Moving through Internalized homo shame and trauma to post Traumatic Growth and freedom.

As a Queer identified Psychotherapist who is emerging through the trauma of internalized homo shame later in life, I have a resounding passion to empower LGBTQ+ people to discover their original blessing. In doing the sometimes painful and difficult work of shedding the impacts of who we were told we are and discovering our authentic self buried deep inside, not dead -Alive we can experience the powerful and life affirming impacts of Post Traumatic Growth!

Let’s begin with the end in mind.

On my 60th birthday in 2018, I wrote this:

There is so much to remember of my life in and out of our family and like all good stories it is more complex than memory allows.  However, as I turn 60 what I choose to remember is this:

It was Wednesday Oct 17th this year and I was on my 2nd last day of 8 days of great training in NYC with Dawson Church the creator of Clinical Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).  It was a little after 1:00 and I was walking along Madison Ave; it was busy and bright and I stayed on the sunny side.

I was walking past ‘The Church of the Incarnation’, a Roman Catholic Cathedral that was all scaffolds on the outside as it was being worked on.  I was raised in a Roman Catholic family and culture. There was a large welcome sign saying ‘Come in for a free tour’.  As I took all this is in, I felt the constriction in my body……the visceral ‘uggghhh’.  I walked on and something shifted in my belly and I thought ‘no, I’ll go in’.

I belong

All of me belongs

My sexuality belongs

No anger.  No asking for anything.  No shame. No defiance.  No seeking permission.  No anything other than this deep knowing in my body, acceptance and joy; which of course is everything!

Grace; buried deep not dead, Alive!

The story of how this original knowing, this original blessing was buried and lost is more complex than memory allows, though remembering is critical to pave the way for grace.

I hope to live my life from this place with my shadow before me.  Once we know we can never not know.  I am grateful to live in this time in history in this place in the world.  I am grateful to those who journey with me in my life closely and otherwise.  I am grateful too, for my own bravery amidst the pull of  shame and shadows.

If there is a pearl of great price, I believe this is it: to love and accept ourselves. Period.

We are a light come into the world and no darkness, from within or from without can ever extinquish us.

I strive to live in the company of this knowing and with my shadows out in front of me so that the blessing of my queer soul may be a companion to all who seek, if even just a little bit to recover from internalized homo shame and the trauma of their sexuality being demonized/pathologized.

In this and upcoming blogs, I will unpack the journey of myself and so many others as we recover our authentic sexual orientation. When our sexual orientation is made ‘wrong’ our entire orientation to life is impacted resulting in mental health issues, poor self-esteem, shame attacks and self-sabotage, robbing us of our personal power and robbing others of the fullness of our blessing. In recovering our authentic sexual orientation it is important to understand:

  • The difference between Internalized Homophobia and Internalized Homo Shame
  • The Science of Shame
  • The five broad types of trauma, their intersections with internalized homo shame
    and how to identify, understand and heal those impacts. In doing so we develop shame resiliency which frees us to exercise choice that supports our being ourselves.

Internalized Homophobia is an irrational fear of our own homosexuality/bisexuality/queerness and a disgust toward and rejection of ourselves. I propose that internalized homophobia is more accurately understood as a fear of identifying as LGBTQ+. The fear of identifying as an LGBTQ+ person is at times a very rational and self-protective fear because there are places, institutions, people and situations where identifying as LGBTQ+ is dangerous to our safety. The danger can be psychological, emotional, social, spiritual, physical or a complex cocktail of some or all of those dangers.

When we understand Internalized Homophobia as an irrational fear of our own homosexuality, we risk shaming ourselves for being afraid!….this is damaging to the self. It is in everyone’s best interest to appropriately assess the risks and benefits of identifying as LGBTQ+ in the various aspects of our lives. Choosing to keep our LGBTQ+ identity private in unsafe environments is a healthy and protective choice. The key is CHOICE!So, what if we experience an irrational fear of identifying as LGBTQ+ in spaces that are safe? I suggest that this is not internalized homophobia. It is internalized homo shame and we can be free of it!

Internalized Homo Shame is the fear of ‘being’ homosexual. Whenever we are afraid of, disgusted by, rejecting of our being we are in the crucible of shame. Shame is an affective(whole self) experience that goes to our basic worth as a human being. When we have digested the covert and overt demonization of homosexuality through the imprints of our historical relationships in our family of origin, our religion, our schools, our social experience, our political environment. As well as through the depiction of and absence of stories of homosexual orientation in the books we read, the movies we saw, the media we digested and on and on……we can unconsciously carry the message that ‘being’ homosexual is WRONG, therefore, I am wrong.

Bringing to light the imprints left on our relationship to ourself by these messages of shame allows us to begin the process of reclaiming the blessing of our being and to develop shame resiliency. Shame resiliency is the ability to bring self compassion to our shame which dissolves it and reveals our true nature as a blessing to ourselves, others and the world! In order to bring self-compassion to our shame we must first notice it and the ‘disquises’ that it assumes in our feelings, thoughts and behaviours that developed as a defense against the intolerable sense of worthlessness.

My experience in the Church in New York was an important moment of witness to the healing of internalized homo shame in my life and evidence of the post-traumatic growth that is the fruit of the often painful and difficult work of recovering our original blessing and personal power. I offer you this vision of shameless self-acceptance as what it is that we are saying yes to.

If we do not have a vision of what we are saying yes to then the internalized homo shame that we are trying to say no to will continue to wield its self-sabotaging power in our lives in subtle and not so subtle self destructive behaviours!

You are not alone on this journey to shameless self-acceptance.
Recovery of your original blessing as an LGBTQ+ person is possible and I look forward to continuing the exploration of the Science of Shame, the intersection of trauma and internalized homo shame and the power of developing shame resilience in future blogs.

Thank you for reading and please share your comments, stories, questions, curiosities and longings!