In ideal circumstances, kids are brought up to value acceptance, not to fear what is perceived as “different,” and to withhold judgment to create space for understanding.
But unless you grew up with truly exceptional parents (and yes, they are out there), which let’s face it, most of us did not, then part of growing up meant breaking free of certain learned behaviors or prejudices.
For LGBT people it gets even more tricky, as many of us were brought up in homes that vilified the very people we would grow up to be. Which means some of us have a complicated past when it comes to homophobia.
One Reddit user, Saubrey, was grappling with this conflict and posed the following question to her community:
Were any of you homophobic before you realized you were LGBT?
Then she shared her experience:
Hope I’m not the only one. I (24F) grew up in a conservative religious family and I didn’t know anybody who was gay. In my pre-teen years I would frequently make jokes about “faggots” and try to bring up those evil gays as a way to evangelize my faith (stupid, I know, but somehow it made sense to me at the time). I actually thought the idea of two women together was kinda gross.
Then suddenly I had a crush on a cute girl and I had to eat a HUUUUUUGE piece of humble pie. I was the first gay person I had ever met. Because I was so deeply in denial I kept making those jokes/comments out of habit until eventually I knew deep down I had to make myself stop. I was causing myself pain. It was the first step on a very long journey to being my authentic self.
I still have a few friends who remember me from way back then and even though things are good now, I occasionally feel really embarrassed about all the things I said.
Many others shared similar stories, which we found quite moving. Unsurprisingly, the “R” word comes up in almost every case.
Here are some responses:
I mean, I was a young kid, so growing up around other kids in a conservative area (in spite of my pretty liberal parents) I called things I didn’t like “gay,” and people I didn’t like “fags.” I knew being gay meant you were girly and prissy and feminine and deserved to be made fun of.
I didn’t really understand what I was saying, it’s just sort of something you grow up being told about, and you’re told that it’s bad and people who are gay all act a certain way, you know, the typical shit with teenage boys.
Yes! My father was a protestant pastor, so I wa raised quite strict and conservative. In my clas I would be the loudest to make homophobic comments. This was especially the case as I was realizing that I had a thing for guys too. Because of my upbringing I was utterly disgusted at myself and thought that the only way to compensate for this sin was to fight other LGBTQ+ folks. This mindset would evolve into me planning my own execution and almost attempting it on several occasions.
I was homophobic and transphobic up until junior year of high school. Also raised by a conservative religious family. I condemned homosexuality every single day.
This may seem bizzare but my turning point came to me in the form of a dream. I woke up in tears as I started to reevaluate everything I once stood for.
Yes I was. It was the usual case of “look at them and not me” that’s why I always point out gays everywhere and mock them in front of my friends. It didn’t help that the friends I grew up with were all straight dudes (except for one gay best friend who was the first person I came out to).
Having been in the circle of straight guys for so long, I have seen and joined in the prejudice of gays. It made me more and more afraid to accept that I was gay. I didn’t want to lose these friends of mine ( they really are cool) and I didn’t want to spend the rest of high school avoiding same people for four years. So I learned to be homophobic to stay with the cool kids.
I know I was pathetic.
Yeah. I was raised in a strict religious (American Baptist) family. In high school I was openly hostile to people I knew were gay or even suspected they were. I came out to my closest friends and the only family I could trust at 19 years old.
Absolutely I was about as bad as it got. Born and raised into a cult both parents and every adult I knew were certifiable crazy and I was just as bad. Was a bible thumper and bully. Wasnt till I repeatedly pray that god cure me and kill me after I was forgiven that I started to figure out God is not real. Once I dropped that I am repulsed by homophobes and somewhat accepting of myself. I turned about half of my self hatred towards religion now. All religion and the other half towards anyone trying to control anyone.
I remember bullying a boy in grade school because he often acted effeminate and had an unusually strong reverence for motherhood. Somewhere in my closeted kid brain, I thought I was helping him.
About a decade later, I randomly spotted him at a high school graduation. He didn’t confront me, but his mood changed immediately after he noticed me. I still regret not apologizing while I could.
A few years later, I came out as a trans woman. Oops. Sorry Mikey.
You can read the full thread here.