said that a prophet is without honor in his own country.
We gays and lesbians don’t have our own nation, let
alone recognized “prophets” in our communities. As a
group—leaders, organizations and businesses— we dishonor
each other. I hear gays and lesbians say things like:
“Isn’t it great that straight business is reaching out
to the GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender]
community,” and literally in the same breath, “Can you
believe that GLBT businesses are trying to make money
off us?” and “Who does that business think it is, trying
to be in the forefront of the gay community?”
This is internalized
homophobia (hereafter, IH), which occurs whenever GLBT
people direct external homophobia at themselves and
others in their community. IH is growing as more and
more GLBT businesses courageously hang their shingles as
“out and open.” IH makes us distance ourselves from
others in our community, dismissing them as too
gay-acting, too out, or too political.
For years now, we’ve
seen GLBT organizations experience internal conflicts
and “disorganization” with each other. These
organizations argue—internally and externally—about who
has the correct ideas, direction, concepts and plans.
Differences in opinion lead to some individuals
splitting off and creating their own organizations,
which then compete with the original one.
The psychological and
social reasons for this originate in how we GLBT’s learn
our sense of belonging, identity, and competence. Many
other minorities have the same tendency to attack one
another for similar reasons. This is called lateral
discrimination: The minority group internalizes the
presumed superiority of the larger society and
individuals in the group act out toward one another.
From childhood, we gays and lesbians are denied a
sense of belonging. Having to conform to heterosexual
models, we don’t automatically learn, as do our
heterosexual counterparts, to establish community and
togetherness amongst each other.
Other minorities have
families who support them and give them a sense of
belonging amongst their own minority. Oprah Winfrey
talks about the first time she saw the Supremes on
television and yelling to her family, “Colored people
are on TV, colored people are on TV!” She and her
family watched these three beautiful black women singing
and wearing beautiful clothes in ways that
African-Americans weren’t usually depicted on
At least Oprah had her
family to run to and feel a sense of belonging. Unlike
other minorities, we have no one to provide that
support! In our own families, we are still a minority.
We’re born into an enemy camp, heterosexual families,
and go to heterosexual boot camp for at least 18 years.
Understandably, we humans label ourselves—and each
other—as a way to achieve a sense of identity. And
within these labels—particularly gender labels--we are
expected to act and think a certain way. GLBT children
don’t get the same support as heterosexual boys and
girls. The girls hear, “You have to wear this dress,”
and the boys are told, “Don’t act like a girl.” When I
was young, I used to put my sister’s black tights on my
head and sing into a hairbrush, pretending I was Cher!
My mother grabbed those tights off my head and told me,
“Little boys cannot be Cher.” The bottom line is, we
have to establish our identities on our own, with no
help from others in learning to be who we are.
Our differences are not
respected from childhood. Therefore, we do not accept
each other’s differences as adults. How then can we be
expected to accept each other’s differences within our
GLBT community and businesses?
One of the biggest factors contributing to
negativity toward gay businesses is the wound gay and
lesbian children receive around the competence stage of
development. Everyone needs to feel that what they think
and do is worthwhile. If children don’t get this
impression from caretakers and/or authority figures,
they often grow up to feel incompetent and/or
uncompetitive. Gay children are taught that the way
they think, act and feel is wrong. How can we support
each other if we have no confidence in ourselves?
The other way
competence wounds are acted out are by becoming
competitive. I am not talking about healthy
competitiveness--I am talking about fierce, vicious
competition. One business might come out against the
other, overtly or covertly doing subtle things to
undermine the company. I often see this among gay and
lesbian businesses, and the worst part is that there is
no need to feel threatened or competitive. The
competitiveness demonstrated is from that person’s or
business’ past wounds.
The Enemy Among Us
It’s wonderful that our community has multiple
organizations, businesses, and support groups. The
answer is not necessarily to join together and create a
single one, but to allow communication and dialogue
among the various businesses. We need to honor our own
competence and each other’s, and support one another by
checking on dates of each other’s events, national and
local, held by businesses similar to our own when we
can. We should talk to each other about how to stand
together for our common good and not feel threatened by
one another. What an impact our GLBT businesses could
make if we put our heads together and supported each
other, allowing for more than one reality and honored
each other’s viewpoints. Isn’t that exactly what we’re
asking from those outside of our community?
I’d like to end this
article with a quote from author and motivational
speaker Alan Cohen: “Instead of going to scare city
[scarcity], have a bun dance [abundance]!”
Joe Kort, MSW, is a
psychotherapist and coach in the Detroit, MI area and
author of 10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Improve
Their Lives. He can be reached at
or go to www.joekort.com.
Joe Kort, MSW is a
psychotherapist and author in Royal Oak, Michigan.
10 Smart Things Gay Men Can Do to Find Real Love
will be in bookstores in January 2006. It is available
for pre-order at