While speaking recently, I was asked: why do guys act more effeminate after they come out? Some readers may interpret this question as homophobic, but it was asked with sincere interest. It is my hope that exploring answers to this question might increase understanding and reduce homophobia.
Our group came up with the following possibilities:
ANSWER 1: After years of hiding one’s sexuality, a teen has repressed a lot of energy inside. When he finally comes out, a torrent of emotional energy often flows out with his disclosure. In the exuberant stage of self-acceptance, there may be an internal need to express oneself in a new way.
ANSWER 2: When a teen hides his sexuality to self-protect against teasing, he may hide authentic traits and characteristics that subject him to harm. In coming out, his real personality is now free to surface. He may have only hidden his full persona from specific individuals he most fears.
ANSWER 3: If a teen has been victimized by bullying or abuse, these deep cuts rob him of self-worth. He may seek to nurture his wounds or recover his self-worth via heightened expressions of effeminacy. In some cases, this could be a self-destructive attempt to cope with deep inner pain.
ANSWER 4: It is possible that a teen is not expressing amplified effeminacy! Others uncomfortable with homosexuality may tend to “see” effeminacy when they learn that a friend is gay. This can be homophobia, but it can also reflect a genuine attempt to understand a gay friend’s identity.
I once had a heterosexual man say to me: “I was raised by my mother after my father left our family. I know that impacted my masculinity. I was teased about being gay all growing up. Today, though, others’ impressions no longer bother me. I am who I am – God’s child.”
As we were closing our conversation, a church elder said: “I don’t see in Jesus much of what we culturally define as masculine. For this reason, I don’t want to be masculine – I want to be like Jesus! Teens just need to remember that Jesus loves them. I hope they know we love them too.”
As a guy who is not so masculine myself, these two men remind me that my true worth comes from who I am in Christ. Heterosexual men, I think, have a great opportunity to affirm gay youth by seeing them the way Jesus sees them – not the way some in our world see them.
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