Why My LGBTQ+ Activism Includes Internalized Homophobia

(trigger warning/content warning)

My group & I are watching & discussing an international series that put internalized homophobia under a much needed microscope. While there are many reasons why LGBTQ+ people might experience this, one that often gets neglected is childhood sexual abuse & its residual trauma. In TharnType The Series, we get to see exactly what residual trauma looks like & feels like to someone that’s been a victim, as well as the inability to differentiate between older, predatory men & gay men. Because sexual assault/abuse is related to sex, & schools deem children as “too young” to learn about any form of Sex Ed at a prepubescent age, by the time they do learn about boundaries, inappropriate touching etc.. for many of them, it’s already “too late.” & not with the intention of making young children responsible for their own prevention, but to make them aware that it shouldn’t be happening & it feels wrong, because it is. Parents aren’t always eager or prepared to initiate such a difficult conversation either, especially if abuse is taking place in the home. Who, then, should be responsible for having such conversations? As conversations might bring awareness, they do not always lead to prevention.

When the main character of the series, Type, told his parents about what happened to him, his dad reported the assault to the police. He was only 11 years old. He talks about how, even with justice served, he felt ashamed that his story was in the news & he struggled with everyone knowing what happened to him. Although this show is fictitious in nature, the reality is, many victims don’t end up reporting for several reasons, one being that they do not want to experience Secondary Traumatic Stress & Retraumatization. Statistically, there are many cases that don’t get reported, with male victims being the least likely to report abuse at all. In the USA, at least 1 in 6 boys under 18 years old has been a victim of abuse/assault, & in one study 66% of victims did not tell a parent & only 19% reported the assault to the police. For some, hyper masculinity is not only preventing young men from reporting, but also preventing them from seeking therapy. They’re ashamed & afraid, & because they’re taught to ‘man-up’ & not to be afraid of things, they’re now ashamed that they’re afraid, too. In regards to progression, we’re missing out on some important conversations surrounding prevention, as opposed to just treatment for the victims, after the fact.

When some of these young adults/men realize that they’re not straight, they associate the reason why with being an effect of abuse. They don’t think it just so happens that, they truly believe it’s because it happened, because the abuse is associated with losing manliness, it is now the followed response of. Because the abuse is a secret, so is the sexual orientation they’re falsely & mistakingly attributing to it. This common misconception is the definitive link they’ve now made, associating sexual orientation with sexual abuse. How are these victims expected to move past the pain that they’re not allowed to have, but are forced to keep? In the series we witness this firsthand. Type hates the man who assaulted him, hates gay men as a result because he can’t differentiate between the two, & as a result of hating gay men — hates himself for being a gay man.

What often follows with internalized homophobia of any kind, are men that are attracted to men & that have no attraction towards women, make a choice to lead a normal, heterosexual life by dating or marrying a woman. Some woman are aware of this, some find out later, & others never find out. These are often referred to as sham marriages, & in some countries where gay marriage is illegal or due to societal pressures, people want to appear as being in a heterosexual relationship. What people don’t want to connect the dots about in the United States (& many other countries) is that homophobia breeds fake girlfriends/wives. Not that all of these men are choosing with the intention of hurting these women, but even with all of the forgiveness in the world, everyone still ends up feeling hurt & betrayed. This is of no fault to their wives but from the reprecussions of institutionalized homophobia. We see this trope, not just in this series, but in many other series & films. Some men are just innocently trying to figure themselves out, whereas others are hoping they’ll eventually change, & then there are some that enter into a marriage of convenience.

In TharnType, we have a scene where Type throughly describes his assault. But, how often are people willingly disclosing their trauma to us? & if they’re not willing to or ready to share such things, we might never know — because all we have is their behavior. & if they are behaving in an offensive way, we have no clue why this hate they’re feeling is directed towards themselves but is being misdirected towards others. Not that people should tolerate any kind of homophobic abuse from ‘closeted’ LGBTQ+ people just because they were also victims of some kind of abuse. Their particular story, however, is shared by many others because many people are closeted, or in denial or aren’t ‘out & proud’ (yet). They don’t feel comfortable or safe with labeling themselves as anything other than straight, or acting on those feelings that they do have. For LGBTQ+ people, sometimes it can be more complicated because of stigma & shame, & a lot of relationships do start as a secret that only they share. In some countries, it’s even still punishable by death. Even in the most progressive countries, there are still LGBTQ+ hate crimes taking place, & there’s lots of bullying & discrimination still going on in schools.

My favorite thing about TharnType the Series, is its powerful storytelling wrapped in ‘love story’ packaging. Their love story is the bait, but also the catch. Once the viewers are attached to the characters, they get invested in their outcome. As a result, the series then can insert whatever message that’s necessary to convey. Does that mean that everyone will receive the same exact message? Absolutely not. People take what they need & proceed. But, the underlying message is most certainly clear, for those ready to hear it.

To watch the series with English subtitles: TharnType The Series

  • If you are in crisis, call toll-free 1–800–273-TALK (8255), available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is available to anyone. All calls are confidential.
  • Or The Trevor Lifeline at 1–866–488–7386 or via text by texting START to 678678
  • If you were the victim of sexual abuse/assault & are seeking support: 1in6.org

To avoid criticism: say nothing, do nothing, be nothing. -Elbert Hubbard