Homophobia Comes in Many Forms

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 29:  A reveler holds a ga...

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Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, an annual day sponsored by Fondation ?mergence to raise awareness of and combat the ugly phenomenon known as homophobia.  This is an important thing, as homophobia is something that adversely affects millions of LGBT people, not to mention those who choose to embrace homophobia.  (I hope to talk about that last bit in a later post.)

This is also an important issue because while some manifestations of homophobia are easy to spot, some are far more subtle, easily rationalized, and therefore more insidious in some ways.  It’s easy to spot and speak out against thugs who go around beating up gay people.  It’s pretty easy to spot and stop the school bully who calls smaller boys “queer” and otherwises taunts them.  It’s much harder to spot and address the more decent, mild mannered person who still manages to be homophobic in subtler ways, the person who might not even be aware that what they’re doing is homophobic.

Some will complain — and quite loudly — that believing that same sex sexual relationships are wrong or immoral is not homophobic.  Most days, I’m inclined to agree with them.  I think that such a belief is wrong and wrong-headed.  But I don’t think taht such a belief in itself homophobic.

However, beliefs don’t exist in a vacuum, and one of the biggest problems with such a belief is that it usually leads to actions that are homophobic.  So while keeping in mind that believing that same-sex sexual relationships are wrong is not homophobic, I’d like to point out some of the subsequent homophobic pitfalls that someone who holds such beliefs might fall into.

Refusing to befriend, get to know, and actually listen to gay people simply because they are gay is homophobic.  If concern for maintaining the purity of your beliefs gets in the way of being a friendly and personable individual, that’s something you will need to address.

Having “gay friends,” but quickly changing the subject whenever they start discussing their love life or romantic interests is homophobic.  Real friends don’t get to pick and choose what aspects of their friends lives they’re open to.  They don’t even ask for such a privilege.

Making assumptions about what gay people are like, what they value in their relationships, and what their sex lives are like (and if you’re spending that much time thinking about that last one, ew!) is homophobic.  Gay people are people too, and we can be very diverse.  Making assumptions based solely on who we are attracted too is wrong on a number of levels, including the homophobic level.

There are many other such examples.  In short, any way in which someone treats or thinks of an LGBT person differently from other people — often in ways that are dehumanizing — is homophobic.

The good news is that people can do something about homophobia.  We just need to work on making people aware of its existence and the need to change the way things are.

10 thoughts on “Homophobia Comes in Many Forms”

  1. Thanks, Yewtree. I think a lot of people view that the same way you do. I guess I’m just willing to cut them that tiny bit of slack. It’s a personal thing.

  2. I cannot say that I have ever experienced the full brunt on force of discrimination of being completely homosexual, as I am Bisexual. (I don’t discriminate either way..lol.. and trust me the hubby don’t mind) I think for some strange reason most of society, that I have encountered, accept bi sexuality a lot more then homosexuality. Then again I think this is because as long as you go home and sleep with the opposite sex, AND that is how you are partnered BECAUSE that is what you prefer, then its okay. Although I have encountered a few people who chose not to speak to me because of it. In my opinion it is their loss because I am an awesome individual to get to know.

  3. Thanks for the reply, Arianne. I’ve run into some rather strong anti-bisexual sentiments in the gay (male) community, to be honest. Personally, I think you guys tend to get blasted from both sides, and don’t envy you that.

  4. Jarred, I appreciate your even handedness with us Christians here. Mutual understanding requires active listening on both sides, and for us its important that disagreement and fear are differentiated, not conflated, at least not automatically. Labelling restraint makes it much easier for us to support the homosexual community when the genuine homophobes rear their heads. I may not agree with all aspects of your lifestyle but as a friend I’ll defend your right to choose your lifestyle for yourself. As you may appreciate we justice minded Christians can cop it from both sides sometimes but I think the anti-homophobia cause is stronger when we can work together against the hate mongers of this world and not succumb to their wedge tactics. So on this day I say, shalom, peace be with you.

  5. Thanks, Matt. I’ve been very blessed to engage in dialogue with many people on this subject, including people who (like yourself) hold different views on the subject than my own. I have found that such conversations can be fruitful and yield many great results.

    One of my greatest joys is that when I go to visit a friend in South Carolina this July, at least one of the elders of her church will be meeting with me, and is very excited about the prospect. (So am I.) My friend has been urging her church leadership for years that they need to address the way LGBT people have been treated in the past, and she’s finally starting to see some willingness in that same leadership to do exactly that.

    Also, bright blessings to you as well.

  6. I have known unkind gay people. LGBT people are just like everyone else, we come in all shapes and sizes and personalities.

    I am bisexual and I have got flack from both sides.

    I take Matt’s point about there being a difference between phobia and disagreement. However, being LGBT is not a lifestyle choice. How you express your sexuality (i.e. committed relationships or not) is a lifestyle choice. Anyway: disagreement is something that can be discussed; phobia is harder to work on. But whatever you call it, it’s hurting people.

  7. I’d just like to point out that not all Christians think that homosexuality is wrong at some level. There are plenty of Christians who see nothing wrong with it at all, and indeed plenty (including a lot of Anglican priests, especially, for some reason, in the Diocese of Westminster) who lead what we might call entirely active homosexual lifestyles without regarding this as conflicting with their faith. Just look at the great divisions within the Anglican communion right now over homosexuality: on one side you have dreadful bigots, but on the other you have those who see homosexuality as perfectly all right. (And in the middle you have probably the majority, at least within Anglicanism.) So please don’t assume that just because someone is a Christian that means that they have a certain attitude to homosexuality.

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