Internalized Homophobia  (IHP) is a condition that can be defined in many ways. Some define it as the involuntary belief by members of the LGBTQ community that the homophobic lies, stereotypes and myths about them are actually true. Others simplify IHP into an idea called “velvet rage” which essentially means self-hatred due to a person’s own sexual orientation.  (Williamson, R. 1997) The validation of IHP as an actual condition is highly debated by many. My experience with IHP treatment and the very first time I was introduced to the idea of IHP was during my own treatment and recovery process as a teenager. Dealing with IHP had lead me down a destructive path that culminated with a suicide attempt. My reasoning for choosing to research this topic is because the one question I have to this day is what if my attempt to end my life was completed? The problem being observed is the fact that IHP is not being recognized or treated as the mental health issue that it is. The first goal is to understand if IHP has been validated in any way as an actual medical condition. The second goal is to understand what causes IHP and what the methods are today for treating and overcoming this condition. My first goal is to walkthrough the issues I believe contribute the most to IHP and then identify solutions to these issues.  My second goal is to validate this condition with resources and studies and get a better understanding of what IHP prevention and treatment looks like in the present and propose some ideas for the future.[1]

There is a lot of question around who exactly is affected by internalized homophobia(IHP). The research all concludes that IHP has been found in various homosexual, lesbian, and bisexual men and women spanning throughout the entire LGBTQ community. Most of my studies suggest that although it can affect anyone, it has been shown to be more prominent in homosexual males. Herek, Cogan, Gillis, & Glaunt (1997) suggest through survey method results that, “Men scored significantly higher than women on the IHP measurement, and bisexual men scored significantly higher than homosexuals.” This sample consisted of 75 men and 75 women recruited at a Pride street festival in San Francisco. Each participant was offered $5.00 and free soft drinks to complete a survey that took on average forty five minutes. The survey consisted of questions that centered around psychological well-being, disclosure of sexual orientation or “outness”, and perceptions of community. Each question could be answered by selecting one of five points ranging from agree strongly to disagree strongly. (Herek, Cogan, Gillis, & Glaunt 1997)  Although this study gives a solid result I do believe that it consist of more opportunity than success. The sample size is too small to be considered an accurate generalization of the mass majority of LGBTQ men and women. In addition to that the sample took place in San Francisco, a known gay friendly city and I believe that this could have affected the type of participant turn out that you might get in a different area that is not as progressive and accepting. [2]

The first factor found that leads to IHP is minority stress. The idea of minority stress is essentially explained as a fear of not fitting in or being accepted due to one’s differences. The concept as it pertains to IHP sees that gay men living in a heterosexist society are prone to higher stress and anxiety levels. Ilan H Meyer’s study in 1995 elaborated on this idea and the correlation between IHP and perceived stigmas that cause minority stress. Stigmatization has for years been related to adverse effects on self-esteem and social acceptance. Meyer’s gives various examples of how although a gay man may be accepted by others the perception of the stigma around them being gay over shadows any type of validation received. The gay stigma can stem from social and religious beliefs that homosexuality is not acceptable. Meyers gives an example of a 16 year old boy, Bobby Griffith, who struggled with IHP, because of social stress due to stigmatization. Bobby Griffith’s last journal entry before taking his own life reads:

“I can’t let anyone find out that I’m not straight. It would be so humiliating. My friends would hate me, I just know it. They might even want to beat me up…I guess I’m no good to anyone.. Not even God. Life is so cruel, and unfair. Sometimes I feel like disappearing from the face of this earth.”

Bobby Griffith ended his life by jumping off of a freeway overpass. Griffith was raised in a social environment that condemned homosexuality. The minority stress that lead to heightened levels of IHP were something that he could no longer deal with(Ilan H. Meyer 1995). Meyers uses this example to explain the significance in stigmatization that leads to minority stress and results in high levels of IHP. [3]

Another important concept that can lead to IHP is the societal conceptions of masculinity. For years society has presented acceptable men as strong, masculine, and dominant and anything less then that has been the butt of a joke or the premise behind a funny character. One study suggest that the fear of being an effeminate man or having effeminate behavior has a significant effect on gay men’s self image  (Sanchez F., Greenberg S., Liu W., 2009). The term masculinity generally refers to the physical and biological features that differentiate a male from a female. Going back to the idea of stigmatization, society has created the stigma that homosexual men are less masculine than heterosexual men. This idea of traditional masculinity defining manhood has lead gay men to not only feel outcasted among heterosexual men but has also become an issue in overall interpersonal relationships. Studies have been conducted showing that gay men stress over exhibiting masculinity to other gay men in fear of being undesirable. Men may feel insecure, inadequate, or inferior which leads to psychological distress like shame and rejection. Shame and rejection create higher levels of IHP  (Sanchez F., Greenberg S., Liu W., 2009). [4]

