COLUMN: Internalizing homophobia, my journey from self-hatred to acceptance

When I was in middle school, I felt extremely bitter toward anyone that was part of the LGBTQ community. That was probably because deep down, I always knew that I was also a part of that community.

I have spent most of my life running from my own sexuality because of the fear that I wouldn’t be accepted. I am finally out as a 21-year-old bisexual woman, and so much of that is because of the freedom I found to claim my identity in college. 

The road to self-acceptance has not been easy. I slowly went from being a prepubescent bigot to barely accepting the fact that people could be gay. It was then that people I knew started to come out, and it filled me with a sense of fear.

In my scared, closeted mind I just couldn’t rationalize the way I felt toward some of the girls around me, or how it would make society view me. 

It was so much easier to just bury those feelings in a garden of ignorance and watch the fear and denial take root. 

I finally accepted myself as bisexual this past summer. While the only “right” time for a person to come out is when they feel comfortable doing so, I wish I would’ve accepted myself sooner instead of battling with internalized homophobia for so long.  

For me, being in quarantine worked as a self-reflective pressure cooker. I felt like I was completely isolated from some of the anesthetizing societal norms and was free to just be myself. After all, what does it matter if you’re gay when the world is collapsing around you? 

Over the next six months, I realized that there were parts of me that I had been so afraid to pay attention to and had been burying for far too long.  

One of the major things that helped me was the people around me. 

When I came out to a friend for the first time, I was so afraid I had to say, “I think I might be bi.” However, that friend reacted in such a supportive and positive way that I felt a burden being lifted from my shoulders that I hadn’t realized was there. 

It wasn’t until I was back on the Central Michigan University campus that I realized how many pillars of support were waiting for me in the general community. I love walking around and seeing “love is love” yard signs downtown, or the LGBTQ facts and encouragement written around campus in chalk because it makes me feel like I have a place. 

CMU and the Center for Student Inclusion and Diversity have worked hard to create an environment of acceptance and understanding, which is something that I could have never pictured growing up in my conservative small town. 

I’ve gone back and apologized to some of the people who may have been hurt from my behavior when I was afraid and ashamed of who I was. I can’t express the relief of being in an environment where I can put that person behind me and turn over a new leaf.

The way that CMU supports the LGBTQ community through Registered Student Organizations and Pride Month events makes me feel not only accepted but supported. These events do a great job at being oriented around the fact that what makes people different doesn’t make them less valuable. After being ashamed of a part of me for so long, it’s a message that strikes close to home. It’s that same type of support that allows me to continue to love and accept who I am and not be afraid to be open about it.

I don’t pretend to know everything about myself. I firmly believe we change in small ways every day, but I’m glad that I can continue to grow and learn on a campus where I feel safe to do so.