Until recently I wasn’t sure what “internalized homophobia” meant. But I had been living with it my whole life.
In my head I felt like I was always hiding in plain sight, living under the constant fear and paranoia that someone would think that I was different or, worse, gay.
When I came out as bisexual to my friends and family in my junior year of college, the love and support I received was unconditional. Some people even told me that they had always known. But here’s the thing: I didn’t always know.
I didn’t want to believe I was bisexual. When I came out, I was afraid of accepting myself and my place in the L.G.B.T. community. I still have trouble processing the 22 years of guilt and shame I have felt and the denial of who I am.
And so will Ryan O’Callaghan. Coming out of the closet is crucial and necessary to accepting who you are, but coming to terms with what has been hiding inside the closet is an even bigger step to take. Wrestling with suicidal thoughts is a huge personal struggle. Add that to rejecting your identity for over a decade and you have a recipe for self-sabotage.
For myself, the fight didn’t end at coming out as bisexual because I will to have to come out to people for the rest of my life. I am going to constantly wonder whether or not I will find a man or woman to accept and love me for who I am and even if they did, will I ever have children or grandchildren? Will I have to live in a community that doesn’t accept queer people?
One major source of comfort has been seeing people like Laverne Cox in Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black,” the fierce and inspiring queens of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” or the courageous and poised lesbian and gay athletes like the tennis legend Billie Jean King and Ryan O’Callaghan.
Every day I’m able to find a silver lining. A sliver of hope and new way to find representation of the L.G.B.T. community that makes me feel like my identity is valid and like there is more than enough…