Forgiveness and Self-Acceptance Starts with Understanding Our Gay Shame.
Forgiveness allows you to live in the now, to have the self-worth to be able to let go of your past and all the transgressions you may have suffered – but not to condone or forget the actions of others.
Gay men can lead humanity with a new model of forgiveness through their own self-exploration of gay shame and internalized homophobia, evolving as men who understand and embrace the dichotomy of masculine and feminine energies.
For many gay men we had to learn how to forgive ourselves when we first came out of the closet. We have to forgive ourselves for how we mistreated our authentic identity — we were forced, without the ability to discern otherwise, the lies that convinced us we were somehow abnormal, or sinner in the eyes of some random god.
We did not mean to intentionally hurt ourselves.
As adults, as gay men living outside of the closet, we can learn to forgive homophobia as a way to accept that what happened to us lives in the past. Now we know better; we have our own minds, and we can forge a new path.
We may still struggle with the challenge of forgiving homophobia when we are triggered to feel the shame of how we felt when we lived in the closet – that period of time in adolescence when we didn't know how to overcome the guilt of both external and self-inflicted harm.
What puts so many gay men on the defensive is possibly a single, unanswered question:
Do you have the self-worth to allow yourself to believe you’re good enough and deserving, after years of believing you weren't?
Once we have have fully unearthed our past, and to the best of our ability resolved our gay shame, there will always remain a shadow that trails behind us. Shame experienced over many years never goes away; it only fades, waiting for a bit of plaster to peel off the wall, revealing what’s always been there. Our shame may be triggered – and surprise us – by a seemingly innocuous event or comments from others.
"The past is over: forgiveness means giving up all hope of a better past.”Jack Kornfield
Many gay men fear the sissy, the overly feminine male.
They fear this aspect of being overly or overtly feminine, because they don't completely understand that the expression of the other is a gift.
There exists the possibility of bearing both the masculine and the feminine characteristics as a gay man. It's not that we are required to be a gender-trickster by default. As gay men we have a unique opportunity to stand in the gap between masculine and feminine binary descriptions; to create the possibility of disruption – a bending and playing with the status quo of what qualifies defines wholly masculine or feminine characteristics.
By fully embracing our gayness, to whatever degree we wish, we challenge rigid stereotypes and disrupt the expectations of others. Sometimes we more openly flaunt this disruption of gender norms during Pride events, in our own spaces like gay bars, and privately at house parties. But there are those of us who are brave enough to openly challenge patriarchal and heteronormative authority by flaunting their uniqueness whenever and wherever the fuck they please – as they should.
With a gentle touch we can turn up the dial of disruption at will.
Some of us, without much thought, are more comfortable showing up (or acting?) on a more “normative” spectrum. Is it possible that those of us who are comfortable somewhere in the middle of the gender spectrum create a potential bridge within our own gay community? Are we able to help with those of us who exhibit extreme masculinity, to the point of toxic manhood and internalized homophobia?
The fear of expressing and embracing the feminine as a gay man stems from unresolved gay shame, which comes from reckless, inhumane societal and religious indoctrination, which demands no diversion from the gender and sexual binary of:
- Man = male sex organs, masculine, attracted to women
- Woman = female sex organs, feminine, attracted to men
Many gay men fight for a need to appear straight-acting, unaware that their actions are based on patterns of behaviour developed while growing up in the closet. This is how our brain works, specifically one of the ancient parts, the mammalian brain. Anything that appeared too feminine was a trigger to the mammalian brain to “act straight” – a learned pattern that was developed in adolescence to hide in plain sight, to not appear gay, and to protect oneself from harm.
Unfortunately the damage done while growing up in the closet shows up in adulthood as various prejudices, including internalized homophobia; an extreme dislike/hatred/fear of other gay men who are expressly too feminine, and even women. The straight-acting gay man seeks to take on all of the masculine roles at the expense of a more humane balance that embraces the best of all character traits.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrancesShakespeare
Is Gender Nothing But an Act?
Straight-acting becomes a rigid box that pushes many gay men back into the closet, albeit a much uglier one. While I can't say with statistical certainty, I've witnessed the opinions of many self-proclaimed straight-acting gay man to be hateful, judgmental, and often racist.
The less we are able to love and forgive ourselves for how we have treated ourselves – as a result of what we learned and were taught to believe – the less accepting we are of others; the less accepting we are of difference. This is a cry for help, an unspoken desire to be free, to be loved fully without judgment, to freely forgive oneself for all the transgressions against our identity, for being taught – directly or indirectly – that we are not worthy, that we are broken, that we are the worst kind of sinner.
Without realizing it the one thing a self-proclaimed straight-acting gay man craves is acceptance for his feminine qualities.
None of this means that when we are fully loved and accepted, both by others and ourselves, that we will suddenly act feminine. We are all unique and there's no template, no checklist to indicate or justify why some gay men display more feminine characteristics and mannerisms, while others don't.
There's a difference, however subtle, to be understood between “display” and “embrace”.
Some of us freely display and play with the characteristics of a complete gender spectrum that disrupts patriarchal norms. This can show up in how we dress, speak, walk, and our physical mannerisms.
Others tend to more fully embrace and internalize the masculine and feminine qualities that one might only witness in the actions of human relations, like discussion, leadership, empathy, compassion, listening, and so on.
Every single one of us manifest different degrees of the so-called masculine and feminine qualities.
None of those qualities are inherently harmful or scary.
None of those qualities take away one’s humanity, value, or worth.
It’s only people who chose to limit, control, and define others – not the qualities themselves.
Cover Photo See-ming Lee