Friday, 28 July 2006

Homophobia is a much-abused word

Homophobia is a word that gets thrown around much, much too often. That's quite a distinction for a five-syllable word; most overused words are, like, totally, well - short.

Its various synonyms are equally overworked: gay-hating, gay-bashing and probably a few others that won't come to me now. I don't deny that homophobia exists - it does. And like any hatred of any class of people, it is repugnant to me. Where I start objecting is when the term "homophobia" enters the conversation as soon as you express any moral objections or concern about homosexuality.

This is unjust. I have real concerns about SUV's, but I don't hate the people who drive them. I'm truly not suvophobic. Hmm, maybe I am. OK, I'm not SUVodriverphobic... Neologisms are obviously not my forte.

My doctor has expressed concern about my weight - she really doesn't think it's good for me. Somehow, I've managed to accept that this is not an indication of deep, fanatical hatred on her part towards overweight people.

But far too often in discussions about homosexuality, any expression at all of the idea that it might not be normal or desirable, brands you immediately as homophobic, and you are promptly labelled, boxed, and dismissed. The person you're talking to has concluded that because he knows "A" about you, he automatically knows "B, C, D" and all the way to "Z." And what he knows about you is that you are a hate-filled, intolerant, sign-waving, unthinking fanatic.

Stop and think about it a moment. Doesn't this have all the earmarks of bigotry and prejudice? "Prejudice" means to pre-judge someone. On the basis of a shred of "evidence", the entire case is wrapped up, judged and sentence is served.

Don't try to protest. It won't work. If you try to tell people that you have homosexual acquaintances, colleagues, relatives; that you live and work with them with perfectly amiable relations; that your skin does not crawl when you see them; that you genuinely care for them but are concerned about their lifestyle - well, save your breath. You are too obviously obsessed with hatred to have the right to speak.

You are a victim of bigotry, but there is no tribunal that will accept to hear your case.

Technorati tags: , ,


valiantmauz said...

Homophobe is a much abused word. As is: racist, sexist, anti-semite, hate-speech etc.

As a gay person, I am of course particulary sensitive to comments about "sexuality of the non-heterosexual persuasion", but even I get frustrated by the brick wall of the homophobia charge.

The minute one throws that word down, the dialogue dissolves, and not only that, the word gives cover for the true homophobes. There is no excuse for conflating the Phelpses and Sommervilles of the world. The first should be labelled for what they are: bigots, homophobes, racists and lunatics. The second - and how I wish my gay compadres would have engaged her on these grounds! - should have been debated on what she actually said: that in her opinion, children have a right to know their genetic heritage, and that same-sex marriage undermines that right by ensuring that at least one genetic parent is not present in the child's life.

That point is the cornerstone of Margaret Sommerville's opposition to same-sex marriage, and every argument she has against gay marriage flows from that single spring. Not the "gay lifestyle", not "morality", not "religion".

And the sad thing is, my gay compadres took the opportunity of her honourary degree to dismiss her personally as a bigot and a homophobe, instead of more productively demolishing her argument, to wit: in a world where straight couples have legal access to IVF and artificial insemination, there is no legal reason to deny same-sex couples marriage based on a child's right to know it's twin genetic inheritance.

To give Margaret Sommerville credit, she opposes IVF and artifical insemination, as well as gay marriage. So internally, at least, her arguments hang together.

Realistically, her arguments fail. But NONE of that came out in the furor, did it?

Please don't take this as an apologia for the haters, though. Your point about normality and desirability of homosexuality makes me cringe. Have we not got to the point where the difference between abnormality and minority is clear? A small minority of human beings have a homosexual orientation, an orientation that has been conclusively demonstrated to exist in other species, and conclusively shown to exist in ALL human populations across known history.

How then, is "normality" even at issue in this debate? From my perspective, homosexuality is as "normal" as green eyes or red hair. Unusual perhaps, but hardly abnormal.

Janet said...

Valiant, I took the time to pop over to your blog and read your very thoughtful post. I was impressed. I am convinced that I would like you very much if we were to meet in person. When I've had enough time to read it again and think it through carefully, I will try to give it the answer it deserves.

The whole idea of "normality" is a complex one, even from a purely scientific viewpoint. Nature, nurture and free will are all involved and the issue becomes much broader than homosexuality. Many human behaviours that are assigned moral values have a genetic component and the discussion about how this affects issues of personal responsibility get rather fascinating. I do intend to tackle this in its broader lines in the near future, but it's not the kind of thing I can write quickly off the top of my head. I beg your indulgence while I ponder the question at greater length.

In the meanwhile, if your comment is an example of the calibre of the dialogue that this blog will attract, I am greatly encouraged.

valiantmauz said...

Thank you :) I have bookmarked your blog, and will add it to my reading list.


blogger templates | Make Money Online