Friday, February 24, 2012

"Internalized Homophobia, Drugs, Tragedy, Spirituality and a Parent's Role"

    Why did I publish the "Crystal Meth, HIV and the Gay Community" article on my blog in the "Parents Section"?  Parents are everything to a child. Many people look at the Gay community as one that is all about hedonism. Their perception is they are all about Drugs, Drinking and Sex. People do not see how hard it is to come from a family and community where they are the outcast. They do not see how damaging it is to grow up in a world where you are discriminated against. This can mean, not being out and being at a Shabbos or family table and someone saying something about "Faggots". Or making fun of a gay man for the way they speak, walk and sit. This is very damaging to someone struggling with his or her own sexuality. This can lead to depression, suicide, self-deprecating behaviors, internalized homophobia, illness, drug/sex/alcohol addiction and more.

    It is not about the sex, but about seeking acceptance and experiencing the feelings of loneliness. It is about something called "Internalized Homophobia". What is that? Well, instead of others calling you a "faggot" and demeaning you, you do it to yourself. You think you are unworthy of having a good life or worthy of anything. You berate yourself and hate everything about who you are. You may jump at most any time someone shows interest in the hope of finding the one to rescue you from this world of pain. You might feel accepted, even if just for a few hours. You might think, wow this guy really cares about me. In the end, you might get that, but usually not. This is not a reflection of the other person, but of the person looking for something that is not possible in a brief sexual encounter.

    What about the one's that grew up in a very loving and accepting family? If the parents are accepting, but do not speak about this subject as a normal natural part of society, the child takes the messages put forth by society.This can be an issue for a parent. Why? The parents might show acceptance when the child comes out, BUT it is about the messages sent by society to him/her. An example, Tyler Clementi was the student that jumped off the George Washington Bridge from Rutgers, after his roommate left a webcam on and broadcasted his homosexual experience to the entire school. His parents said that he just had come out to them a month prior and said that he was struggling with God and his homosexuality, but he seemed to understand that they loved him no matter what. After his suicide a friend of Tyler's showed his mother the text messages that Tyler sent after coming out to his parents. His mom said the following: 
"There was no sign of problems, his parents said.
But Clementi’s text messages to a few friends in court documents told a different story. In one series of messages, he said he had come out to his family: “mom has basically completely rejected me.”
“I don’t even see that as that,” Jane Clementi said, “though maybe children see things differently.”
    Parents need to realize that their job is much more intricate and difficult. It is not to just accept and love their child, but it is to make up for the messages he/she received from society.  They have to combat the self-hatred and "internalized homophobia" that child might feel. Imagine a parent that rejects their child. This is not just damaging and hurtful, but makes that child feel isolated. The internalized hatred and homophobia they already feel is now a reality. Every message they ever heard or seen is now their worst nightmare! 
     I was talking to a co-worker of mine the other day and asked him, what would you do if your child came out as gay to you? He is a pretty liberal guy in his early twenties and very well educated. His response was, I will deal with it if it happens. My answer to him was that is really not fair to your child. Why should your child have to bring something up to you and you have to find out more about it and so on. That is fine, but you should know how you would answer and the proper steps to make them feel loved. You cannot just wing it! 
     Ten years ago, I would never have wanted children. I felt like I had nothing to offer and was way too selfish and lost to make a decision so important. Today,as a 34-year-old gay man, I can very much see myself having children. What changed? Well, I grew up a lot and have something to offer that child today. I have my issues, but I know that I can be someone that can and will give that child the love and care they need. I think people sometimes have children because they just feel that it’s just what you do. They don't think about possible bumps in the road. Sometimes I hear parents saying that we decided to have a child in order to keep our marriage together. I think that is the worst thing one can do. You fix yourself first and make sure you are healthy and willing to give of yourself to them. 
     Even though I know parents cannot ever know everything, I still believe they need to educate themselves to be the best parent possible. I was sharing my opinions and suggestions with a law student friend a few years back. I said that in order for someone to get a marriage license, they should have to go through a three month parenting training. I would also highly recommend others not married, but having a child to go through such a training. He said that would be infringing on people's rights and could never be mandated. I know, but it is wishful thinking.
     You are probably wondering why I went though this entire diatribe. Well, if you want to save lives and prevent someone from suicide or self-destructive behaviors, you have to know the causes and have the tools and knowledge to help. The more normalized and respected the homosexual lifestyle becomes, the healthier people will be and care about who they are. They will feel more purpose, want spirituality and realize that they can have most of what they were promised when growing up. They can get married, have children, play sports, go skiing, write sports columns, become student president, be involved in helping others, find cures, become a therapist, doctor, lawyer, accountant, head of a non-profit or create one, become a politician to make change, become the president of your synagogue, teach, become an engineer and create the next set of twin towers.The possibilities are endless. 
     The last thing I want to mention is spirituality. People judge gays for pride parades, flaunting who they are and wanting the same rights as everyone else. One of the major problems facing many LGBTQ'ers is the rejection they feel from God and religion. Imagine you are 18 years old and everything you have learned and been brought up with has rejected you. You are angry and feel as if they don't want you and you don't want to be a part of that. You now reject all of it and now come into a community of people that are foreign to you, you feel rejected and just want to feel a part of something. You now have to figure out and create your own morals and values. At 18. Really? Is that not a lot of pressure? If I hate me, why would I turn down a drug or join the lowest levels of the gay world? Why would I care about having safe sex, if I feel that I don't even want to live? Why would I be good to myself? These are huge questions that no 18 year old should ever have to grapple with. In the end most LGBTQ'ers and all other children want is to be loved unconditionally!
Rich Dweck

 "Societal attitudes towards same-sex relationships have varied over time and place, from expecting all males to engage in same-sex relationships, to casual integration, through acceptance, to seeing the practice as a minor sin, repressing it through law enforcement and judicial mechanisms, and to proscribing it under penalty of death."(Wiki)

Another article that might be helpful on this issue is "

"The Cost Of Standing Idly By" by Rabbi Steve Greenberg"

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