And there are millions like me. It is fascinating to see how society was literally built to create homophobes. Looking back at my childhood, I now realize that I was programmed to be a homophobe and act like a homophobe. Failure to do this would lead to marginalization and isolation because society was all about hating homosexuals, and more.
Before I start, I would like to apologize in advance for how difficult to read this story will be. This is because I will not have a structure. I intend to just write and keep writing because this frustrated me for years and I just have to let it out. So, this is my story of how I was programmed to be a homophobe, written in a very improper way that most people will most likely not want to follow or have the patience to do so.
A Little Background
I am 35 now. I think. I sometimes do not even know how old I am.
I grew up in Romania, a country where LGBTQ+ rights practically do not exist, where women are still treated as objects, and where middle-aged white man privilege is a huge thing, just like a perverted sense of religion.
It will take tens of years from now for Romania to reach a “normal” level when it comes to such problems but this is not what I want to talk about.
Growing up in a society that was homophobe, you were indoctrinated from an early age to believe that being gay was a sickness, a sin, a multitude of bad things.
How was this done?
Oh boy. Looking back, there were so many small things that would add up to create hate against gay men. I have to mention that I am mostly talking about men because I am one so the focus was mostly put on “Gay is wrong”.
Ever since you were very little, you were told that you will find a great girl and marry her. You were told that you should look for a girl. You were told that being gay is a sin. You were told that you had a mental problem when you were gay. You were told many different things about why being gay was wrong.
However, the big problem was the hate. You were taught to HATE gay men.
Other men would tell you how they would kill or at least beat up gay men. Then, we had this stupid notion that still exists, the “it’s gay” statement. If you wore something different than the norm, you were told that it was gay. Obviously, gay was wrong so you were told you should wear something else.
So, we had other men that were teaching you to be anti-gay. Then, we had parents. There was such an unhealthy focus put on reproduction. Parents were telling you that you need to have children so they would become grandparents. This was only possible back then when you had a wife/girlfriend, had sex and a baby was born. Since being gay stopped that, the anti-gay hate naturally stepped in and was associated with what parents were telling you about the “normal” family.
It was this notion of what was normal and what was not that was doing most of the brainwashing. Everyone from teachers to family members was telling you that being gay was not normal. Then, you were told so many lies about how gay people acted.
Why was this notion that gay was wrong so effective? It was because people were always telling you that gay people are aggressive. You were being told that they would practically rape you. Ironically, you were told about behaviors that were problematic and associated with gay people, behaviors that when I grew up were much more common among white men chasing women, but this is a story for another time.
Teachers. Teachers were horrible because of many reasons but one of them was that they were interested in the love and sex life of students. This was and still is true at a high school level. How wrong is that?
Teachers wanted to know who was dating who? If they believed that the relationship was inappropriate, actions were taken. You were being ridiculed for it. Combine this with the constant mentions that gay is wrong and I can only imagine what the teachers would have done if there was a gay couple out in the open at a high school. That would have surely been horrible and traumatic.
Priests. Oh my God, Priests! (Pun intended). Ever since kindergarten, priests were involved in the education of children. This means you were bombarded with stories from the bible and some of them also oftentimes mentioned Sodom and Gomorrah while associating that part of the Bible with homosexuality. Weirdly enough, that story was so often used in order to dig it deep in your mind that God punishes gay people.
Then, we had anal sex. How wrong is it for a priest to ask a boy or girl, 13–14 years old, if they had anal sex. This is what was happening. Obviously, most 13–14 year old boys and girls were virgins. So, when they were virgins, they were asked if they had anal sex or oral sex. When the answer was no, things did not stop. During confession, after saying no to such an invasive inappropriate question, the priest started to preach about how anal and oral sex were bad. So even if you were a virgin and had no idea what a penis or a vagina are, you were told that same-sex relationships of any kind were bad and against the wishes of God.
Looking back, most of the damage was caused by other men. Men were teaching other men how to be men. They did this by using stereotypes. Men have to be tough, show no emotion, be food fighters, providers, be logical, not show feelings, and so on. We all know these stereotypes. In a country so fresh out of communism, all of these were so much worse than in other parts of the world.
