Homophobia?

The idea of “homophobia” always sat badly with me. It simply didn’t ring completely true. When an arachnophobe sees a spider, the last thing he wants to do is beat up on it. “Homophobia” seemed a poor term for what I’ve seen as hate and ignorance. It further provided an escape: “I’m not a bad guy/gal really, I’m just afflicted with homophobia.” (I’ve heard people say this as a mark of pride.) Nonetheless, from purely personal experience, there may be something to this.

I think it’s important to understand the roots of such a feeling. In many ways, I prefer the company of gay men — I mean here in a non-sexual way. Not to paint everyone with the same brush, but many of those who have come out have undergone an ordeal that has made them more interesting people, and so I gravitate to them in the same way as I feel an affinity for those who have experienced living abroad, who have had avoided sheltered childhoods, or who have otherwise experienced life more acutely.

I think of myself as enlightened. Two men or women kissing affects me in the same way a man and woman does (good for them!). But, I recognize a vestigial uneasiness under certain circumstances. In my own case, I think I know why. As a young man, I was — modesty aside — exceedingly hot. I was also pretty shy. For whatever reason, I got hit on a lot by both women and men. Initially, I was a bit creeped out by both.

I can remember when I got over the ickiness feeling with regard to women — in fact, I can mark this at a particular auto-historical point. Without going into detail (none of your business ;) ), I found that the uncomfortableness of meeting women was a little like peas — getting through it meant there was often a tasty dessert on the way. Even when dessert wasn’t on the way, I grew more comfortable with the process of interacting with women. But flirty men still gave me the willies for some time. (And, just to clarify, this entire post is a double-entendre-free zone.)

I very rarely get hit on by anyone anymore (more’s the pity), but I think over time, the whole thing became pretty much no big deal. I suspect that many men who dislike or are made uncomfortable by gay men are in a similar position. They are worried that they are going to be subject to the “male gaze” and will lose control over ownership of their sexuality. In almost every case, this worry is unwarranted, and simply a lack of experience. And if you look at the polls, people who actually have gay friends are (perhaps obviously) likely to support allowing marriage for everybody.

This isn’t the sort of topic I usually write about in this blog, but I think it is really, really important right now. I had thought we had witnessed a kind of velvet revolution over the last decade, with a wide recognition that homosexuals should enjoy the same rights as heterosexuals. Certainly, among the undergraduates here at UB, despite a fairly conservative slant on many issues, when we discussed _Lawrence v. Texas_ there was broad agreement that it was none of the government’s business. That negative right, however, doesn’t seem to be extending to a positive right.

How do we arrive at a point where there is serious discussion about amending our constitution, a document about self-government and freedom, with a statement that explicitly discriminates against a minority group? How can it be that Americans are not outraged at this? These are not rhetorical questions. Unless the opinions of a large number of Americans can be changed, we are going to once again place a black mark on the promise of what America is.

Yes, blogs in electoral politics are interesting, and I don’t want to discount their impact and their potential. And I can understand why this issue isn’t front and center, during a period when our sensibilities and rights are being carpet bombed. Yet, if we want to talk about real political change, we need to find out why the idea of two married men is so objectionable to so many people, and in understanding that, find some way to enlighten them.

(Via Osinga.)

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One Comment

  1. Posted 2/11/2004 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    I have often wondered what it will take to get people to care, to see the light of day. Just a few days ago I pondered this question in a conversation with a fellow politically minded intellectual and neither of us even came close to an answer.

    I’m quick to blame the mainstream media. Even when they pretend to be critical like with this week’s issue of Time, they always make sure to include a good dosage of GOP propaganda. It’s always “what a shame he lied, but look at how he’s fixing it, isn’t GWB a nice guy!”.

    This seems to be one of the largest paradoxes… So much of the values that represent what America stands for are being torn down yet no-one seems to care. I sometimes think that many people would be more than happy to live imprisoned at Guantanamo bay as long as they had cable, food and some illusory reality.

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