By Alondra Rivera
I am a Bronx native of Dominican descent raised by traditional Caribbean views sculpted by Catholicism and Patriotism that perpetuates machismo, colorism, and homophobia. The type of culture that smothers their kids with love, but raises adults with premeditated hate for “maricons” and “morenos,” even when it’s themselves.
Unpacking passed down ignorance has been the base of most of my familial interactions. In dismantling internal prejudice and relearning history over glasses of wine with friends, while watching Love & Hip Hop, I’ve created my community. Sadly, my community crumbled like the ceiling of run-down NYC apartments, the moment I came out.
At twenty-one, the butterflies in my stomach flew aimlessly when I met my girlfriend. Blinded by a “friendship” I falsely believed, morphed into puppy-love. As we unpacked our cultural traumas, we took time to nurture our relationship and privately explored the depths of our feelings until we felt comfortable venturing into a world that we knew would refuse to accept us.
Despite the world’s misguided views on the LGBTQ+ community and the internalized homophobia I had to unpack, I actually found it exciting to come out to my friends, coworkers, and strangers. I was excited to say “girlfriend” and share my romantic and sexual awakening; However, I recognized an uncomfortable shift in behavior from my friends when choosing to date women instead of men.
Covert Homophobia occurs when an individual performs “socially acceptable” acts of discrimination in the form of jokes, stereotypes, and tokenism. It can also be translated by voting for an elected official who opposes LGBTQ+ rights or personal bias in a professional setting. However, most people aren’t aware of the questionable boundaries they step over when society is accustomed to it.
Almost two years since coming-out, I noticed significant changes amongst my friends and family, in addition to my encounters with strangers I meet. But before I spill my tea, shout-out to the people in my life who support my relationship and create the space for me to feel unapologetically me.
For the people who are accepting of LGBTQ+ folks, but aren’t considered a true “ally,” here are some ways in which you may be guilty of covert homophobia:
1.Repeatedly asking femme queers questions such as, “you don’t miss dick” or “you sure you don’t want to date men,” especially whilst in a monogamous relationship with another woman
2.Insisting that queers either haven’t had good sexual experiences with the opposite sex or that their sexuality can only be confirmed by having sex with the opposite sex
3.Not acknowledging someone’s partner in shared social settings or deflecting conversations away from a sharing queer individual
4.Having breaking-up as the only suggestion each time your queer friend confides in you about their relationship
5.Stereotyping and categorizing queers into heteronormative gender roles (i.e. “who’s the guy/girl in the relationship?”) and assuming someone “looks” straight or gay
6.Choosing to call queers by their dead name versus their actual name and refusal to use chosen pronouns
7.Tokenizing queers like they’re a purse dog
The list continues , but I am stopping here to say we are all capable of growth. Willingness to welcome experiences and different narratives is how we as a society can denounce cultural hate-speech and microaggressions towards marginalized groups. Forms of homophobia have silenced my relationship in a mixed company, caused hesitation when introducing the word “girlfriend” and limited my comfortability. Distance gets created from indirect actions, intentionally or not; and the decision to remain ignorant is a virtue that can no longer be sustained.