Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Little Self-Loathing

Sometimes, my greatest writing inspiration comes from other blogs I read on a consistent basis, most of which are listed under "Favorite Sites," along the left-hand side.  

This past weekend, I read an uplifting and hopeful post about gay people, that gave me pause at the end.  It talked about young gays and lesbians being more self-confident than in the past, requiring fewer resources at a post-secondary institution, because the environment they grew up in was more accepting of them. (Unfortunately, for reasons that should be obvious, this hasn't been the case so much for those raised in rural areas.)

Then, to paraphrase, the blogger wrote that gay people appear to hate themselves only a little; "they have never hated themselves less in history than they do now."

I know what the blogger meant, and I was encouraged by his words and sentiments.  This, after all, is what my blog is about: trying to help gay and lesbian people move from a place of self-loathing to one of self-respect and self-love. And I've also seen changes in young people, who seem to be freer to be true to themselves than I was at their ages, which is most gratifying.  That's progress, and I applaud it.    

That said, let's be clear:  self-hate is still self-hate.  I don't think you can hate yourself a little and love yourself the rest.  It doesn't work that way.  It would be like saying, most of the time, I'm straight, but sometimes I'm gay.  Or, most of the time, I'm Catholic, but sometimes I'm Jewish.  There aren't degrees of being straight, gay, Catholic, or Jewish, any more than there are degrees of self-hatred. You either are or you aren't, do or you don't.  

But, for the sake or argument, let's say you could hate yourself a little.  A little self-hatred is still too much, because it's like a disease.  Sure, as a rule, you might feel great about yourself most of the time.  But, if there's even a little self-loathing inside, then it wouldn't take much to bring you down, to topple all those good feelings.

All somebody would have to do is look at you funny, or talk to the person next to him while looking at you, or make a passing comment you happen to overhear a few words of, and that lingering seed of self-hatred would sprout, growing into something big and ugly.  You don't want that.  None of us do.          

Yes, I understand, we're getting there.  I get that our young people, more than ever, have accepted themselves and are further ahead in their development, in terms of improving their self-esteem, than many of us from my generation.

But let's not lose sight of the goal:  To eliminate self-loathing, due to sexual orientation, in all of us.  Because, make no mistake, as long as we continue to hate ourselves, even a little bit, our potential will be compromised, our choices will be affected, and our lives will be less than what they were meant to be.


  1. I agree with you Rick. Ideally, we would like to declare that gay people have never LOVED themselves MORE COMPLETELY than they do now. As you say, self hatred is a cancer, and being just a little bit cancerous, is no comfort at all. And while we may feel that we have turned the historical corner here in Canada, we must not forget there are millions of gay people around the world struggling in ways we can only imagine.

  2. I'm honoured to have received such a fantastic response, Rick. Much appreciated!

    I totally agree with you. And you seemed to have understood everything about that sentence to a T.

    I'm going to respond with happiness, anyways. In my work at high schools throughout the city, I have seen more out-gay students than I thought possible when I was in school (and that was only 6 years ago). These young people though (myself included), we were scarred for years by a society that didn't know our identity and still made it clear that there was something almost undesirable about us. I cannot speak to others' experience, but I am quite certain that hearing comments like 'Nobody would admit to being gay' are not uncommon in many memories.

    We now have to work towards healing those who have been scarred and making it clearly unacceptable to be anything but accepting (and more than tolerant) of the sexual minorities that are becoming more and more visible - and daring - in a society that is continuing the struggle with 'getting' it. Particularly in schools, on playgrounds, in banks and hospitals where everybody is told they are straight because they answer questions about wives and husbands when all they want are husbands and wives.

    These experiences contribute to our self-hatred. And though it is dissipating rapidly (hooray!), it is not yet gone - and we should fight until it is.

    Once again Rick, I am honoured.

  3. @Doug: Your comment is extremely insightful. And I'm thrilled that you acknowledge just how much work there still is to reach gay people around the world, in countries far less accepting than Canada. I mean, take a look at Advocate.com. The Ugandan Parliament is voting on the "Kill the Gays" bill. It's expected to pass. How insane is that? Let's be grateful we don't live there, but how do we reach out to those who do?

    @Neal (canadianhumility): Thank you for being so gracious with your comment. I know what you intended to say in your post, and, by responding to it in the way I did, I didn't want to take away from that or upset you in any way. That's why I hesitated writing this, but I knew I had to. I appreciate your generosity. Clearly, we're both on the same side here.

    And thanks for your assessment of the situation. Yes, circumstances are improving for gays and lesbians, at least in countries like Canada, but, even here, so many people, past and present, have been hurt. And there's so much healing to take place. It's gets better, but we're not there yet. I hope we'll make it in my lifetime, but I'm doubtful that's possible, not to extent I'd like it to.

    Again, my sincere thanks to both of you for your interest in what I have to say, and for taking the time to write a comment.

  4. Such good points, Rick. I agree with the original post, that things are getting better all the time, but also recognize how damaging it can be to having any underlying self-hate, as it doesn't take much to catapult you back to those feelings you had in high school. You experienced that with those girls yelling at you in the car (the subject of that older blog post) and for women, frequently disparaging remarks about their sexuality (too much, too little) can get the same cycle going. So, you're right, it's a two part process, changing perceptions inside, and out.

  5. Sarah, what a great memory you have, about the "girls in the car" post. I'd forgotten about that, but, you're right, it didn't take much for the feelings of shame and self-hate to well up inside me when I was called a disparaging name.
    The truth is, gay or straight, I think self-loathing occupies a lot of our psyches. And all of us can relate to being returned to those awful feelings we had as youngsters, when we thought someone was talking about us in a negative way.
    That's why even a little cornel of self-hate is too damn much, and we must do everything we can to eliminate it. A life-long process, I'm afraid, but diligence pays off.
    Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment. Always great to hear from you.

  6. The following was received from a reader:

    "With each generation the feelings will be more and more positive. Its all about weeding out the close minded generations and growing up in a world that is more and more tolerant. Although MTV has more than its fair share of detrimental doing towards society, it sure has helped make progress for homosexuals in my opinion."

    Thanks for your comment.