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Internalized homophobia is commonplace. You could say it’s the result of powerful marketing – repeated catch phrases, sermons and punditry reinforcing a notion that gay people are somehow lesser than straight people. A lie gets repeated enough, it becomes an accepted truth. And even those hurt by a particular lie may believe a little bit of it, as it weasels its way into their psyches.
Voilà, internalized homophobia. It might lower a person’s self-esteem or leave her otherwise doubting her full self-worth. The best way to fight it is to accept that it exists, so you can better recognize it.
Recognizing some of my own, I was finally able to give it the boot recently.
On my way to my first same-sex wedding, years ago, I felt a prick of, ”It’s not like it’s a real wedding.” I was certainly honored to be there, and it was beautiful, but the cynical little bugbear in my brain was telling me we were just going through the motions, aping straight society. In the romantic sense, this was not that golden ideal of man and woman coming together in the way nearly every bit of literature I’d ever read or movie I’d ever seen set as the model. This was not a scene from Casablanca or The English Patient or Slumdog Millionaire; not a page from Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters or Doctor Zhivago.
Beyond the passive reinforcement of pop culture, there was the outward hostility of those who compare same-sex marriage to bestiality, or who put a bow on their condescension and bigotry with rational-sounding, polite arguments for ”domestic partnerships” and ”civil unions.” Anything but marriage.
Some of that stuck. In my subconscious imaginings, somewhere there was an ”ideal” wedding with a bride and groom, primal in its simplicity of man and woman joining in some Eden, beaming with purity and grace.
It has taken some time to excise that bit of horseshit from my cranium, but I’m confident it’s finally gone.
My own wedding played some part in that, little more than a year ago. It was quiet, intimate, and possibly the most positive emotional expression I’ve ever made. And it was legal, recognized by my D.C. jurisdiction and several others.
In April 2011, my husband and I went to another small wedding. This time we were in a church and our friends were married by their pastor. They’d been married once before, in North Carolina, but this time the grooms got their local government’s stamp of approval in much the same way they’d already gotten it from their large, supportive, extended family.
September and October weddings were about as fabulous as they come, with joyous crowds and nearly as much pomp as a royal wedding. With one of the readings, I cried a little, moved as I watched two men make this commitment.
We’ve followed our newest newlyweds as they made their preparations, fretting over details of venue, catering and everything else that comes with the big day. And we knew there would be family. Lots and lots of family. From California and Connecticut, near and far, the families of these two men poured into Washington to support their grooms. Most touching of all was the evident joy of one’s father, who clearly understood he was not losing a son, but gaining another.
All in all, it’s been an educational year that’s taught me – finally – that there is not marriage and same-sex marriage. There is just marriage. There may be a distinction between civil and religious marriage, but that’s another matter. What is good and true is that these marriages are as ”ideal” as any other, as integral to their communities and families as any other. What is wrong is that anyone would want to keep them from happening in the first place.
Will O’Bryan is Metro Weekly‘s managing editor. Contact him at wobryan@MetroWeekly.com.