Do you experience shame and guilt over being gay or homosexual? It’s easy for me to say, ‘Stop, there’s nothing to be ashamed about!” But it’s a lot harder to put into practice. The reason for this is that the seeds for shame and guilt are usually sown over a period of many years, since we were very young. In the United States, shame and guilt over being homosexual have their roots in religious philosophy. Religious prejudices have heavily filtered into our legal system, making gay sex illegal in many states and failing to protect gays in most states.
These societal beliefs and laws influence how we are raised by our parents, what our schools teach us and how other people respond to us. Believe it or not, all cultures do not share a negative view of homosexuals. Latin American countries, the Philippines and Sweden are just a few examples of countries that have tolerant laws and attitudes toward gays and lesbians. In general, societies that believe that homosexuality is a born trait are more accepting than societies that think it is a choice. Of course, we as homosexuals know it is not a choice!
So what are shame and guilt exactly? They are not quite the same. Shame is experienced in reference to how other people perceive your actions; guilt is experienced in reference to how you perceive your actions. Is it possible to experience one without the other? Yes, and it is also possible to experience both at the same time. For instance, if you are a woman, you may feel absolutely no guilt whatsoever when you are intimate with your girlfriend. You are joyful, at peace and fulfilled. However, when it comes time to tell another about the experience, you may have a sense of deep shame. Conversely, you may experience guilt when you are together and shame when you tell someone else.
Try to figure out what your feelings are, when you feel them and what triggers these feelings. Ask yourself some hard questions. Do these feelings arise from learned religious convictions? Did my parents teach me these things? When was the first time you heard anti-gay sentiments and what were your feeling then?
Then do a reality check. If you have been an active homosexual you know the truth of what you do, how you feel about your partner and the relationship that you have. Unfortunately, when you examine reality you will discover that the people that wrote the laws, taught you and influenced your thought have no idea what they are talking about. They developed all those prejudices and perspectives, laws and mores, based on fear, poorly interpreted ideology and ignorant judgment. All of these negative beliefs have been developed without any scientific basis or with respect to modern psychiatric insight and findings.
It takes a long time to overcome feelings of shame and guilt. Talking about it is extremely important and may help you get perspective on the subject. You may consider joining a more accepting church or synagogue if religion is a problem. For instance, Unitarians and Reformed Jews are examples of religion sects that do not discriminate against gays and lesbians. Overcoming shame and guilt will go a long way toward helping you come out successfully, accept yourself for who you are and have a healthy relationship with your partner.
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