The Deepest Work of Civil Rights Happens Within

The Deepest Work of Civil Rights Happens Within

      BY SCOTT KILOBY     I really don’t like the word homophobia because I don’t like labels generally – at least the kind that are used to put people in boxes. This is the same reason that I don’t walk around each day thinking of myself as gay. No thanks. Take your box somewhere else. Yes, for conventional purposes, I am gay. But the word is not what I am. Nor is the word “homophobic” what other people are who do not like or who fear gay people. But the word homophobia does, at least, speak to the fear underneath the issue. Phobia means fear. Some of my gay and lesbian friends do not understand why I do not get upset or outraged when I see homophobia in the world. I used to get really upset. But my work in the last decade or so has been about meeting my own fear directly. I cannot fix others. It is not my job. Certainly, the discrimination and hate crimes against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered) community cannot be condoned in a civilized society. The laws are changing in favor of protection. And that is great. But the deeper issues cannot be changed fully by laws. Just as racism continues (largely out of fear) decades after the civil rights movement in the 60s, fear or ignorance around LGBT people will continue for a long time despite the recent changes in law. The real work is not just on the side of those who fear or do not understand those in the LGBT community. It is also on the side of the LGBT community. Very few of my gay brothers and sisters actually investigate fully their own deficiency stories and internalized homophobia. Being gay or lesbian, we grew up in a world that contained many people who thought we were disgusting, sinful or just plain freaks. Many, or I should say, most of us in the LGBT internalized all of that. It’s similar to when young black children internalize the sense of being less worthy than white children (this was noted in the Brown v. Board of Education case – ending segregation). In my view, the real work in civil rights issues happens within. Until people see that they are not these stories of deficiences and until they let go of the internalized fear, we will never see the full acceptance of the LGBT community in society. How can society accept us if we do not accept ourselves first? The same kind of work has to be done, of course, on the side of those who fear or who do not understand the LGBT community. Those who bullied...

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