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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Studying the roots of homophobia and its implications

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word homophobia? Hate? Prejudice? “Not me”? Why is it that some people do not accept the LGB community? Is it because it goes against social norms? Family values? Beliefs and religion? In other words, what are the stereotypical and personal reasons of why homophobia still exists in the good ol’ U.S.A.? Fears that the human race will become extinct? Or is it simply because homophobia is a global threat to social gender roles, which directly affect the gender/sex hierarchy and tradition of male dominance? Sexism? If we peel off all religious reasons off the surface of homophobia, are we just unveiling reasons why people should fight to protect gender norms in order to keep them intact? Is homophobia just another face of sexism?

Homophobia, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary, is the “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuals and homosexuality.” But since there are multiple definitions for the terms “homosexual and homosexuality,” I will be using and challenging Suzanne Pharr’s definition of homophobia, “the irrational fear and hatred of those who love and sexually desire the same sex [as well as, sexual acts between people of the same sex].”

As indicated by the suffix, this fear is a phobia, an “exaggerated illogical fear,” therefore looking for rational reasons why people are homophobic is a hard task. However, if we denounce homophobia as another form of sexism, then the reasons for homophobia become clearer.

One claim often cited for homophobia is that it is unnatural. What does that mean? There are more than 200 different mammals and more than 500 species that have been part of case studies that have resulted in demonstrated homosexual behavior. Perhaps what people find unnatural about a woman seeking another woman sexually is the feeling that men have everything a woman should want and need for emotional and sexual satisfaction. Why look any further?

If the problem with homosexuality is that men have everything a woman “wants and needs,” then why is there a problem with men worshiping other men’s bodies? Is it because gay males are seen as “allowing themselves to be treated as women” by playing a subordinate role? Ironically, I have heard heterosexual men ask lesbians, “Why are you attracted to women? What can a woman give you that a man cannot?” Maybe if they ask themselves the same questions they will find half of the answers, if not all.

Less than three weeks ago, my girlfriend received a hateful e-mail from one of her ex-boyfriends, but it wasn’t until today that she showed it to me. Two hours after reading it I went off to watch the film “The Bible Tells Me So” with my LGBTQ Studies class. I could not stop thinking about the cruel words he had written to her. The film only made me realize the gravity of what a letter, its language and the manner in which it is received in can do to someone. At the end of the letter he suggests, more like commands, her to “make the world a little better” by hanging herself. Towards the end of the film, a mother tells the story of how she had sent a hateful typed letter to her daughter after she had come out as gay. Nine months after the mother had sent her daughter a second hateful letter, her daughter had committed suicide by hanging herself by the closet’s pole.
Seeing the name of her daughter engraved in the gravestone in the film made me think of the words my girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend used to establish “manliness.” His fear that people would say that he turned her gay was evident as he dismissed the concept that she might possibly be attracted to women emotionally and physically, and not solely to be sexually active.

Some people might excuse his actions as being written in a rage or write him off as being immature, but reality is that he is not the first man to say those comments and he will not be the last. Therefore, if we want to get rid of the deadly weed of homophobia, then we need to understand its roots. Underneath his homophobia there was masculinity and machismo, which are both at the basis of sexism.

I am not trying to diminish LGB experiences of homophobia by explaining it as well-established discrimination like sexism, but instead I want to show how one -ism can work as the foundation and root of another –ism or social phobia. In fact, I am glad to have the word homophobia in the dictionary, for it serves as a pathway to break the silence and denounce the hatred towards the LGB community, as well as the fear of the unknown or the fear of “gay contamination.” Still, homophobia explains the actions and not the reasoning of why someone is homophobic. So I choose to denounce sexism, which is connected to genderism, as one of roots of hatred and fear of the LGB community. What are we really afraid of? The person? Their actions? Or are we afraid that by accepting a group of people we will compromise our privileges?

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