Getting Beyond HomophobiaHe is entitled to his opinion that GLB folks are entitled to guarantees of employment, and to his hatred of conservative politicians who promote family values. But I really have trouble understanding how he can complain about gays being able to visit each other in the hospital, and then be in the business of writing court orders that prevent normal and fit parents from seeing their own kids.
In Greek mythology, Hercules slew Hydra, the many headed serpent. Unfortunately, you have your own modem day Hydra. As the hero of your journey, you will face the multifarious evil of homophobia many times before it's conquered. You've already read about internalized homophobia in chapter 7. You studied ways of managing internal fears about your sexual orientation. When you can win your internal battles, you'll be in a good position to deal objectively and authoritatively with the external battles.
Consider the following quote - an unfortunate but classic example of homophobia: "The poor homosexuals - they have declared war upon nature, and now nature is exacting an awful retribution." This statement was uttered by Patrick Buchanan, American conservative and 1996 presidential candidate.
How do you feel when you read what Buchanan said? What do you think about such attitudes?
Do you have trouble believing that these attitudes (or people) exist? If so, that probably means you're one of the lucky GBQ men whose exposure to intolerance and prejudice has been minimal, or at least manageable. But believe it: These people long on judgment and short on truth are out there. As long as there are oppressive religions and cultures; as long as there are unenlightened teachers and preachers command that homosexuality is wrong; as long as there are racists and bigots, fear and ignorance, jealousy and hate, and insecurity, there be homophobia.
Homophobia is something you'll need to face, I urge you to gather your supports around you; try to find constructive ways to educate those who are misinformed and challenge those who aim to hurt or punish. Of course if you're constantly worrying about all the differences of opinion and meanness in the world, you'll never get your work done, animals won't get fed, your fun time will be spoiled, and your laundry and dishes will pile up into a big, moldy mess. But because homophobia exists and must be acknowledged, your goal will be to get beyond it and not let it have power in your life.
Sometimes getting beyond homophobia means you have to write a few people off. Sometimes you must take a stand to let them know they’re misinformed. Sometimes you'll be able to muster up the love and passion to take time to educate them, but there will likely be few whom you care enough to do that. Sometimes getting beyond homophobia means taking on more responsibility to fight it, perhaps by being more active in community or political gay and bisexual issues.
A Personal Story
After years of living as an out gay man, I am still amazed and troubled when homophobia rears its ugly head from unlikely places and in unlikely forms. I am lucky to live in California, in a relatively open-minded (if not necessarily politically liberal) community that is accepting of diversity. Even here, however, reality sometimes brings me roughly back to earth. Not too long ago, at a board of supervisors meeting in Santa Clara County, the issue of domestic partner registration was under consideration. I was astonished to encounter an elementary school age child in the crowd of antireferendum protesters carrying a sign that read, "Please don't molest me." I cannot help but marvel at the things people choose to teach their children.
How to Respond to Homophobia
Go back now and reread what you wrote about your feelings and attitudes toward Buchanan's statement and what it represents. These feelings and thoughts are your clues to understanding your role in dealing with homophobia. Your internal reactions and logic can guide you to understand what (and whom) you are meeting when homophobia shows up at your front door or knocks you down in the street when you're walking along minding your own business.
Did you write about feeling angry at Buchanan's words? That's healthy. Are you frightened by this attitude? That's normal, as well. In fact, all your feelings are valid here; you just get to make some choices about what to do with them. ... [p.210-211]
Discrimination and Prejudice: The Real Shame
We believe that the rights of all people must be protected and guaranteed. We believe that the gay and lesbian community must be supported in their civil rights as well as their right for their sexual preference. --Coretta Scott King, The Gay Almanac
Discrimination against people because of their sexuality occurs every day Fundamental human rights taken for granted by most people in the United States are often denied to openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Fortunately, groups such as the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Human Rights Campaign, and the Lambda Legal Defense Fund in the United States are laboring to change the legal and political playing field by actively lobbying against discriminatory legislative measures. These groups and others are working to introduce bills and constitutional amendments that will guarantee freedom from discrimination based on sexuality.
For the present, however, gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals in the United States have no such guarantee of employment, domestic partner insurance benefits, medical visitation rights, or housing rights. We do not have the right to visit as a "family member" a partner who is in the hospital. We cannot serve in the military unless we keep our sexual orientation a secret. We cannot get married, adopt a child without suffering major legal encumbrances and social disapproval, or have legal (in some states) oral or anal sex (which is illegal for some heterosexuals, too). All of the latter rights, however, are in the process of being challenged to one degree or another by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights Campaign (amongst others).
An additional disadvantage suffered by GBQ people is the misinformation and scare tactics perpetuated by groups such as the Moral Majority and Coalition for Family Values. These organizations, along with conservative religious and political groups led by people such as Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, Lou Sheldon, and Senator Jesse Helms, work to create a climate of fear among the unenlightened public. By targeting and misinforming church members, conservative families, and naive individuals, they are able to propagate false and biased information that gays, lesbians, and bisexuals want special rights and threaten "family values." There have been several recent attempts to pass anti gay initiatives in various states - for example, Colorado's approved 1992 Amendment 2, later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. [p.215-216]
He says, "These people long on judgment and short on truth are out there." That is just how I would describe his court reports. He makes no attempt to ascertain any facts, and he is much more judgmental than Pat Buchanan or that schoolchild opposing a domestic partner program.
In my case, he collected a few gripes about vegetables and hair brushing, and he wrote a court order for me to attend counseling for at least 6 months or "until released", whatever that means. He had no facts, law, or psychology to substantiate what he did. He never even asked me about the gripes, and when I offered to address them, he refused to hear it. He obviously would not like it if gays were ordered to attend counseling until released.
It seems to be that this guy is ideologically opposed to normal family relationships. He abuses his power to destroy those relationships whenever he can. He is the bigot, not me. I am not opposed to him being an out gay man. I do object to him imposing his twisted values on others.