called, too many of us continue saying those things to ourselves in our heads for years. Chipping away at our own happiness. Unfortunately some people go on and treat others the way they’ve been treated, forgetting how it made them feel. Projecting their own shame to the people around them, making jibes at things they feel insecure with in themselves.

Related: Is loneliness the gay man’s curse, or a product of 21st century life?

Shade is only shade between two people who can handle each other’s humour. You’re not a drag queen and you’re not on the RuPaul’s Drag Race runway.

If you’re constantly attacking someone because of the way they speak, walk, dress or act, maybe it’s time to look at how you feel about yourself. The way we feel, and the way we’ve been treated both play a part in the way we treat others. For all we know, that comment you make about someone’s voice, they could be beating themselves up about that every night and when you add to that, you almost validate it and that can be so dangerous.

I’m not saying every quip is internalised homophobia, but the effect can be the same. Over time they start hating that part of themselves, getting self-conscious, depressed and isolated.

All this femme, age, bottom, weight and HIV shaming needs to stop. We have enough hate coming at us – it’s about time we cut each other, and ourselves some slack. It’s 2017, I think it’s about time we showed some true solidarity. Gay people are being beaten, killed and tortured all around the world and too many of us are focusing on what we feel are negatives in each other and ourselves.

We can all do better at being more conscious of how we treat others. Paying forward your own insecurities isn’t just unnecessary, it’s cruel.

You don’t hear straight people saying, “Karen, her bad haircut and fashion sense make me ashamed to be straight,” do you? No. Because Karen’s unfortunate hair-cut and clothes are nothing to do with her sexuality.

There is a much darker side to this story. There are gay men who struggle with their sexuality so much they seek out ways to ‘convert’ to be heterosexual, often putting their lives at risk. Brainwashed into thinking they are damaged, that something is deeply wrong with them. Others take their own lives because they become so ashamed, not seeing a way out. But nothing is wrong with them, the only thing wrong is how hetronormative ideals are used to make us feel broken.

If your masculinity or the way you feel about your sexuality is that fragile, maybe you need to focus on how you feel about that. Not tearing shreds out of someone else. Don’t become the person who bullied you.

Follow Tom on Twitter – @TJ_Knight

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