You have a favorite porn channel. You know the clip, you’ve watched it many, many times. But have you ever shared that clip with your partner? As a therapist who works with LGBTQ+ relationships, I have seen firsthand how internalized homophobia can impact relationships. And yes, hiding our desires from our partners is just one of many ways that this can show up in our partnerships.
What is internalized homophobia?
Internalized homophobia refers to the negative attitudes, beliefs, and feelings that you have toward your own sexuality. These beliefs may have been internalized from society, family, or religion, and can lead to shame, self-hatred, and fear of rejection. Today we will explore how internalized homophobia can impact your relationships and what you can do to overcome it.
One way that internalized homophobia can affect relationships is through self-sabotage. If you feel shame or self-hatred because of your sexuality, you may engage in behaviors that undermine your relationship. For example, you may push your partner away, refuse to be affectionate, or hide your true feelings. These behaviors can lead to distance and distrust in the relationship, which can ultimately lead to things not working out. Thinking of the example I started with if you feel shame about that porn clip that turns you on and don’t share that kink with your partner, that will ultimately create distance. A long-time pattern of this will most likely lead to a sex life together that is less fulfilling. I have seen it time and time again.
Another way that internalized homophobia can impact relationships is through insecurity. If you have negative beliefs about your queerness, you may feel insecure in your relationship. You may worry that your partner will leave you for someone else because, at the end of the day, you don’t feel you’re worthy of love and affection. These insecurities can lead to jealousy, possessiveness, and controlling behaviors, which can damage your relationship and erode trust. If you’re constantly anxious about the state of your relationship it will be harder to be vulnerable and take emotional risks. This again can create distance. Think of the example of what turns you on sexually. If you’re anxious about the state of the relationship, you’re not likely to take a risk and share your kinks. You can see how this builds.
Communication in your relationship
Internalized homophobia can also impact communication in your relationship. If you’re not comfortable in your skin, it will be hard to share your needs and desires with your partner. You may even feel ashamed or embarrassed about what turns you on sexually, and you may not be able to have open and honest conversations that allow you to coach your partner to meet your needs. Are you able to openly tell your partner something like, hey I love it when you kiss my neck, but can you be more aggressive when you do it? There’s nothing wrong with that kind of open communication and I would argue it’s essential to keep a relationship thriving.
What can I do about internalized homophobia?
So, what can be done to overcome internalized homophobia and improve your relationship? The first step is to recognize and acknowledge the negative beliefs and attitudes that exist if they exist. Be honest with yourself. Are there still parts of you that are uncomfortable being gay? As Matthew Todd describes so beautifully in his book, Straight Jacket, many of us as kids prayed and hoped that the feelings we had toward other guys would go away. While this can feel like lifetimes ago, it does leave lasting scars for many of us. There’s still a small part that wishes we weren’t the way we are.
Ask yourself some questions
Take a risk and be very honest with yourself and explore the messages that you internalized from society, family, or religion and continue reminding yourself that those messages are crap. I also recommend seeking an LGBTQ+ affirming therapist to work through the shame, self-hatred, and fear of rejection that may exist.
Self-compassion and self-acceptance
The second step is to practice self-compassion and self-acceptance. This means being kind and understanding towards yourself and not just accepting, but celebrating all of who you are. It may involve surrounding yourself with supportive people who accept and celebrate all of who you are. It may involve joining groups, meet-ups, book clubs, whatever, where you can be fully yourself and celebrated for all the things that make you unique and incredible.
Communicate with your partner
The third step is to communicate openly and honestly with your partner. It may feel scary as hell. What do I mean when I say communicate openly and honestly? Share your fears and insecurities, as well as your needs and desires. It may also involve setting boundaries and expectations for the relationship and working collaboratively with your partner to build trust and intimacy. One of the common ways this shows up is around negotiating the frequency and timing of sex. If one person has a hirer sex drive and is asking for sex more often and being rejected, they may stop asking. Tricky as it may be, I recommend that this be a conversation and not a silent retreat.
It takes time
Finally, it is important to recognize that healing from internalized homophobia is a process that takes time and effort. It may involve setbacks and challenges along the way, but with commitment and support, it is possible to overcome the negative beliefs and attitudes that may be impacting your relationship. As queer folks, we may always struggle with some aspect of internalized homophobia. It may show up in different ways at different times in our lives. By being aware of it, we can have more of a choice in how we engage with this aspect of our lives.
In summary, remember that internalized homophobia isn’t your fault. If we’re looking to place blame, the blame falls on society and the way that we’ve been let down over the years. The good news is that it doesn’t have to impact our relationships for the rest of our lives. By realizing when internalized homophobia is at play, communicating about it with partners and friends, and asking for support if we need it, we can improve our relationships with our partners and ourselves.
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