Homophobia is defined as an irrational hatred and/or fear of people who are non-heterosexual. I believe most of us who identify as lgbtq+ have faced some form of homophobia/biphobia/transphobia/queerphobia in our lifetime; whether we are from Bangladesh or the USA and whether we are out, loud and proud or deeply closeted. I’m a 20 year old senior in college studying in Massachusetts (one of the most liberal states in the USA) but I was raised in Dhaka by semi-conservative Muslim parents. Safe to say, I grew up around an unfathomable amount of homophobia. When I was younger, the word ‘gay’ used to mean happy. As I got older, ‘gay’ became a slur. The word ‘lesbian’ became a common word for teenage boys fetishizing women who love other women for their own pleasure. ‘Tranny’ was used as a derogatory term for people who did not conform to gender norms. My own mother told me that being non hetrosexual resulted from hormonal imbalances, that it was a mental disorder and it could be ‘fixed’ if the person was willing. My closest friends and a few family members made jokes at my expense. Of course, I was deeply closeted at the time so I went along and laughed with them. I had no other choice. Before I left for the states back in 2013, I made a conscious decision to tell my closest friends. They were very understanding and accepting. Most importantly, they educated themselves on lgbtq+ issues. They became activists, often engaging in arguments with others who made the same jokes we all made and laughed at before I came out. College was a whole new ball game; I had grand plans for myself. I would come out in college, date other queer girls (maybe even fall in love) and I was convinced that everything was going to be just fine. And yet, I held myself back. I convinced myself that I would hold off until I got used to being alone in college, away from my family and taking intense courses. I told myself that I was not good at multitasking; obtaining a girlfriend will just have to wait! In the three years that I’ve been in college, I’ve had multiple crushes on multiple female classmates but I just didn’t have the courage to act on them. I did once my freshman year (out of peer pressure) and that didn’t work out well (she told me that she didn’t want to date anyone still hiding in the closet). I came out to my mother after my sophomore year while I was visiting home for summer break. The next day, she bought me homeopathic medication and told me to stop thinking that I was gay because I most definitely wasn’t. Being the obedient daughter, I finished the medication and guess what? I’M STILL ATTRACTED TO WOMEN! My mother and I haven’t talked about it since, I’ve accepted the fact that she will never understand. Coming out to my father is out of the question but I have a feeling he already knows.
Dealing with homophobia is difficult to say the least. However for me, my most daunting challenge has been dealing with internalized homophobia: it took me years to come to terms with the fact that I am a gay woman but I haven’t been able to love myself for who I am; even though my closest friends and college campus have accepted me with open arms. I feel compelled to punish myself for not being straight. Often times, I daydream about a future where I envision myself married to a woman, raising a couple of children on a farm with lots of pets. And then, I abruptly stop and tell myself that my life will never turn out this way. I felt compelled to write this piece because for the first time since coming out, someone genuinely likes me and I am too afraid to like them back. I met her in class last semester and we got to know each other; I was smitten and I could tell that she liked me as well. Despite my feelings, I kept my cool and let her make the first move. A few days ago, she and her friend invited me to watch a movie. I happily obliged and went to her room with a box of cookies. I sat beside her on her bed and she wrapped herself around me and put her head on my shoulder. I had never felt so excited and terrified, the feeling was akin to being on a roller coaster about to plunge down the rail from the very top. My stomach was full of butterflies and I had to pour every ounce of my concentration into watching the movie. Our mutual friend left after the first movie and we were left alone. We put on Casablanca and settled onto her bed. She put her head on my shoulder and wrapped herself around my arm. In that moment, all I wanted to do was take her face in my hands and kiss her with everything I had. Words can’t convey how desperately I wanted to kiss her, to hold her, to ask her out to dinner. But I froze. It was 2 am, she was beginning to doze off and I excused myself, said goodnight and left. I regretted my decision immediately after I shut her door. If I had kissed her, she would have surely kissed me back. My friends back home gave me a lot of grief for not kissing her that night. Most importantly, I would have been happy and not forced to wander about ‘what ifs’. The thing is; I held myself back because I felt the future: I felt my parents’ disappointment. I felt my family’s ridicule. I felt the pressure to hide. I felt not being enough for her. I felt that I did not deserve her.I keep asking myself; how can you possibly expect someone to love you if you can’t love yourself?
To be completely honest; I don’t know the answer because I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to love myself. I’m homophobic and no amount of activism, no amount of defending others, no amount of posting about queer rights, no amount of declaring myself a member and ally of the lgbtq+ community will change that.