Did a man put his hand on your shoulder or leg while out having a beer? He was gay. Dude, are you gay? WTF? Did a man cry because of whatever reason? He was gay. This kept going on and on and on and on. The notion that being gay was not being a man started to form at an early age and it kept being consolidated by practically all of the men that you met in life.
What is interesting is that men back then did not actually know gay men. But they knew they could rape you and that they are violent and wrong. You were always told you are supposed to have sex just with women and so on.
The First Gay Men I Met
Gay men did not really exist. They were in the closet. They were afraid to talk and share. They are also the same now so it should be no surprise to see it then, when it was a sin, wrong, unnatural to be gay. Well, since gay men are completely normal and many more than straight toxic people think, I eventually met some when I was younger. I will only talk about two.
When I was 17 (I think, underage anyway), I got the opportunity to go to the US for a cultural exchange. I saw and talked with several gay men there. The first one though was a younger one.
We (the group I was with) were invited to the birthday party of a guy that was openly gay. Long story short, at the party he hit on me and others, as you do, especially with some alcohol in your system. Sure, underage drinking was a thing and it is a thing in the US too, regardless of what people will tell you.
I remember that on the way home, I realized I forgot my kerchief by the pool. I did not go back because I was afraid. I was afraid of what would happen to me if I were alone with the gay man. This was the gist of it. Also, I did not tell anyone about it.
The second person I want to talk about is someone I then knew for a couple of years. One night, I was out drinking with him and ended up at the home of a former girlfriend of his. We drank some more vodka and ran out of alcohol. I and he went to the store to buy more. When we were coming back and going up the stairs, he pushed me to the wall out of the blue and tried to kiss me. I say tried because by that time I was already pretty trained to fight and I quickly headbutted him and broke his nose. All for an action that would have not been a problem in the local culture, if a man would have done this to a woman, although some consent problems appear even there.
So, it was so embedded in me that gay men are evil, wrong, and so on that I just headbutted him. I could have easily done many other things to just push him away and say no but I instantly resorted to something that would hurt someone. Somewhere around that time, I started to realize that something was really wrong with everything related to gay men in my life.
How I Got Over It
Whenever I talk about this topic, I am asked about how I got rid of the bad mentality that was embedded in me. This is a very hard question to answer.
You see, when you are told just one thing for years and nobody says anything remotely different, you start to believe it. When you start to believe something, it becomes difficult to see the truth. Everyone was anti-gay so you had to be anti-gay in order to be a part of the society there.
Fortunately for me, and I say this in an ironic way, at that time I was developing some mental health problems. I am still working on them even now but the main idea is that I started to become exactly what was expected of me when being a part of different groups of people. After changing some groups and developing different “personalities” (most likely I should say masks but that is what I started to call them at the time), I completely lost track of who I was.
That’s when I basically got out of the norms that society dictated and I did it when I started to not feel anything anymore. I started to question everything and I started to educate myself. Since the internet by that time became a much better source of information (when I was young there was only dial-up if you were lucky and no sites talking about sexuality and stuff like that), I started to learn.
After “opening my eyes”, it did not take a long time for me to realize the truth, the truth that gay was normal and there was nothing to fear. I eventually met many gay men and had a great time partying with them or playing games or whatever. None of them had a problem with me being straight and they never tried to change my mind. Well, one tried but he was cute and did it very gracefully.
Why Do I Say Programming?
I am often asked this when I talk about my homophobic past. Why the word programming? Well, it is because this is exactly what happened and what happens right now in so many communities. You are basically programmed to do something. In this case, to hate and marginalize gay men. Just like you program a computer to do something, you program a person to do something. You start right at the beginning, when the person is very young and does not question the adults. This has to stop.
Other People Dictate The Hate
I have no idea why I wrote these paragraphs. Maybe I just want to let off some steam and I am ashamed for having been quite an aggressive homophobe, even if it was only through what I was saying. I just hit that one headbutt and never got physical or did anything that bad.
However, who knows how many gay men I hurt with my comments over the years, without even realizing it. This is the problem with this discrimination. It creates a silencing effect and people do not share what they feel. Unfortunately, I was also an enabler of all the hate and that is something I cannot change.
Maybe this story will help some. Maybe this story will start a conversation somewhere. Maybe not. However, we need to start talking about the toxicity that surrounds the LGBTQ+ community. We just have to.