Be sure to check out the rest of our Love & Lust 2014 features…

joanne_solo[Ed. Note — Writer Joanne Spataro was among the several community members who participated in our cover story this issue. In addition to her profile in our body-positive feature, Joanne shared a moving story about her experience coming to terms with her identity. Joanne’s experience is a reminder that self-acceptance is just as important to living life healthily and positively. Indeed, accepting one’s self is crucial to later acceptance and affirmation of your sexuality and your body.]

After I came out to myself at age 13, I started to internalize homophobic messages about how I was “too pretty to be gay.” I felt it from people I met who talked poorly about the LGBT community. I felt guilty for being attracted to women because somehow I had potential to be a “pretty straight person,” whatever that meant. I could pass and have the stereotypical heterosexual life of having a husband and 2.5 kids. What made it worse is that when I tried to date women or make friends with lesbian and bi women, they did not see me as “gay-looking” enough. I wasn’t gay-looking enough for my own community and did not internally feel straight-enough to pass in the heterosexual world. This wrecked havoc with my self-esteem and body image.

I began to stop feeling this internalized homophobia in my later teens when there were great — albeit sparse — lesbian and bi characters of all shapes and sizes in the media. Leisha Hailey played Alice on “The L Word” and helped me see I could be bubbly and girly and still love women. And, the first lesbian character on daytime television, Bianca Montgomery from “All My Children” — I was in love with her. Her pictures from weekly issues of Soap Opera Digest were plastered on my bedroom walls. She may have been played by the straight actress Eden Riegel (or at least she said she was straight), but she was excellent. I could relate to her and see myself dating her at the same time. She took me out of my self-loathing. Every weekday at 1 p.m. was my therapy session — Erica Kane accepting her daughter Bianca did so much for me.

I’m glad there is more diverse LGBT representation in all forms of media today. I hope that today’s kids who are 13 and beyond can find more role models to combat their internalized homophobia. : :