Internalized homophobia is defined as the involuntary belief by lesbians and gay men that the homophobic lies, stereotypes and myths about them (that are delivered to everyone in a heterosexist / homophobic society) ARE TRUE.
There are two logical, predictable consequences of a lifetime of such messages. First, heterosexuals will grow to believe many of the messages, and treat LGBT people accordingly. They will be thoroughly indoctrinated into their role in heterosexism, protecting their heterosexual privilege by colluding with the perpetuation of heterosexism / homophobia.
But there is a second logical consequence – these same messages also stick to lesbians and gay men, resulting in internalized homophobia. Lesbians and gay men are taught to act out the lies and stereotypes, doubting themselves and other gay people (sometimes called “horizontal hostility.”) This is the way lesbians and gay men collude with the perpetuation of heterosexism.
For the heterosexist system to be maintained and passed on to the next generation, we all must believe the messages (lies and stereotypes) to some degree, and collude with heterosexism by performing our assigned roles.
Most progressive, non-profit organizations, whether in human services, public service or social change, recognize that their mission cannot be completely fulfilled until all forms of oppression (racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, ableism, anti-Semitism, et al) are addressed. Many of these same organizations, however, do not recognize the forms of internalized oppression that interfere with accomplishing their missions.
Progressive organizations must take conscious action to recognize, acknowledge and interrupt all forms of oppression AND internalized oppression as it affects individuals, the organization as a whole, and its mission.
This workshop encourages Lesbians and gay men to recognize and examine the harmful impact of a lifetime of homophobic / heterosexist messages on their own self image, as well as their attitudes toward other gay people. Exercises and skills are offered to challenge internalized homophobia, in our own lives, for the young lesbians or gay men in our lives, and in our organizations.
* Internalized bi-phobia or internalized transphobia would have parallel definitions – by substituting ‘bi-sexual’ or ‘transgender / transexual people’ in place of ‘Lesbian and gay men’.