Homophobia Enemy of Curiosity
By Payam Ghassemlou Ph.D.
The landscape of our life is as vast as the degree of our curiosity. This is an emotion that can be put in motion by a wondrous dance with creation. Curiosity motivates us to show interest in ourselves and the world around us. With curiosity, we can passionately explore the mystery of life. It also engages us with the content of our universe and helps us to come to life in a new way. When life comes to us through our curiosity, we become an active player in our life. We no longer sit passively and let life just happen.
Lack of curiosity keeps us prisoner in the small pond that we call our life. Without curiosity, we can never leave this small pond and merge with the ocean or never ride the inquisitive waves. When we don’t explore, notice, ask questions or embrace the wonder of life we are not living a full life. Without curiosity our life lacks meaning and vitality. This is why curiosity is so important in order to live a meaningful life.
Curiosity requires support and tolerance to leave our comfort zone and venture into the unknown. Curiosity starts early in life, and requires support from care givers in order to fully blossom. All small children need to learn about their emotions including curiosity and healthy parenting includes this task.
One of the barriers toward developing a strong sense of curiosity for gay and lesbian youth has to do with a homophobic upbringing. Homophobia prevents gay and lesbian kids from fully embracing their sense of curiosity. Many of my gay and lesbian patients, including a number of bisexual and transgender individuals, have shared with me that as young as age four they felt different. They were unable to articulate why they felt different, and, at the same time, they were too afraid to talk about it. Many reported that they knew this feeling of being different was related to something forbidden. Many found it too threatening to show curiosity toward their feeling of differentness hence their sense of curiosity got discouraged from early age. Growing up in a homophobic atmosphere caused their sense of curiosity to be replaced with fear and shame.
When an adolescent’s curiosity about his or her same sex attraction gets fed with homophobic messages of disgust, he or she can develop self hate and be forced into a closet of shame. Homophobic messages and violent attacks can discourage his or her sense of curiosity, which can have negative consequences including lack of relationship to one’s inner life. It can prevent the youngster from learning to know himself or herself and develop a deeper emotional insight.
Depression is common among those gays and lesbians who suffered homophobic mistreatment growing up. Many of them who felt different and did not flow with mainstream reported suffering in silence without any support in understanding their feelings. Curiosity toward complex matters like feeling of differentness and same sex attraction requires support from caring adults. Many reported they did not have support to follow their natural sense of curiosity and explore their feeling of differentness. As a result their ability to be curious was hindered which caused a sense of deadness inside them and resulted in long term depression.
Thrill seeking behaviors such as drug abuse and risky sex are another example of consequences for underdeveloped curiosity. Some gay individuals use thrill seeking behaviors as compensation for their insufficient relationship to their sense of curiosity. Thrill seeking behaviors are ways they might try to cope with the void and emptiness that results from lack of access to their curiosity. Life can feel meaningless without freedom to be curious.
The journey toward healing from the impact of homophobia on one’s sense of curiosity requires support from caring counselors or psychotherapists who have experience treating such matters. Curiosity, like a muscle, needs plenty of exercise to stay fit. Your gym is the present moment where you can exercise your sense of curiosity. I have found mindfulness practices such as consciously choosing to adapt an attitude of curiosity toward our present moment is a simple and yet powerful step toward redeeming one’s sense of curiosity. For example, a simple walk from your car to the store can become an opportunity to awaken you feeling of curiosity. By curiously noticing the ground under your feet as you walk toward your destination or paying attention to the noise in your immediate area, you can be present and engaged with life. This form of active engagement with your present moment can enhance and improve your ability to be curious.
It is never too late to heal from the impact of homophobia on our ability to feel our curiosity. With curiosity, our life no longer lacks purpose, and we can passionately explore the mystery of our inner life and embrace our gayness.
© This article is copyrighted by Dr. Payam Ghassemlou MFT Ph.D., a psychotherapist in private practice in West Hollywood, California. www.DrPayam.com