Silent Homophobia is Like a Virus

Since forever, or at least for as long as I can remember, I’ve considered myself a wounded diva, the family drama queen. With skin thin as silk paper and a Depeche Mode track of your choice playing in the background, I want to wallow in melancholia and pitch black misery. I want my feelings to be extraordinary, decisive, inspiring. I want to write poetry, dwell on the little things, analyze, break it down. And I am, as you may understand, completely shameless in my self-composed one man show, the theater about me. However, today I want to talk about a heartache that I for once haven’t romanticized.

The heartache I’m talking about isn’t the fact that I finally understood that I was a lesbian, thank god for that. But that it took 22 years for me to even think in those terms. 23 years to turn everything upside down, everything that I’ve told myself and everyone that I know about me, and about who I am. I was always longing for something more, something that I could feel deep inside of me. But I never understood what that was. For me, it was completely unimaginable that the emptiness I felt was because I directed my love and lust in the wrong direction. Being gay was never an option. Because it was never presented as one.

My experiences are definitely not unique. But my perspective is the only one I can speak from. I know that I am extremely privileged. White, loved, food in my pantry, a fantastic family, a safe upbringing. Despite that, I’ve been hurt, and I’m keeping getting hurt, like millions of others, by the heteronormativity that still diminishes and denies our love. A norm that, often by not speaking, says that we don’t exist.

From what I remember, I’ve questioned my sexuality since childhood. But I’ve never seen that as a problem. Quite the opposite, it’s normal for a child to fall in love with their same-sex friends, or a teenager to make out with their girlfriends at a party. I read it in the question columns in Kamratposten [Pal Paper, Swedish children’s magazine], heard it in comforting words from high school movie moms when they talked about their “lesbian college years”. It’s completely innocent, a phase we all go through. Harmless, something that will pass.

One afternoon when I was 12, a new classmate and I pretended to be a couple. We stood in a classroom during biology, hugging and shouting “honey” across the room, over everyone’s heads. We twisted each other’s hair and caressed each other’s cheeks. The other girls in class rolled their eyes, the boys cheered, and our teacher hastily stopped the spectacle. It was embarrassing to be so attention seeking and we were allowed to do what we wanted outside of school, but there was no room for that kind of nonsense in class.

When I was 14 I met my friends for a taco night. We got undressed, walked around in our underwear, made out and licked chocolate sauce from our collarbones, and I was in heaven. But quickly afterward I understood that this wasn’t more than a crazy episode of our lives. Something that we could tell our daughters the day that we ourselves had become high school movie moms. Something we could tell boys, because it’s sexy. Our lesbian phase. I remember a slight sting of shame within. Barely noticeable. So, I quickly decided not to waste my time dwelling on those little episodes. There were more important things to think about. Losing virginity, drinking beer, being kissed for the first time. A real kiss that is,

So, I kissed, lost my virginity, drank beer, got boyfriends, and the seeking of those extraordinary feelings began. Because I felt nothing. I didn’t feel anything real inside. What was supposed to make me want to scream and cry, make me excited, aroused and happy all felt like an act. And it was hard to stop when I started lying about multiple orgasms, the dream man and that I didn’t cry after one night stands. I came up with any and all possible excuses to why nothing felt right. But not even that girl, the one who kissed me around a street corner when I was on my way to meet my boyfriend made me think about why so many excuses were needed.

Sometimes I’d like to change the way it was. Say that I knew but didn’t dare to tell anyone. It would somehow be easier to explain. I’ve seen therapists and talked and talked and talked myself drained about why life just wasn’t enough. But it wasn’t until I admitted to one of my best friends that I think of furniture when I sleep with guys, and got the simple answer “maybe you shouldn’t sleep with guys” that it all came to me. Being gay was never an option. Because it was never presented as one.

The active homophobia is easy to understand. It is raw, direct and dangerous. It is the threat of rape, ridicule, and abuse. But the silent homophobia is like a virus. It spreads easily and unnoticeably with heteronormativity as its squire. It tells a child that the love to her friend is sweet but that one day she will fall in love for real. It tells the teenager that her sexuality is there to satisfy men, no matter who she makes out with. It assumes that your girlfriend is only a friend. It says that all of it is just another way for you to get attention, because it’s “so fucking trendy” right now. But love is not fashion. It is space in the media, it is two girls kissing in a commercial, it is our representation, that makes more people understand and accept themselves. Because we are real and now, we are seen.

This post was written by Martina Karpmyr. She is a music lover from Uppsala, Sweden, but is now based in Oslo. She enjoys cheap red wine, midnight walks, instant noodles and dark lipstick. Martina reads and writes poetry, takes selfies and dreams about becoming a Broadway superstar. She has the Swedish podcast “Vi vill ju bara bli kända”.

This post about homophobia and real life was part of our celebration of International Women’s Day 2017. Find more inspiring content here!