Homophobia and Criminality–Ask a Therapist
Q: It seems that certain people make the assumption that drug addicts tend to engage in criminal behavior. Is that a form of homophobia? I say that because when I came out as a gay man, simultaneously my family and classmates and professors were treating me like so (around my teens and twenties).
On a related note, why do some gay people have bad relationships with their families (mothers) while others don’t?
A: You bring up some great questions. Assumptions and judgments are made all the time. They are usually born out of pop culture stereotypes, personal fears, or plain naiveté. Often a lack of education on the subject matter reduces an individual’s ability to think more deeply about a subject.
The assumption that you are talking about, regarding the common notion that drug addicts engage in criminal behavior is complex. Here are a few reasons why: first off, we live in a society in which all drugs, with the exception of alcohol, nicotine, and prescription medications, are illegal to posses Therefore obtaining illicit drugs is in and of itself a sign of “engaging in criminal behavior.” In order to obtain (marijuana, cocaine, etc..) one must break the law.
Secondly, the more abstract answer would be something like this: those who do not engage in ellicit drug use imagine the users to be immorally inferior to them. They form judgments towards those that use drugs recreationally or habitually and perhaps look down on their behavior. As the Director of Substance Abuse Treatment for the NYC Jail System, I woudl be remiss to say that there is a concrete correlation between drug addiction and criminal behavior. It is true that many drug addicts will break societal rules to obtain drugs, such as rob, steal, mug, murder, etc. Most “criminals” incarcerated in the NYC jail system are addicted to substances and are incarcerated on drug related crimes. If only this nation would put the same amount of energy and money into treating addiction as they do towards incarceration…
The correlation between drug use and cirminal bevaior is not a form of homophobia. Homophobia is a specific fear that encompasses a range of negative attitiudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who identify or perceived as being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. You were treated differently when you came out either because those around you were homophobic or xenophobic, a broader term which describes a person who has a fear or hatred towards strangers or foreigners, or anything that is strange or foreign to them.
Family members, including mothers, too often feel they have control of who their children grow up to be. They feel that they can shape their children to become the people they want them to be. When you came out your mother may have blamed herself for doing something “wrong.”
The truth is that you just became comfortable with the person that you truly are meant to be. Be proud.
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