Challenging Stereotypes

Hi Dr. Sterling, 

I am gay and I come from a very traditional/conservative family. Despite of the acceptance of gay marriage in the country, legally speaking, the world still holds a heavy prejudice against gays. So we know it's a delicate subject, because people are still reluctant to accept changes. I was always very private. I'm 33 years old, single, and feel like being gay has held me back. I feel I could not prosper neither professionally nor emotionally for that matter. I can't relate to the image that is constructed of gay women (stereotype). I can't relate to anything, because I feel I live in 'both worlds' (gay and straight). How to deal with that?

ANSWER

I have a question for you: Do I resemble the stereotype of a gay woman?

What would it be like to break a stereotype? To define for yourself how large a component your sexual orientation will take up in your self-image? What if being gay was just a small component of your life, or perhaps an equal percentage to your professional identification?

You have internalized a fair amount of homophobia from that conservative family of yours, and because of that, you hunt for societal evidence that our country still holds prejudicial views against gays. Being gay has not held you back. The meaning you’ve attached to being gay is what’s held you back.

Don’t confuse being ‘private’ for having internalized homophobia. You don’t have to wave a rainbow flag on a float in the Pride Parade to be gay. But you do need to address your issues around being gay, because as long as you believe that being a lesbian will hold you back, it most certainly will.