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

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

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

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.

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