Internalized homophobia has made my life a living hell. It has driven such an intense dislike towards myself because of my sexual preferences. But I am not the only person it has infected with its hatred; many people with different sexual orientations–even heterosexuals–have fallen victim. Because of internalized homophobia, I would always wish to be straight and I was too afraid to tell my friends that I was not straight due to the negative connotations I felt were behind it.
Internalized homophobia is one of the biggest struggles people within the LGBTQ+ community face. In simple terms, internalized homophobia is the struggle with finding homosexuality okay. Many people who are not heterosexual deal with this because they grow up with negative depictions of homosexuality, and they are faced with moral dilemmas as they realize that they are exactly what they have avoided.
Growing up, it was instilled in me that homosexuality was not normal; that it was something that God did not want. After all, he did create men and women for a reason, or at least that is what people say. Hearing the same thing over and over again eventually sticks with you, and you start to believe it. However, I want anyone reading this article to remember something: there are churches out there that support everyone despite their sexual orientation. I suggest finding one of those groups and mingling with them, if religion is a big part of your life of course.
There was a point in my life, which I deeply regret, where I was very outspoken about how odd I found homosexuality. I was young, I was ignorant, and my views have drastically changed. The homophobia that I felt soon became internalized as soon as I realized my bisexuality. Because I grew up in a somewhat conservative household, I did not disclose my sexuality to my family, because I felt ashamed.
Figuring out that I am not a heterosexual was surprisingly an easy concept about myself to understand. The embarrassment was still there, nonetheless. I spent years disliking myself because homophobia has embedded itself deep into my conscience. While it is not particularly at the forefront of my mind, it continues to lurk in the shadows, only coming out when I am alone with my thoughts. I have searched high and low for forums and articles containing people who are going through the same thing.
Despite still suffering from internalized homophobia today, one of the biggest things I have learned is that homosexuality is not this evil thing that so many people have made it out to be. It is important that you stay true to yourself, no matter what internal and external predicaments you may face. Times are changing and we live in a day and age where things that were taboo back then are being accepted more now.
I cannot tell you to stop listening to those internalized homophobic thoughts, it is just not possible. As I mentioned before, I still struggle with it, however there are plenty of articles, helplines, and websites to help you maintain those thoughts. Here are some resources you can turn to help/educate you. (Aside from TWE, none of these websites sponsor TWE)
· Sexuality Articles – This link includes articles written by other members within Teenagers With Experience, there are a plethora of other topics as well.
· Internalized Homophobia – This article goes into more depth about the topic discussed. This is definitely worth a read for education!
· Trevor Project – This website is a helpline for the LGBTQ+ youth. You can chat with someone on the phone, or you can text them. You can even volunteer (you must be at least 18 years old).
· Rainbow Project – This article displays ways that internalized homophobia can manifest itself. It is a great article for anyone questioning if they have it.
As if facing discrimination from other people is not enough, people from the LGBTQ+ community can suffer from internal discrimination as well. Growing up and seeing the same negative depictions of homosexuals affects us more than we can anticipate. However hard you may judge yourself, it is important to realize that you are not in this fight alone, everyday we see more progress for the LGBTQ+ community and this is something we should celebrate. You do not have to live your life in shame because of others’ opinions.
Stay true to yourself,
Anxiety is a dire situation that affects many teens globally. According to healthychildren.org, “Nearly 1 in 3 of ALL adolescents ages 13-18 will experience an anxiety disorder”. If so many of us struggle with it, why is it so hard to talk about? Why do so many of us think of simple social interactions and scrutinize it until we are convinced that we made a fool of ourselves?
One of the most common forms of anxiety is social anxiety. Social anxiety may cause someone to feel as though they are not adequate enough for social relationships. Simple interactions with people may cause: nervousness, sweating, butterflies in the stomach, heart palpitations, so on and so forth. Social anxiety is as mental as it is physical. On the outside, someone may seem quiet or reserved, but their mind might be running rampant with worst case scenarios.
One of the most memorable instances where my social anxiety stood out was the first day at my new school. I had moved from one state to another, towards the middle of my junior year. My social anxiety built so many barriers that took time to overcome but as soon as I started going to a new school, it felt as though I did not know how to socialize properly. I remember stepping onto the new campus for the first time; my heart was pounding so loud it drowned out the sounds of construction that was taking place. I felt grateful for my hoodie as it covered my hands that were shaking as if the temperatures were well below freezing. The butterflies in my stomach were flying wildly, as if attempting to escape the confines of my body that was heating up with anxiety. However, my face never betrayed my feelings; I made sure that nobody could tell that I was nervous—except for the occasional shaky breaths as I tried to soothe my hammering heart.
Social anxiety had been a roadblock for building relationships for so long I knew I had to take action. Unfortunately, I did not have any adults that I trusted enough to tell them how I truly felt. Google was my best friend when it came to researching social anxiety. I read through numerous articles on social anxiety: why it is prominent in many teens, what causes social anxiety, how to maintain relationships, and most important: I am not alone. Once I realized that so many kids struggle with it, it was much easier to talk about it. My friends and I would always joke about our social anxiety; even though it is not amongst the funniest of subjects, it was our way to cope and manage our problems.
“Fake it until you make it” is the most underrated yet incredibly useful tip I’ve ever received. I never quite understood how that phrase was helpful until I was forced to face my anxiety at my new school. I know that overcoming social anxiety can be an annoyance, it is hard to build and maintain relationships when you cannot help but think of all the worst-case scenarios. But I managed to convince my subconscious that I was not nervous because there was no reason to be; I should not be dwelling on how I could mess things up if I have not even made any attempts.
