Monday, October 18, 2010

Homophobia today, homophobia tomorrow, homophobia forever!

"Heresy is just another word for freedom of thought." -Graham Greene

For a long time, I used to be fairly tolerant of people who were 'uncomfortable' with homosexuality or gay rights, so long as they weren't overtly hateful or malicious. I'm finding I'm less and less tolerant of that.

I had a 'Eureka' moment in that regard thanks to a family friend.

Recently, there have been a spate of highly publicized suicides by gay teens who were mercilessly bullied. There were other incidents such as repeated anti-gay comments by New York's GOP gubenatorial candidate as well as a savage hate crime in New York City against two people suspected of being gay.

Someone posted a column on Facebook in which a reader wrote to Dan Savage, politely explaining that he didn't hate gays, he just felt that gays shouldn't have the same rights as straights. Savage gave him an appropriately angry and dismissive response.

I reposted it on my Facebook saying something like, "Bigotry, politely expressed, is still bigotry."

A family friend wrote back claiming that it wasn't bigotry and then went to explain that the guy's objections probably had something to do with his religious beliefs. And that's it. Nothing else.

And that was my "Eureka" moment. There really is no 'reason' for homophobia, except 'religious beliefs.' In other words, there is no rational reason.

It wasn't new observation but I guess it just hit me in a different way.

At its best, religion is a guide for how to treat one another. Much good has been done in the world due to the impetus of religious people. The black civil rights' movement in the US, being one of many examples.

But at its worst, religion is an excuse to forfeit independent thought. There are countless examples, both historical and contemporary, of this as well.

People who oppose homosexuality or gay rights do not have a rational, thoughtful reason for doing so. At least, I've never heard one. They simply hide behind the 'religious beliefs' argument as though it's a protective cloak that exempts them from having to come up with a real argument and exempts them from criticism. Being gay is not a choice. Being a bigot is.

Some people are under the mistaken impression that you are not a bigot if you aren't hateful or malicious or wish death up them. Some think that as long as you don't take the route of Fred Phelps or Bull Conner or the people who assassinated Matthew Shephard.

This is simply wrong.

In the old south, some lynched black people and launched hateful invective at them. Other people supported segregation but tried to be nice (within the context of society) toward blacks.

Yes, the latter group were a bit less violent and nasty about it, but they were still bigots because they supported a bigoted system and held bigoted beliefs. In fact, these 'nice' bigots were instrumental in upholding Jim Crow. They were the 'respectable' face of segregation. They weren't keen on violence, so long as blacks kept 'their place.'

Both of these groups of people were racists and bigots for one simple fundamental belief: that being black was inferior to being white and that the law should reflect that.

Similarly, even people who express their anti-gay or anti-gay rights position in a 'polite' way are still homophobes and bigots. Many of these people can tolerate the existence of gay people so long as they aren't gay in public, so long as they keep 'their place.' They think this is being generous. But no matter how they rationalize it, they fundamentally believe that being gay is inferior to being straight and that the secular law should reflect this.

In the civil rights struggle, Alabama governor George Wallace became a star of bigots by declaring, "Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!" Later in life, Wallace recanted his racist views. We can only hope that, 25 years from now, large numbers of people will similarly recant their homophobia.

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