Saturday, September 11, 2010

Self-Hatred and Same Sex Attraction

I find so many blogs fascinating. We all live in our own heads but a well-written blog can be a captivating way to peer inside the mind of another.

Recently I started reading several blogs written by guys who are trying to come to terms with their not-exactly-straight sexuality. Too often these guys are stuck in a heart-breaking mire of self-hatred.

I remember my own days like that all too well. I eventually backed myself into a corner where I became numb to everything and suicide seemed like the perfect cure. I was 15.

Planning my own death actually was the cure. When I realized I didn't have the guts to do it I figured I had no choice but to stop hating myself. I haven't felt bad about being gay, or labeling myself as gay, ever since. And how ironic is that, considering that I've been (mostly) happy being married to a woman for 20 years?

Learning to accept yourself and end the self-loathing takes time. When you're in the thick of the misery it often seems impossible to imagine ever being happy again. I'm offering my perspective in the hope that it might help at least one person who is in that position.

I believe my perspective might be helpful because I have grown to appreciate my homosexuality for reasons that are not often mentioned by most gay men. Perhaps this is because I have lived as a solitary gay man in a straight world for so long.

As always, comments are appreciated. Dissenting opinions, even more so.

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Accepting your divergent sexuality is an evolutionary process.

Step One - Realization

One day, it begins. You realize for the very first time that you are sexually attracted to your own gender.

For some, the realization happens at a very young age. Others may be well into their fifties.

No matter how old you are when it happens, it's almost always a lonely day.

Step Two - Reflection

The word 'reflection' has a peaceful connotation. But the reflective stage is by far the most miserable.

Not long after you realize that you are attracted to members of the same sex, you panic a little and start to question yourself. How long have I been this way? WHY am I this way? Am I gay? Am I bisexual? You question your entire self-identity. Many plunge into depression. These are always very dark, lonely days.

Some guys spend years, even decades, trying to answer those first few reflective questions. Some are tormented because they just want to be normal. Or, they're tormented because they have been taught, and honestly believe, that same-sex sexual attraction is always wrong.

Scratch and claw as much as we might, there are only three ways to exit the truly awful reflective stage.

One is death. Gay teenagers have long had one of the highest suicide rates in the country. And how incredibly sad it is...young people, with their whole lives ahead of them, so overcome with programmed self-hatred that they see death as the only answer.

The second exit is permanent denial, as in, to the grave. These are people who forever keep their feelings bottled up deep inside. MANY individuals begin on this path but in time they find that they cannot stay silent. Why? Because denial comes with a price. If it's not your mental health, it's your physical health. If it's not your health, it's the people around you who suffer, either directly, because you eventually betray them, or indirectly, because your depression and/or internalized frustration adversely affects your relationships.

'Change' therapy is another example of an attempt to live in permanent denial. Basically someone tries to 'reprogram' you to make you straight. Some (Ex-gays) insist change therapy works. But scientific studies have proven that the success of such therapy is "uncommon" at best.

Permanent denial is the marathon run that never ends. You must run and run and run and run. All in an effort to hide from yourself. If you can't run for a lifetime...why start running at all?

You can live in a state of self-hating denial for as long as you can stand it, but ultimately acceptance of your same sex attractions is the only way to escape the self-induced pain caused by too much reflection.

If you think about it logically, spending any time at all in denial is a complete waste; you'll end up accepting your desires eventually anyway. Wouldn't it be better to skip all the agony and move as quickly as possible into a peaceful state of acceptance?


Step Three - Acceptance


Sunshine!

Accepting one's non-traditional sexuality, in the long run, is the easiest, healthiest response to the (almost) inevitable early feelings of self-loathing that same-sex attraction spawns.

Getting to a place of complete acceptance - "I'm gay and it's no big deal" - takes time. Many begin at "I'm gay and I realize that I'm never going to change, BUT..." and that's ok.

The reason people take so long to reach a state of complete acceptance, I think, is because they incorrectly assume that complete acceptance requires some action in the real world. It doesn't. All complete acceptance is, is a genuine pride in yourself. The easiest way to feel pride is to realize that being different is a good thing; being different makes you special.

'Special' means not homogeneous. It means not being a clone or a robot. It means that you have the capability to understand and explain that variety truly does add spice to life. We should all celebrate our special, unique natures.

Think about this: as puberty kicks in and we take our first steps toward adulthood, we HATE being different. All we want to do is conform. Seventh grade, and the years around it in particular, are often our most miserable years when growing up, simply because we endlessly agonize about being different and fitting in. If twelve and thirteen year olds ruled the world we'd all be clones, all identical and conforming. What kind of world would that be?

As adults we should realize that diversity, of all types, is what makes life worth living. Our individual uniqueness creates a collective diversity, and that, we should celebrate. The applause should begin with ourselves. If we're not a dull, blank page like everyone else, we should at a minimum, be privately proud.

Accepting our same sex attractions and being proud of our individual diversity are two things that can begin and end in our own heads. Just because we are men who are attracted to other men does not, in any way, mean that we need to tell another soul. Accepting that we have same sex attractions and coming out are NOT inexorably linked.

It's on that point that many "out and proud" gays and I disagree. I firmly believe that you do not need to be out in order to be proud. If I'm a math genius, and I'm proud of my abilities, but I never speak of them, am I any less of a genius? Am I any less proud? Some might argue yes. But maybe they don't understand that a humble person can be proud, as can a shy person, as can people who don't like to be the center of attention. Quiet pride is still pride and it's no better or worse than outspoken pride. Really, it's just another form of diversity.

3 comments:

  1. I honestly hope that works for you. I tried that. I really really did. The truth is no matter how much I loved my wife, I craved the love of a man. I tried to fit in with straight society and from their perspective, I did really well, but I knew.

    Eventually I came to the conclusion that being out in my head was not enough. It was not that different from being in denial. I could not live in the middle anymore. I could not live in the neutral zone any more.

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  2. I really enjoyed this post. It hit home with me. My only issue is that I would be much more at ease with myself if I ahd some one to share my thoughts and feelings with. Being totally in the closet hasn't allowed me that opportunity. Although I came out to some degree to my wife, her attitude toward my openess wasn't helpful. So, I've accepted my gayness but it's still lonely in here.

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  3. Jim - I should be more clear: hating yourself for your thoughts is different than hating yourself for your actions. The thoughts are extremely difficult to suppress, especially for any length of time. Suppressing actions can be easy or impossible, depending on the person. If you're really struggling with your attractions it seems to me that you first need to deal with your thoughts(accept them) and once you've reached a comfort level, THEN you think about what actions, if any, you want to take. Assuming that thoughts always require action is not true and doing so can make for a lot of unnecessary agony.

    Adon - For those who make the decision not to act on their same sex attractions, the Internet is truly a marvelous invention. It may not cure loneliness but it sure can help. Local support groups can also be very helpful when it comes to dealing with the loneliness.

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