You hold your phone up, recording one of your friends sitting in another’s lap. Everyone around you is laughing at the ludicrous sight. A man pretending to flirt with his male friend. “No homo, though!” he yells, sending everyone into uncontrollable bouts of giggles.
The jest surrounding same-sex flirtation, especially that between two male friends, is no abnormal occurrence at our school. But when the jokes quickly devolve into mockery, it begs a very important question: What is the joke? Is the funny part the fact that they are the same sex? Or is it the prospect of being gay that is so unfathomable, it is perceived as humor?
Internalized homophobia is a plague in the South, especially in our school, and is often brushed under the rug. Most commonly, these individuals are not outwardly opposed to LGBTQ+ rights; they are not outright homophobic! However, certain undertones to their verbiage, behavior and internal mindsets beg to differ.
Toxic masculinity may be the key to internalized homophobia, especially in men. The mere possibility of being “perceived” as gay is enough to set them off on a rampage along the lines of “I don’t want to encourage that behavior” and “I’m straight!”
First, no one ever doubted that in the first place, Chad. Second, the rageful, terrified reaction to someone confirming your sexuality is indicative of negative sentiments being harbored towards homosexuality.
This irrational fear of being “seen as gay” only demonstrates ill will towards those who are actually part of the queer community. The association that many make between femininity and homosexuality in men, and the consequent aversion towards anything stereotypically feminine only further plays into this phenomenon. It suggests that being gay is a bad thing, and thus a trait that is undesirable.
Using phrases like “that’s gay” or “you’re so fruity” to make fun of friends and peers paints being gay as an insult. This is inherently homophobic. To view being LGBTQ+ as abnormal or out of the norm is homophobic.
Internalized homophobia is a learned behavior.
It comes from an individual’s upbringing, their environment, the friends they spend time with, the media/influencers they follow and much more.
These issues with heteronormativity can be seen notably in media, such as television, books and movies, as well. The vast majority of main characters are almost always heterosexual and in the rare event there are queer side characters, they are often heavily stereotyped or reduced to their sexuality being their only identity. Media has started to move away from these practices in recent years, with shows like Netflix’s “Heartstopper,” a show centering around a teen romance between two male leads, being renewed for two more seasons.
Though as a cis-het woman, I cannot speak on the accuracy of the depictions in the show, my friends/peers who are part of the LGBT community have spoken highly of its representation.
This diversity is tragically and frustratingly uncommon, however. Even in general, there is a lot of unfounded backlash against queer representation in TV and media: “God forbid the television turn the children gay!” The unjust “reasonings” that beat around the homophobic bush only function to further demonstrate deeply rooted homophobia.
You may be thinking: “How is it my job to remedy this issue?” While it is not your job alone, it is all our duties to help uplift the LGBTQ+ community and encourage change, even on a small-scale.
Just supporting gay marriage is not nearly enough. It is important that we acknowledge how our everyday behavior and verbiage can play into perpetuating homophobic sentiments and internalized ideologies, especially when it can be brushed off as a joke or “not that deep’’.
Every word, every action and even every thought we have can be deeply harmful and impactful.