'How Do I Judge Thee An Abomination?' The (Only) Three Options for Homophobia

There may be more, but the visceral, political and theological explains most of it. These options are not mutually exclusive as it's possible that some people are quite happy to mash them together.
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New York State's recent decision to legalize same-sex marriage is the next step in the inevitable: its growing moral acceptance nationwide. Now the Rhode Island Senate just passed its own bill allowing same-sex couples to enter civil unions. There's still a majority of states to change legislation, but it'll happen.

If we reflect about the possible sources that stoke continued outrage over homosexuality, including the decision about same-sex marriage by New York State, I think there are only three options.

There may be more, but the visceral, political and theological explains most of it. These options are not mutually exclusive as it's possible that some people are quite happy to mash them together. But for our purposes, let's look at the reasons separately, one by one.

The Visceral: In the HBO series, Call Me Fitz, when a gay couple arrives to buy a car, the main character's father, the owner of a used car dealership, finds himself having a panic attack. Ordinarily bombastic, brash and outspoken, the boss can't bring himself to be near them. To get the sell, however, he sends out his secretary to seal the deal. As a comedic parody, it's a hilarious moment. But reality works out very differently when the visceral transforms into hatred, such as that vented recently by brutish thugs on a gay man.

On the visceral level, whether it's a panic attack, a sense of aversion or a full-on lashing out against homosexuality, aggressors don't ruminate why they feel this way. They just do. They might even otherwise be calm, agreeable, even pleasant. But with the mere mention of gay rights, you can see their internal carotid arteries inflate. Maybe it's a vestige of a tribalism rooted deeply in our reptilian brain, where, far back in our evolutionary history, any sense of difference with others would raise the sense of threat. The main feature of this reaction, however, is that it's unlikely that those who feel it can give reasons for the reaction. They just feel it. Justification hasn't yet seeped into their conscious awareness.

Tracy Morgan's recent outburst during one of his performances, where he muses how he'd react to his son being gay, is another good -- or rather -- terrible, example: "better talk to me like a man and not in a gay voice or I'll pull out a knife and stab that little n**ger to death." Whatever comedic talents Morgan may have, he should reflect on the difference between bronze-age verbal ejaculations and observations that are supposed to be funny.

The Political: While more research needs to be done on the psychology of homophobia, there is a curious correlation between some outspoken opponents of homosexuality -- politicians and pastors in particular -- and what turns out to be their own sexual predilections. There might be something to the simple Freudian adage that the thing we oppose most furiously is the thing that most fascinates and stimulates us.

With this in mind, it's no secret that controversial matters can become fodder for politicians wishing to score votes with their constituencies. While we might suspect that a particular politician has no visceral sentiment about homosexuality and no theological bone to pick, there can be a pragmatic element to him or her showing moral consternation to the public. It's all done with the fervor that one's political base can only appreciate -- at least until the very same politician turns up soliciting sex with men in a public washroom, whether in an airport, public park or otherwise.

I don't have anything against someone wanting to have sex with a consenting adult. Rather, it's the abject hypocrisy of railing publicly against a behavior, coupled to the refusal to pass legislation, and then privately (albeit, not always behind closed doors) titillating the same act.

The Theological: Nobody reading this article should be surprised to see this listed as a source for homophobia. Conservative Christians have been very successful letting us know that the Bible considers homosexuality an abomination. That they'd kill because of it, even taking the preaching of homophobia to the four corners of the earth.

So, shouldn't we now ask if there is a good basis for believing that the Bible condemns homosexuality?


This isn't the question to ask, because it doesn't really matter if it does. While I think there are problems with some of arguments made by the new atheists, their strongest collective point is that religion cannot be a source of morality. We are slowly realizing that there's little warrant to thinking that a text over two thousand years old should have any part in the moral guidance for contemporary legislation.

Indeed, over those centuries the Bible was used as the main source for deriving beliefs, moral and otherwise, that we've since discarded: That the earth is at the center of the solar system; slavery is right; that women are not equal to men; interracial marriage is immoral and, now, that homosexuality and same-sex marriage are an abomination.

So progress is possible, but only if we think about it. Himself an activist, Albert Einstein remarked, "The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking."

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