My Homophobia

Today is the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and I’m breaking my rule against posting to my blog on days other than Mondays and Thursdays to participate in the Hop Against Homophobia And Transphobia.  More than 175 writers, cover artists, editors, and others involved with creating gay fiction are devoting their blogs to this important topic. Having lived openly as a gay man for more than 35 years, how could I not participate?

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The academic in me likes to start with definitions. Phobia comes from a Greek word meaning morbid fear. Clinically speaking, a phobia is an anxiety disorder revolving around a persistent and irrational fear of an object or situation that is out of proportion to the danger posed. From ablutophobia (fear of washing or bathing) to zoophobia (fear of animals), there’s a phobia for just about everyone.

My phobias are more about dislike than fear. I’m not a fan of reptiles (herpetophobia), selected insects (entomophobia), or mice (musophobia). The idea of any of these beasties scampering on my body creeps me out. But I could cope.

These pseudo-phobias are often expressed in conversations as stuff I hate. I don’t like spiders and snakes because I fear them. The more I fear something, the more I tend to hate it.

I do have one true phobia: I abhor tight spaces. The mere idea of belly-crawling through a cave freaks me out. Want to see me lose it? Put me in the middle of a single-file line going through the same cave. Make the whole thing an underwater adventure to push me over the edge.

An exhaustive list of phobias is available here. Seems one can be afraid of just about anything. Homophobia, interestingly enough, is described as fearing sameness or monotony, as well as fearing homosexuality or becoming homosexual. Everyplace else I looked for a definition, the emphasis was more on hating homosexuals than fearing them.

Straight people haven’t cornered the market on homophobia. Plenty of gay men are just as homophobic, and I’m not talking about a fear of sameness (although truth be told, this condition permeates the gay community too). Despite all I hear about progressive young people, this internalized homophobia is just as prevalent today as was true when I came out nearly four decades ago.

I believed myself to be straight for the first twenty years of my life. My parents and anyone else I grew up around never actively bashed homosexuals. Even so, I knew being gay was perverted and unnatural — against the law in just about every state and a mental illness, no less. The only images in the media and elsewhere were drag queens and dirty old men. Until I saw guys who looked just like me dancing together, my deeply ingrained perceptions of what it meant to be homosexual (homophobia) prevented me from realizing and accepting I was gay.

The crowd I ran around with after I came out prided itself on our masculinity. We didn’t associate with overtly feminine men. We were butch — with gorgeous hair and the ability to dance. In our clique, nelly behavior was chastised. We were men seeking men. Our mantra: If I wanted a woman, I’d have one.

My little clique feared being identified as the wrong kind of homosexual. We were every bit as homophobic as the straight world outside of the gay bar. Instead of accepting someone for who they were, we demanded adherence to rigid gender roles, rejecting anyone who didn’t fit the mold.

My field research on the modern dating practices of gay men suggests little has changed in the last forty years. If anything, things are worse. Living in a college town, I see young gay men who fall into one of two groups. They’re either hot, with gym bods, perfect teeth, and good hair; or not. Being butch isn’t good enough today. Now you need a body type that didn’t even exist forty years ago.

If you ask me, most homophobia, no matter how hateful, stems from fear and ignorance. Misperceptions about gay lifestyles and the gay agenda keep getting in the way of progress. But in the 35+ years since I came out, engaging the homophobic individual in a conversation on homosexuality has never changed anyone’s mind. Not even one time.

The single most important contribution I’ve made to “the cause” is to live openly and honestly as a gay man. My family, coworkers from across the country, neighbors, readers of this blog, folks who came to know me through my books … all know I’m gay. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been the first gay man someone I know has ever known, and how many have said that knowing me changed their attitude.

Colleagues who’ve spent a few days in my house over the years always say something about how normal my life is — chatting with neighbors, visiting with family and friends, hanging out in the kitchen or on the deck drinking coffee, and eating three meals a day. I guess they expected to see sex toys everywhere, drums of lube, a sling hanging from the ceiling fan, and my partner and I lounging around in jockstraps watching porn. But now they know folks like me aren’t nearly as exotic as they thought. In fact, we’re pretty much just like everybody else.

In honor of this special day, I’m giving away an autographed copy (paperback) of my first novel, Until Thanksgiving. For a chance to win, leave a comment on this post by midnight, May 27, 2013 with a way to get back in touch with you. Given the cost of shipping, the paperback is only available to residents of the U.S. Should the winner reside outside the U.S., I’ll provide an ebook instead. For more information about homophobia/transphobia, click here. The winner will be announced on May 30, 2013.

To see the other participating authors and what they have to say on the subject, click on this button:

For more information about the blog hop, visit here.

46 responses to “My Homophobia”

  1. Thanks so much for your input. I actually wrote a story about a guy with internal homophobia. It was interesting, but not as interesting as reading it from your perspective.

    Did you know that you’ve been out for as long as the Icelandic LGBTQ organization has been operating? ^.^ They’re celebrating their 35 years. Back when they were starting out (in 1978 – the year I was born, good year!), people had to flee the country from homophobes because of death threats. Now, homophobes run the risk of getting verbally bashed if they state their hateful/ignorant opinions. Let’s hope world-wide homophobes will be a minority in the near future (I’m optimistic!).