The last and most obvious cause of IHP is bullying however bullying is usually associated with children and I do believe that for gay men bullying is something that continues throughout a lifetime unfortunately. Firstly, as it pertains to gay youth, multiple studies do show that bullying in gay youth is more significant than in heterosexual youth. One study sampled over 300 youth who identify as sexual minorities between the ages of 14-22 years of age (Blais M, Gervais J, Hebert M, 2014). The sample result showed that out of the 300 participants 60.7% of them had reported being victims of  physical or verbal bullying due to their sexual orientation on more than one occasion. It has been observed that psychological abuse like this has a direct relation to lower self-esteem. In the same study a sample of 180 gay men between the ages of 25-50 years old were asked the same question. 78% of the men surveyed reported being a victim of physical or verbal bullying as a child. The participants were then asked to recall times they were bullied as a child in which 47% of them described a specific incident as being the most traumatic experience of their life. Psychologist have even gone as far as to treat many gay men for post traumatic stress disorder  (PTSD) directly caused from childhood bullying. The stress levels as well as the effect bullying has on self-esteem leads to heightened levels of IHP.(Blais M, Gervais J, Hebert M, 2014)[5]

From the lack of resources found on IHP it’s now undood why, from a general view, IHP is not a condition being discussed.  Any study or survey has its own limitations specifically because we are unable to identify who exactly identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community. However it is possible that there are better efforts that can be taken specifically in identifying IHP in children and teens. The education about warning signs and symptoms is crucial. In addition I recommend that the umbrella of psychological treatment processes be tested as it applies to IHP patients. One of the largest campaigns against self hatred is the “It Gets Better” campaign. I do believe that it gets better, however I think we need to do a little better at not only showing how it can get better but why it gets better. IHP will continue to manifest in gay men of all ages, it will continue to claim lives until the general population understands the severity of this condition. In order to help the world understand IHP we must be able to validate it and with the lack of education and resources we are nowhere close to where we could be. I do have hope that individuals like myself who have made it through IHP and understand it have the largest responsibility in spreading awareness and contributing to one day validating and reducing the lives affected by and claimed by internalized homophobia.



Annotated Bibliography

Iain R. Williamson; Internalized homophobia and health issues affecting lesbians and gay men , Health Education Research, Volume 15, Issue 1, 1 February 2000, Pages 97–107.

This article’s main purpose is to help define and promote discussion around the concept of internalized homophobia and its effect on health. The concept of internalized homophobia, or self hatred, is still a fairly new one that is not recognized as an actual condition yet. In this study the author helps define, validate, and offer new ways of assessing internalized homophobia. This source will be my main resource because of the facts, definitions, and sources that the author cited. I will use this primarily to define and introduce the concept in my proposal and explain why it is a problem. The author is a social scientist and this research was published as Health Education Research through Oxford University which leads me to believe that this is a credible source.

Herek, G. M.,Cogan, J. C., Gillis, J. R., & Glaunt R. (1997). Internalized stigma among sexual minority adults: Insights from a social psychological perspective.Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 32-43.

This research explains who exactly is affected by internalized homophobia. Through a survey sampling at a gay pride event researchers were able to conclude that gay men are the most affected by IHP in the LGBT community. I will use this research in paper to explain who is affected as well as using it as an example of how difficult it is to actually survey and research this. This is a valid source because it was published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology by graduates in the medical field.

Meyer, I. H., & Dean, L. (1998). Internalized homophobia, intimacy, and sexual behavior among gay and bisexual men. Psychological perspectives on lesbian and gay issues, 4, 160-186.

This source explores the various causes of IHP and emphasizes the impact of minority stress as a contributor to IHP. This study concludes in showing that the high levels of stress lead to high levels of distress within gay men due to being a minority because of their sexual orientation. The author breaks down the “normal” man’s life verses the gay man’s life. I will use this in my paper to explain what causes IHP. This is a credible source because the authors are both psychologist and this was published in a psychology journal.

Sánchez, F. J., Greenberg, S. T., Liu, W. M., & Vilain, E. (2009). Reported Effects of Masculine Ideals on Gay Men. Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 10(1), 73–87.

This article is an elaboration on the concept of minority stress as it pertains to gay men living in a heterosexist world. The author’s explain the problems gay men face being effeminate. An explanation of the idea of lacking masculinity which leads to shame is presented. I will use this source to elaborate on the idea of minority stress causing IHP. This is a credible source because it was published as the Psychology of Men & Masculinity.

Blais, M., Gervais, J., & Hébert, M. (2014). Internalized homophobia as a partial mediator between homophobic bullying and self-esteem among youths of sexual minorities in Quebec (Canada). Ciencia & saude coletiva, 19(3), 727-735.

This study looks at verbal, physical, and psychological bullying and the effects it has on gay people. The study shows an importance in initiatives to prevent homophobic bullying for the sake of long term and short term self hatred. The study is backed by many statistical facts on gay teen suicide rates. I will use this as yet another explanation of internalized homophobia causes. This will also help me form my concluding proposal. This is a credible source because all of the authors are educators and the article can be found on various social science resource sites.