I would like to imagine that there was a time when every single person was left alone to love whoever they wanted to love. Unfortunately, I cannot vouch for that because ever since I was born, I have lived in a world full of judgment, prejudice, discrimination, and blatant homophobia.
Homophobia usually begins at home
Most queer people’s experience of homophobia will be at home being afraid to come out to their family members because of fear of what would happen to them.
Most of us when we come out we get disowned and kicked out of our homes to either die or fend for ourselves. But the lead-up to that peak moment is just as homophobic and painful.
In most cases, the root of homophobia in our dwelling places comes from religious, and traditional beliefs, and influence from society.
Imagine having to feel uncomfortable watching prime-time television with your parents because there are queer characters on the show you all watch as a family. This level of discomfort comes because of hearing time and time again how wrong, unnatural, and disgusting same-sex couples are from your dad or your mother.
Homophobia in the world
Walking down the street as an LGBTIQ+ person is anxiety-inducing, especially if you are visibly queer. We are subjected to ridicule from the resident homophobes who hang out at street corners, and every other place you can think of in our neighbourhoods.
Don’t get me started on the so-called “metropolitan” cities. It has become a norm for us to get violated in Johannesburg CBD, both verbally and physically.
This tradition of instigating hate feels like a never-ending reign that just won’t let up. It doesn’t matter where you go in this country, and even beyond, people just feel okay shutting us down. Why wouldn’t they? The world has constantly condoned that behaviour. In 2021 the South African queer community lost over 20 lives due to hate crimes. If that doesn’t tell you how scary it is out there, nothing will.
ALSO READ: The truth about body-shaming in the queer community
The environment you grow up in shapes you as an individual, whether you like it or not. I knew a long time ago that I was queer and try as I might I was never going to be able to shake that reality. But that did not stop me from despising myself and trying to become a more acceptable queer individual.
For years I tried to mold myself into the so-called “straight acting” gay man because it seemed like the world gave them less of a hard time than feminine gay men.
We end up hating ourselves because we are taught that people like us are meant to be hated. And if society keeps normalising homophobia, internalised homophobia will always be attached to the LGBTIQ+ community.
“It’s not surprising that suicide rates are highest among LGBTI persons,” said Dr. Charles Ekeh on Untold Facts, Season 3, Episode 6
“You start getting taught all this stuff about what gay people are like long before you know you are gay yourself. And things you learn early in life tend to get etched really deep” said Psychologist and Author Randy J Paterson in a video addressing internalised homophobia on his Youtube channel
ALSO READ: Beyoncé: “thank you to the queer community for inventing this genre”
We can always do better
I have always maintained that for any type of homophobia to end, we need to start teaching acceptance at an early age. When preschool teachers only read books about “mama bear” and “papa bear” and teach about a family structure that only has a mother and a father, they are normalising heteronormativity and shunning homosexuality.
Let’s teach children that other families have two mommies, and others have two daddies. I know some people will come for me for even suggesting this.
But if that’s the price I have to pay for standing up for a child being raised by two queer parents or one that will grow up to realise they are LGBTIQ+ themselves, so be it.
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