    • Thanks for reading, and for finding the post interesting. For lots of different reasons, there aren’t nearly as many people who’ve been out as long as I have around to tell our stories. That’s what I try to do with my novels. Honestly, I’m amazed by how much things have changed since I came out.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story: it’s folks like you who help change the world one small bit at a time.

  3. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It was wonderful. Also, thank you for doing the hop!

  4. Now that was a very interesting read and the first one (well that I’ve read so far who knows what else there is yet to be read) told the story from that side – the homophobic homosexual …
    Well the interesting bit about the other phobias is that you would avoid and make a detour around whatever is causing it – with homophobia people tend to lash out at what they say they “fear”. So that is a contradiction for me, and in my tiny little world where I set the rules it makes them not phobic, and they do abuse the term – which is usually used to describe a problem in clinical terms.

    Aye well thanks for your story.
    I’m just thinking how my name would do for a character as you threaten to do I have yet to meet an English speaker who can actually pronounce it right – I just hope for your character that my post falls under the “nice” category

    • I agree! And I’m also pretty sure that if others have problems pronouncing your name, I would totally butcher it. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

  5. Thanks for the post and it’s great that you are participating in the hop. Please count me in. Thanks.

  6. thank you, Michael. Phobias are indeed everywhere.
    And if I win, you’ll only have to send me the e-book! 😉

  7. If you lolled around in jock straps with barrels of lube, you would not have time to write and do research! Similarly, as a Black woman, if I raised my countless out of wedlock children, and abused the welfare system, I would hardly have time to work on a Ph.D or travel the world. Stereotypes are so bizarre, and people will cling to them despite all evidence to the contrary! I think avoiding demeaning stereotypes sends some of us into extremes. Thanks for a very stimulating post!

  8. Hi Michael – I really like that you chose to talk about homophobia within the gay community versus the more common (yet still of course important) topic of homophobia among straight people. I think you’re absolutely right that we have much work to do on ourselves and accepting each other for who we are. I similarly grew up with deep fears of being perceived as feminine, and I avoided openly gay and “effeminate” guys for quite awhile.

    The only thing I disagree with is that I do think conversations can change people’s attitudes and beliefs. Part of my experience here is in counseling LGBT youth and their parents. I have seen change happen, sometimes over a long series of conversations, but a few times with just one conversation that planted a seed. In my career, I heard back from young adults and their parents many years after we first met, or they heard me speak at a school. I never would have figured that a short conversation made a difference, but there are testimonials to the contrary.

    Anyway, thanks for your contribution to the Hop. 🙂

    • Hi Andrew,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for appreciating the different perspective. Thanks, too, for all the wonderful work you’re doing with LGBT youth and their parents. My comment about conversations was really about individuals who feel the need to go after others for having different opinions. Counseling is a very different thing, whether one-on-one or via group presentations. Glad to hear your work has made a difference. Keep it up!

  9. I’m shocked and disappointed that you are not exotic, damn there goes another fantasy. Over the many years of my life I have had lots of gay male friends and have loved them all. Most were so “normal” as to be almost boring and then there was John. Oh my, he was so over the top it was hard to keep up with him. Sadly he did not live nor love safely, arrested several times for soliciting and dying of aids complications before he was 30 but I still have some happy memories of wicked fun with him. I hope I have passed along my attitudes along to my children and through them to my grandchildren. Here’s hoping for a better world for all.

    • Ha! You would’t believe how boring I am, but I’m not sure “normal” fits. 😉
      I’ve known a lot of Johns in my time. Don’t know where I’d be without my over-the-top friends. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing his story.

  10. I wonder how much the gym bod is influenced by our beauty obsessed culture in general. Seems like it’s equally brutal on men and women these days.


  11. Very intriguing post. Stereotyping people is horrible business and closes ones mind off to new things and aids in misconceptions. If more people would be a bit more pen minded then the world would be a better place. Thank you for participating in the hop and for sharing your story.

  12. Thank you for your interesting post. I think you’re right that talking doesn’t often work if people are determined to hold to their own opinions, but changing opinion by example does. Its hard to hold to a flawed idea if you are being shown graphically that its wrong. 🙂

  13. Thank you for participating in the Hop and for sharing your story.

    peggy1984 (at) live (dot) com

  14. Super post, Michael. You make some very valid and thought provoking points about phobias and I love the comment about the lads who feel they have to conform to a body type that didn’t exist 40 years ago. Superman and Cap didn’t have six packs in 1940s.

  15. Thanks so much for your post in this blog hop and for sharing your own story! Such an important subject.
    OceanAkers @

  16. The transgender author and critic Jody Norton believes that transphobia is an extension of homophobia and misogyny . She argues that transgender people, like gays and lesbians, are hated and feared for challenging and undermining gender norms and the gender binary . Norton writes that the “male-to-female transgender incites transphobia through her implicit challenge to the binary division of gender upon which male cultural and political hegemony depends”.

  17. Thanks for sharing your story. Thank you for taking part in the hop!
    sstrode at scrtc dot com

  18. Great post Michael. We have to defeat the homophobia in ourselves before we can combat it in others. It’s no good to say you want equality to only then turn around and say that “they” aren’t good enough. Thanks for participating!


  19. Today 17 May, on the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO), the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) is publishing the findings of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) survey, the largest LGBT hate crime and discrimination survey ever conducted in the EU. Over 93,000 LGBT people from all 27 EU Member States and Croatia completed the survey.