It is up to you to convince yourself that you are not nervous, social anxiety is just in your head, it is important that you realize how to talk yourself out of that headspace. You should remind yourself that even though you are scrutinizing every aspect of a particular social interaction, the other party is not. It is consequential that we discern that sometimes we are our worst critics. It especially applies to social anxiety because we worry about every little thing that we say or do, but that is just it. We end up worrying whilst the other person sees it as a normal interaction.
Social anxiety is a cruel issue that so many of us struggle with and we feel as though that we cannot maintain social interactions without looking like an idiot. It can prevent us from so many wonderful opportunities. This is why it is essential that we find a way to talk ourselves out of the mental constrictions that social anxiety can place onto us.
If you or someone you know suffers from social anxiety, there are plenty of websites/helplines to reach out to:
· Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
· www.NHS.uk (Provides numbers to call, and websites to visit)
Death is foreign concept. People are constantly dying, yet the human race has no clue what is next. As ironic as that sounds, death is something we cannot seem to understand. The only thing we can conclude is that while our bodies are not immortal, our souls certainly are. Up until recently, I have never lost someone whose death would cause a persistent grieving process.
When we die, our bodies are no longer with those on earth. Our bodies swell up and go through chemical processes that leave us no longer recognizable. The loved ones left behind are faced with the decision of what to do with the body. There are many ways to dispose of the human corpse, the most popular being ground burial, cremation, and immurement. Along with that decision comes something that is exceptionally difficult to overcome, the grieving process.
According to many sources, there are seven stages that one goes through when they are grieving.
1. Shock: Hearing the news of someone dying never fails to leave one speechless. They do not know what to say or how to act as the news catches them off guard.
2. Denial: It is very common for people to avoid the death as a whole and how it made them feel. It is much easier to avoid those feelings then face them head on.
3. Anger: After avoiding the grief, it is normal to feel anger and attempt to place the blame on themselves or the situation.
4. Bargaining: One might constantly think back and try to figure out what went wrong. They might imagine a scenario where they did something differently and the lost loved one would still be alive.
5. Depression: After realizing that they cannot bring back the deceased, they start to feel down. One might start to feel an overwhelming sense of sadness.
6. Testing: As the second-to-last stage, this is the stage where one might figure out methods on how to deal with the grief. They are looking for ways to take the pain away from the situation.
7. Acceptance: Even though the death is accepted, that does not necessarily mean the pain is gone. The pain is still there, but the grieving process is now much healthier and beneficial.
Once you have gone through the last stage of grief, you should feel at peace from the initial raging emotions. It is okay to mourn over the death of a loved one, and sometimes you might not even be “over it”, but there are ways to overcome that grief and make the process much easier to handle.
The hardest part about death is the grieving process. It takes a lot for one to realize that the deceased is no longer here; they cannot be seen, heard, touched, or smelled and we are simply left with the memory of them. 2020 has definitely been a year full of grief as being in the middle of a pandemic with a deadly virus has made death a fairly familiar concept to a lot of people. It is not just people from our personal lives either, this year we have lost so many talented celebrities who we have looked up to. You do not have to know someone personally to feel sorrow over their passing. A celebrity who I have deeply admired passed away this year and I did not know how to deal with it. The seven stages of grief were present over the course of time, and while I am not completely over it, I am able to reflect on the emotions of grief without being overwhelmed.
While celebrity deaths are hard to deal with, the passing of those close to you can be even harder. In one second, you could go from seeing someone and being able to talk to them every day to being forced to see them only in memory. Nobody is prepared for the day where they lose a loved one and they are forced to deal with the grieving process. Thinking about the death of a loved one always evokes such strong emotions to the point where the topic itself is avoided constantly. It is essential to know that whatever feelings are induced during the process of grief is normal and validated.
I have personally never experienced the process of grief until an admirable celebrity and an old friend of mine passed away this year. Their deaths had thrown me in for such a loop, since death had been a foreign concept to me until then. Undoubtedly there were tears after hearing the news of their demise, but what made it harder was the fact that I did not know how to deal with the pain. The easiest solution is to imagine that they are in Heaven and they are looking down onto their friends and family.
People do not react to death the same. Everybody will have a different reaction to the overwhelming emotions that take over. However, there are ways to deal with those emotions; you do not have to grieve forever. In the list below, based on personal experience and advice. I have added ways you can deal with anguish:
· Think positively about the afterlife they are in (there are different views on the afterlife for different religions, so whatever you may believe in, think positive)
· Talk to someone about the emotions you are feeling
· Face your grief directly
· Acknowledge the pain and know your emotions are validated
· Know the pain will not last forever
· Do not be hard on yourself/do not blame yourself
These may not seem like much, but if executed properly the grieving process can be shortened and/or easier to go through. Currently, the grief from those deaths are still apparent, however the coping is much easier through self-support.
If there is one lesson that we should take from life, it is that the melancholy of death does not last forever. Death is inevitable and we must find a way to deal with the pain of losing those around us. It is acceptable to feel many strong emotions along with the passing of one. However, there are too many resources for one to feel as though they have to grieve forever. So please, if you are currently dealing with grief, follow the advice presented in this article and if those do not work, find something that makes the grieving process more tolerable. Death does not have to be a sad subject; it can be filled with a lot of good memories as well.
If the advice given in this article are not helpful, there are plenty of sources to help you deal with the process:
· Opentohope.com – This website includes podcasts, articles, books, and many more resources to help cope with death
· Childrengrieve.org – Designed specifically for children, this site can help tackle the tough issue of children having to deal with grief as well
· Gratefulness.org – While this may not give advice on how to directly deal with grief, you can dedicate a candle for someone and write out how you feel about them
· Griefanonymous.com – If you want to speak with other people dealing with grief, but anonymously, this website allows you to do so