There’s an old saying: the biggest homophobes are usually the biggest queers. Well, that usually turns out to be true, in the form of rabidly anti-gay politicians, preachers and the like getting caught with rent boys in cheap motels and rest stops and such. In other words, we out and proud types usually laugh ourselves silly at these closet cases as they face their ultimate humiliation. Well, as much fun as I’ve had with that sort of thing, these rather sobering stories from Reddit users detailing their homophobic pasts before they came out really makes me wonder if we’re taking the right approach when we publicly shame homophobes who turn out to be queer.
The thread on Reddit really took off. Started by Redditor Saubrey, the original post asks:
Were any of you homophobic before you realized you were LGBT?
After asking the question, Saubrey opens up about her own struggle with being a homophobic member of the LGBT community:
Hope I’m not the only one. I (24F) grew up in a conservative religious family and I didn’t know anybody who was gay. In my pre-teen years I would frequently make jokes about “faggots” and try to bring up those evil gays as a way to evangelize my faith (stupid, I know, but somehow it made sense to me at the time). I actually thought the idea of two women together was kinda gross.
Then suddenly I had a crush on a cute girl and I had to eat a HUUUUUUGE piece of humble pie. I was the first gay person I had ever met. Because I was so deeply in denial I kept making those jokes/comments out of habit until eventually I knew deep down I had to make myself stop. I was causing myself pain. It was the first step on a very long journey to being my authentic self.
I still have a few friends who remember me from way back then and even though things are good now, I occasionally feel really embarrassed about all the things I said.
After Saubrey bravely revealed being a former homophobe, many others revealed their own homophobic pasts. The stories largely revolve around deeply religious upbringings in which homosexuality was openly and roundly condemned, as such tales usually do. Here are just a couple of short replies to Saubrey’s thread:
I remember bullying a boy in grade school because he often acted effeminate and had an unusually strong reverence for motherhood. Somewhere in my closeted kid brain, I thought I was helping him.
About a decade later, I randomly spotted him at a high school graduation. He didn’t confront me, but his mood changed immediately after he noticed me. I still regret not apologizing while I could.
A few years later, I came out as a trans woman. Oops. Sorry Mikey.
Absolutely I was about as bad as it got. Born and raised into a cult both parents and every adult I knew were certifiable crazy and I was just as bad. Was a bible thumper and bully. Wasnt till I repeatedly pray that god cure me and kill me after I was forgiven that I started to figure out God is not real. Once I dropped that I am repulsed by homophobes and somewhat accepting of myself. I turned about half of my self hatred towards religion now. All religion and the other half towards anyone trying to control anyone.
You can read more of these moving stories here in the original thread on Reddit.
As a gay woman, these stories really give me pause about how I approach and deal with homophobes. Are all of them secretly queer? No, of course not. But, as we can see from the huge outpouring in that thread, many of them are, and that has to be a frightening place to be. They are obviously struggling, and dealing with their internalized homophobia in the only way they know how: by lashing out at those of us who have come to terms with being queer in a world that is so often hostile to us.
This also makes me realize how absolutely fortunate I am to have always been so secure in my identity. I’ve known I was gay ever since anyone even told me what the word meant. I came out at the age of fourteen, despite being raised in a religious environment that definitely condemned homosexuality. No matter what struggles I’ve had surrounding that, I’ve never wavered in who I am. Reading these stories makes me realize what a priceless treasure that security is.
Are homophobes annoying, and often even dangerous? Yes. No doubt about it. But, after reading these stories, I know that I, for one, will think twice from now on before I go holding them in such contempt and acting as if my gayer than gay born this way experience is somehow superior to theirs. After all, I just might be hurting one of my own.