Some of you have probably heard or perhaps thought this question before. The short answer: The same way straight people do. They meet each other, touch each other, kiss each other, stimulate each other’s genitals, go down on each other, penetrate each other (perhaps) and experience orgasm.
So now that we’ve cleared up the details of that, there is something else that LGBT people sometimes have to work through in order to have satisfying, safe, pleasurable, hot sex lives: internalized homophobia.
How Can LGBT People Be Homophobic?
In our society, LGBT people not only have to fear anti-gay violence, but they are also subjected to beliefs that say they are deviant or abnormal. Internalized homophobia happens when LGBT people take the negative messages from the larger society and internalize those negative characteristics, believing them about themselves. Consequently, it can be more difficult for LGBT people to accept their sexuality, come out and fully enjoy their sexual and romantic lives. In addition, it may limit their sexual expression.
Feeling shame about sex blows!
We all have the right to express ourselves sexually and to experience sexual pleasure in ways that feel satisfying to us (assuming they are not harmful to others). But when our sexual expression is limited or we receive messages that say that what turns us on is wrong, we may begin to feel bad about who we are and what we do sexually, whether we are by ourselves or with a partner.
For example, internalized homophobia can affect the way we think we are supposed to look or act. If “butch” is a negative term, then it may feel like you have to be more “feminine” in order to fit into societal expectations. If you are a gay man, you might be a big nelly bottom, but have to act like a top both in and out of the gay community, based on gender expectations for “real men.” Even gay personal ads buy into this “the straighter the better” philosophy with requests for “straight-acting” men. It’s hard to keep your internalized fear or dislike of gay people repressed with a flamboyant queen caressing your ass.
Gender expectations and acceptance are heavily tied to homophobia, and we all need to check ourselves when it comes to how we think others should act.
Internalized homophobia can also lead to quick or unprotected sex, or sex that we try not to think too hard about (excuse the pun) as a way to avoid negative feelings we might have about gay or lesbian sex being “bad.”
Whether LGBT or straight, think about what sexual behaviors you shy away from based on homophobia. How would your sexual expression be different if homophobia didn’t exist? Would you make out with your same-gendered partner while stopped at a red light? As a straight man, would you ask your partner to massage your anus when she performs oral sex? If you’re straight, would you feel more comfortable watching images of gay, lesbian and trans sexuality in the media (ex: Brokeback Mountain) and maybe even get turned on? As a lesbian, would you go on more dates, feeling more freedom to be openly romantic in public? If you’re trans, would you feel more comfortable letting your partner know your gender identity? If you’re bi, would you feel less likely to hook up with someone secretly so that you didn’t have to again explain to your LGT or straight friends that you’re bi?
Once you figure out what behaviors feel limited to you, you can begin to work through your own negative feelings to allow you to broaden your sexual expression. Some people may not have thought about this before. You may begin to think about what it would be like for you to slowly make love to a same-gendered partner, being fully sober and present with them, experiencing every last detail of the sexual experience. Or you might wonder what feelings – both negative and positive – might come up for you if you participate in LGBT social events. Once the negative feelings are identified and attached to certain situations, relationships or sexual behaviors, you are then empowered to examine them either by yourself, within a support group, with a therapist, friends or other LGBT people. This will help you ditch those negative thoughts and feelings and get on with your sex life.
It’s up to all of us
The solution is not simply for LGBT people to work through their internalized homophobia. Internal work is only half the story if we live in a society where it isn’t physically safe to walk down the street and hold your same-sex partner’s hand. The larger society needs to get rid of homophobia, because eliminating it will have a positive influence on all of us. By checking our homophobia, we can all ensure that we are able to have the best sex lives we can have, whether by ourselves, or with a same or different-gendered partner.
Kim Rice and Ross Wantland are professionals in the fields of human sexuality and violence prevention. E-mail them your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org