The surge in anti-gay bullying and violent attacks on gay men is quite disturbing –particularly in New York City where diversity and tolerance is the norm, recent random attacks are hard to comprehend. Moreover, the rise in suicide among gay teens is truly heartbreaking.

How do these events affect us as gay men and what can we do about it?

For many, these incidences can re-stimulate past hurts and struggles of being bullied, harassed or discriminated against for being gay. Further, hearing about anti-gay attacks in places we deemed safe can instill fear, causing us to withdraw and hide our true selves from others. But we must not succumb to our fears or absorb the hatred and prejudices of others. We need to be strong and stand proud of who we are.

All of us have internalized many negative voices about our sexual orientation throughout the years. If these thoughts and beliefs remain unconscious they can lead to disastrous consequences as we have already seen with the recent adolescent suicides. These conflicts can also inhibit our lives and keep us from living more fully.

Does internalized homophobia prevent you from asserting yourself in the workplace? Does it keep you from engaging in a love relationship for fear of being “perceived” as gay in society? Has it eroded your self-esteem causing you to feel that you are just “not good enough”?

Self-awareness, self-acceptance and loving yourself are the keys to freedom from this negativity. Loving yourself can be difficult when you have limiting and derogatory messages still playing in your unconscious mind. Most of these messages were absorbed and recorded during childhood. You may still be influenced by the beliefs of your parents, teachers, religious institutions, and others that were drummed into you years ago. What beliefs are you still holding onto today? Are they serving you or harming you? You can start to change negative thoughts and beliefs by increasing your level of self-awareness and by learning to love and accept yourself more each day.

As much of a cliché as it sounds; the most important person to learn to love is yourself. Be gentle and kind to yourself. Find ways to love, nurture and support yourself. Do things that bring you pleasure. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Find positive role models and if you need assistance seek out support – talk to a trusted friend, family member, therapist or coach about your experiences. Join a support group at your local GLBT Community Center. Do not isolate or give in to thoughts of self-hatred, depression and suicide. You deserve so much more and your life can and will get better with each new day. Remember! Time does not stand still – whatever troubles you now will not last forever. No matter what’s stopping you from believing in and loving yourself, there’s a way to overcome it. You first need to identify what’s causing your self-doubt. Is it fear, insecurity, mental attitudes, or something else? Only then can you face the obstacle and overcome it. Most importantly, work to eliminate internalized homophobia and learn to love your incredible gay self!

Author's Bio: 

Paul Novello, LCSW is a licensed Therapist and Life Coach who has been practicing in New York City and Long Island for over fifteen years.

Paul has always been passionate about personal growth and development, and he loves to explore the possibilities! He enjoys inspiring others to discover their true selves, reach for their goals and dreams and live the life they truly desire. Paul created and developed Life Solutions for Gay Men as a resource to support gay men in the achievement of their personal success. Additionally, Paul has an extensive background in the performing arts and has studied and applied various techniques throughout the years including Meditation, Progressive Relaxation, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and the Alexander Technique.