Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Homophobia As A Tool

This is a guest post from Sparky, of Spark in Darkness.  Many of you are  familiar with him from Livejournal, as well as from his insightful and often hilarious commentary here. Each Tuesday, Womanist Musings will be featuring a post from Sparky.   

There seems to be no end to the homophobic things homophobic folk do – not least of which, of course, is denying that they’re homophobic. It’s almost beyond believe what blatantly bigoted behaviours people try to excuse as not homophobic – one of the highest among them being using homophobia.

Yes, people using or exploiting homophobia to try and achieve a different goal entirely. For example, you’ve probably seen this around somewhere:

It’s not actually true. Oh the fashion may have begun in prisons – but due to prison clothes not fitting very well and, of course, no belts being provided. Not as any kind of signal of availability for sex, apart from anything else, that avoids just how many of these “prison relationships” are actually rapes and there’s no-one out there advertising their “availability” for rape.

But who cares about truth when you can use the dreaded spectre of the evil gay to scare people into compliance?

Or here’s another recent example –  when he caught 2 students fighting, homophobic principal, Tim Richard of Westwood Highschool, Mesa, Arizona made them hold hands in the courtyard during lunch break to publicly embarrass them and subject them to anti-gay bullying.

Yes, this principal decided to use anti-gay bullying as a form of discipline. And then we wonder why our kids are committing suicide?

In both these cases, there is an attempt to use homophobia to control straight people. Even though the target of these attacks are not, as far as we know, gay hatred of gay men is being used and invoked. It is expected that the people reading the picture and those students (and their fellow students) will have sufficient hatred and contempt of gay people to be repulsed at the idea of being thought of as gay. Both of these hope that everyone involved will hate gay people enough for the message to get across and both of them seek to use homophobic bullying and attacks to punish and shame their victims.

They rely on us having a homophobic society and on people being homophobes. They rely on it – and they encourage it.

If being seen as gay weren’t considered so terrible then it wouldn’t matter if having your trousers round your thighs made you “look gay” or not. If being seen as gay wasn’t considered so shameful, being forced to hold hands with another guy wouldn’t be considered so embarrassing and the students on that playground wouldn’t have pointed, laughed and made gay jokes (again, Tim Richard, you encouraged and promoted anti-gay bullying. You have blood on your hands and are a wretched excuse for a human being).

And this applies when straight people use anti-gay rhetoric to insult each other. We’ve seen the excuse time and again that their target isn’t even gay. So? You would not be using anti-gay language if you didn’t think or want to encourage the idea that being gay is wrong. F@ggot wouldn’t be used nearly 5 million times (and counting) on twitter since July if you did not consider being gay to be a bad thing. Otherwise using our identity of an insult would be ridiculous. You don’t use neutral or positive traits as insults – it’s ridiculous, there’s no bite to an insult unless it has bite. And you rely on homophobia to give it that bite. You encourage homophobia when you use it. Every time you say these words you are saying “being gay is wrong, it’s shameful and it’s a terrible thing to be.”

If you aren’t a homophobe, then being called gay or thought of as gay should not shame you. If you are not a homophobe, you wouldn’t use hatred of gay people as an acceptable tool, you wouldn’t consider it a useful part of society, you wouldn’t encourage it. You would decry it, not use it.