As much as our gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender communities are filled with people who are emotionally stable, positive, supportive and loving, there are also many examples in of younger and older people who act as though they have spent the day chewing the skin of unripened lemons. Bitterness can be defined as: “angry and unhappy because (the person is) unable to forget bad things which happened the past, or (of an experience) causing deep pain or anger” (Cambridge Dictionaries Online).
So many people, start off in the scene experiencing such an incredible sense of relief because finally they feel accepted and a sense of belonging that they may never have experienced in the past. This is the case especially if they have been harassed or rejected because of their sexual orientation. After seemingly endless emotionally painful events, combined with her negative beliefs that are perpetuated in the scene about being gay, some people’s reactions can turn into bitterness. This can include a giving your heart to a number of people who had betrayed you, experiencing distressing family situations regarding your sexuality, and harassment from others about being LGBTIQ.
Being betrayed by someone you love not only damages trust in that relationship, but it can also have many other nasty defects. This can include reinforcing a deep sense of worthlessness, intense emotional pain at a deep level and anger that can leak out in damaging ways. Emotions were designed or to be felt, identified, and expressed. Unfortunately, our culture is quite damaging in the way it teaches us (particularly males) how to deal with the world in an emotionally healthy way. The expression “time it heals all” is sadly not appropriate. Strong and negative emotions tend to accumulate deep inside the self. After a series of painful relationships, if these emotions are pushed aside and not dealt with adequately this can often lead to a developing a highly cynical way of reacting to the world.
Emotions that are central to being bitter are anger, hurt, shame and sadness. If there is a store up of emotions such as pain and sadness, this can eventually leak out as anger. Anger can be expressed in the form of cynicism and bitterness. The things a person is angry and hurt about are usually able to be seen by the things they focus on: “Oh yes, another gay relationship, that’ll really last!” If this is said in a sarcastic tone of voice, it usually indicates that the person who said it has had many difficult emotional experiences with relationships.
Shame is an emotion often expressed by people who have become bitter. Some may pass judgement on others because of what they wear or how they act and be quite vocal about it. These people project their shame onto others to help prop up their own sense of self-worth.
One of the more negative aspects of people who have wearily trod the roads of bitterness over the years is that they end up having incredibly superficial relationships and feeling a deep sense of loneliness and isolation. This loneliness only reinforces their belief that being gay is really about a life of growing old in a lonely and depressed state. This is usually a belief that is first of all downloaded into our heads by a very ignorant straight culture and is then reinforced by a lot of the bitchiness and aggressiveness that can be part of the LGBTIQ scene.
If you find yourself increasingly becoming bitter, it may of value to think about what residual emotions you have stored up through being hurt in life. This may extend right the way back to school and family when growing up and reinforced by negative experiences after coming out. If this is the case, start writing down and even talking to someone about your experiences and allow yourself to feel the intensity of the emotions. If this causes anxiety just tell yourself “it is only an emotion, it won’t hurt me.” It is also quite useful to ask yourself where this bitter way of seeing things is getting you – what purpose does it have in your life? If you are around people who are bitter and cynical, and you are close to them with a level of trust, it may be important to gently question where this is coming from and possibly indicate what impact it has on you and others around you. Often people are unaware of how their bitterness affects others around them.
Whilst we don’t have a monopoly on bitterness, our community certainly has room to improve. We need to work on building a positive and stable community for new people to come out into and those already in it to enjoy. For more information on Sexuality and Gender Counselling, you can speak to one of our Brisbane psychologist