You wouldn’t say “that’s so jew” or “that’s so black” – that would be so racist. So, what is the obsession with the negative connotation regarding homosexuality? Gay slurs are hurled in all ages group and no bounds within racial or gender identities. If you are soft spoken or shy you’re labeled as being a “queer” or a “homo.” I have to admit that I myself find some gay slurs to be particularly funny. Well, at least the original ones. Booty bandit, cock smuggler, turd burglar, weenie roaster, cum dumpster, and Lindsey Graham to name a few. I guess my real point is that homophobia is so ingrained in our thought processes that we automatically associate something being bad as being gay.
From birth, we are subjected to gender stereotypes. Pink is for girls, blue is for boys. Ballet is for girls, football is for boys. Dolls are for girls, trucks are for boys. Boys, girls, men and women are expected to behave in certain ways and these expectations are placed upon us from a very early age. Society decides what acceptable behavior for men and women is. These gender role expressions therefore vary from society to society and from culture to culture.
As boys growing up, there is such a large emphasis on being what society considers a “man.” Be strong. Don’t cry. Don’t show weakness. We are taught gender norms that really don’t exist in reality. In my opinion, one of the keystones of homophobia is sexism. The association that, as a gay man, you’re lesser than a straight man. The ideal that being effeminate is a sign of weakness or that being attracted to men makes you a woman by proxy. I, as a feminist, obviously absolutely reject this notion. We should be so honored as to be considered female by proxy. I digress. Homophobia works effectively as a weapon of sexism because it is joined with a powerful arm, heterosexism. Heterosexism creates the climate for homophobia with its assumption that the world is and must be heterosexual and its display of power and privilege as the norm. Heterosexism is the systemic display of homophobia in the institutions of society. It is not by chance that when children approach puberty and increased sexual awareness they begin to taunt each other by calling these names: “queer,” “faggot,” “pervert.” It is at puberty that the full force of society’s pressure to conform to heterosexuality and prepare for marriage is brought to bear. Children know what we have taught them, and we have given dear messages that those who deviate from standard expectations are to be made to get back in line. The best controlling tactic at puberty is to be treated as an outsider, to be ostracized at a time when it feels most vital to be accepted. Those who are different must be made to suffer loss. It is also at puberty that misogyny begins to be more apparent, and girls are pressured to conform to societal norms that do not permit them to realize their full potential. It is at this time that their academic achievements begin to decrease as they are coerced into dependency upon a man for economic survival.
When people do not conform to traditional expressions of gender, they are presumed to be gay or lesbian. There is an assumption that “feminine” men are gay and “masculine” women are lesbians. This probably stems from the misconception that gay men are like women and lesbian women are like men. Society has decided what is masculine and what is feminine, so why should it be that when people do not conform to these roles, it means they are attracted to people of the same gender as them?
Stonewall’s research (The School Report 2007 and The Teachers’ Report 2009) shows that anybody can experience homophobic bullying, not just LGBT young people. Young people who do not conform to gender stereotypes are often subjected to homophobic bullying. The boy who is not good at football might be called gay. The girl who does like to play football might be presumed to be a lesbian and be called homophobic names.
In the documentary, Do I Sound Gay?, popular out celebrities discuss the cultural misconceived bias that LGBTQ individuals all act within the same stereotype. They discuss how often people will say, “You don’t even look or sound gay!” in response to learning their sexual orientation. Obviously, not all gay men are interior designers and not all lesbians work at home depot. Side note, lesbians really do move in after the second date though. That isn’t a stereotype, it’s a fact.
To be a lesbian is to be perceived as someone who has stepped out of line, who has moved out of sexual/economic dependence on a male, who is woman-identified. A lesbian is perceived as being outside the acceptable, routinized order of things. She is seen as someone who has no societal institutions to protect her and who is not privileged to the protection of individual males. Many heterosexual women see her as someone who stands in contradiction to the sacrifices they have made to conform to compulsory heterosexuality. A lesbian is perceived as a threat to the nuclear family, to male dominance and control, to the very heart of sexism.
Gay men are perceived also as a threat to male dominance and control, and the homophobia expressed against them has the same roots in sexism as does homophobia against lesbians. Visible gay men are the objects of extreme hatred and fear by heterosexual men because their breaking ranks with male heterosexual solidarity is seen as a damaging rent in the very fabric of sexism. They are seen as betrayers, as traitors who must be punished and eliminated. In the beating and killing of gay men we see clear evidence of this hatred. When we see the fierce homophobia expressed, toward gay men, we can begin to understand the ways sexism also affects males through imposing rigid, dehumanizing gender roles on them.
The two circumstances in which it is legitimate for men to be openly physically affectionate with one another are in competitive sports and in the crisis of war. For many men, these two experiences are the highlights of their lives, and they think of them again and again with nostalgia. War and sports offer a cover of all-male safety and dominance to keep away the notion of affectionate openness being identified with homosexuality. When gay men break ranks with male roles through bonding and affection outside the areas of war and sports, they are perceived as not being “real men,” that is, as being identified with women, the weaker sex that must be dominated and that over the centuries has been the object of male hatred and abuse. Misogyny gets transferred to gay men with a vengeance and is increased by the fear that their sexual identity and behavior will bring down the entire system of male dominance and compulsory heterosexuality.
Homosexuality is, by even the most conservative estimates, far more common than the number of open homosexuals would imply. And with the realization that bisexuality is actually fairly common, particularly among women, there is a genuine fear among the more conservative that they, themselves, may be homosexual, particularly if they have had a homosexual experience in their past which they actually enjoyed. And since surveys indicate that approximately 64 percent of adult males in the United States have, there are lots of candidates out there for that fear. Compounding this can be religion-based guilt, often promoted by televangelists who have made a career of promoting homophobia.
The fear leads to a subconscious reaction: hate and/or kill the queer and you’re not like him, because you’ve distanced yourself from him. Irrational, isn’t it? Yet that’s the subconscious logic involved.
One robin does not a summer make and one homosexual experience does not a queer make. It’s really that simple. For me, being gay means that I am not attracted to women sexually. That’s what qualifies me as being gay. So all you heterosexual men who’ve experimented at some time in your youth: relax. Just because you have, even if you enjoyed it, it doesn’t mean you’re gay. To those heterosexual men who are afraid of gay men hitting on them or fantasizing about them, if women aren’t interested in you then gay men surely are not either. The ideal that gay men are sexual predators waiting on the first sign of weakness is a myth. “I can’t hang around gay men or have them see me in the public bathroom or the shower!” Trust me, sweetheart, they’re already in there.
Even if you are sexually fluid, isn’t it important to know yourself? Why are people so afraid of accepting themselves as they really are? Doing so is the Buddhist path to nirvana; knowing and accepting yourself is one of the greatest achievements of life. Why fight it? Fear? If fear is the reason, what does this say about the person who’s allowing his life to be governed by it? Isn’t that the definition of ‘coward?’ Personally, I’d be much more concerned about being a coward than being gay.
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