Casual Homophobia

Try it. Go on, I dare you. Express your determination to achieve equal rights for the LGBT community. In a group. In a social setting or otherwise. A group of different kinds of people. Different backgrounds, genders and opinions. Try doing this in the Republic of Ireland. Speak about the topic of gay rights. Go on, do it. Bring it up in conversation.

As an opinionated person, I’ve done this many times. And after expressing my views, I have instantly wished I hadn’t straight afterwards. Because the reception I have been greeted with has been so harmful, dismissive and close-minded that I instantly saw the people around me differently.

It’s a sad day when you see kind, nice, normal people of all ages and backgrounds, reacting so dismissively and carelessly to an issue as vital as LGBT rights.

These same people make big claims like I’m not homophobic, but… *insert homophobic comment here*

In my time, I have genuinely felt a stab to the heart at some of the reactions to LGBT-fuelled conversations. The height of ignorance has truly both shocked and greatly upset me.

Here are just a few phrases I have heard…

1. I don’t have a problem with people being gay, but why do they have to talk about it all the time? I don’t talk about being straight all the time…

Facepalm. Straight people don’t need to talk about “being straight”. The world is already geared towards straight people. It is already the automatic assumption in society that people are straight. You don’t have to “come out” as straight. As a man, you don’t have to worry about your parents or friends rejecting or ridiculing you for simply having a female partner, and vice versa. Being straight is a breeze. Straight people aren’t oppressed, stereotyped, ridiculed, abused or disowned for simply being attracted to the opposite sex.

Therefore, if a straight person began protesting for heterosexual rights, everyone would roll their eyes or laugh (and rightly so!) Straight people are not deprived of rights or opportunities. Straight people do not have to deal with work discrimination based on their sexual orientation. Straight people don’t have to deal with social stereotyping, potential social exclusion etc as a result of being straight.

I really do find this comment to be extremely dismissive. Maybe the reason the LGBT community and straight LGBT allies speak about gay rights and equality is to spread awareness.

In case you haven’t noticed, gay people still do get discriminated against daily. In the Republic of Ireland, they still can’t get married. This is perhaps why the LGBT community speak about “being gay” more than you speak about “being straight”. Because there is absolutely no reason to speak about “being straight” to raise awareness and acceptance, whereas there is huge reason and validity in speaking about “being gay” to raise awareness and acceptance.

I find that straight people can often be very oblivious to the oppression of the LGBT community. Like when you’re in any position of privilege, you often fail to understand the position of the oppressed. Of course, straight people can be oppressed in numerous different ways (by being in a minority race, by being in a minority class, etc) but that’s a topic for another blog.

I find that in addition to the social and legal oppression faced by the LGBT community, there is also the added oppression of the Catholic Church in the Republic of Ireland. The Church tells us that being gay is “unnatural” and “a sin”, and for a gay child to grow up in a school system dictated by the Catholic Church, as well as a traditional Irish culture further dictated by the Church, can be hugely problematic. The child is both directly and indirectly taught that there’s something “wrong with them” for being gay.

When have you, as a straight person, felt guilty for being attracted to someone of the opposite sex?

You most likely haven’t!

2. I don’t have a problem with people being gay, but marriage is for a man and a woman to have children… Why aren’t gay people happy with civil partnerships?

Sigh… Gay people “aren’t happy” with civil partnerships because of many reasons, the main ones being…

* Civil partnerships don’t always protect guardianship rights for both parents if the couple have children.
* If a member of a civil partnership couple is on their deathbed, some hospitals don’t recognize the civil partnership as a valid partnership and can deny or limit visitor access on the basis that “only family members” are allowed in.

Ultimately…

* Gay people want the celebration of their love to be referred to as the same act. And treated as the same thing both legally and socially. Why should they “have to be” in a civil partnership instead of a marriage?

3. Why do gay guys have to be so in your face about it? Can they not just act normal instead of turning into girls?

Probably the most offensive statement of all. It ties in with the whole notion of the gaydar. I’m not really a fan of people saying they have “a gaydar”… Because it plays into the notion that all gay men and all gay women look and behave a certain way.

Like with any stereotypes, there are only that… stereotypes. There’s also a stereotype that Irish people are drunk all the time, but we don’t constantly have a can of beer in our hands, yet this is one of the international perceptions of us.

Some gay men have flamboyant personalities. Some are camp, some aren’t. To make the claim they “all” possess these qualities is downright ignorance and close-mindedness.

And what, exactly, does it mean to say they are “in your face”? Is a flamboyant or camp personality something that bothers you? Would you rather anyone loud simply keep quiet and remain understated in social situations to avoid making you uncomfortable?

I think it goes back to the pressure we put on boys and men to behave manly… (whatever that means) Man up, boys don’t cry, be strong… When any man challenges these gender norms, regardless of whether he is straight, gay or bisexual, he is immediately prone to ridicule… Words like faggot, pussy, bitchIt is an outright disservice to our men that we still have such narrow expectations placed on them.

The same gender expectations exist for women. Women are expected to be behave feminine… (whatever that means) Girls don’t swear, don’t be bossy, act more ladylike… Equally, when women challenge these norms, they too are open to ridicule for behaving “masculine”… dyke, manly, butch…

These labels are downright offensive and the height of homophobia. But what I have found is that prejudice and/or intolerance towards a particular group often comes from a person or people who are completely in denial about their prejudice.

Have you ever heard of phrases like this?

I’m not homophobic but… why is everything so “gay” nowadays?

I’m not sexist but… women are too emotional to deal with political issues.

I’m not racist but… why are black people so rude and ignorant?

COMPLETE AND UTTER DENIAL ABOUT YOUR PREJUDICE!

I actually think it would be better if we as a human race could openly admit to our prejudices. I would respect someone an awful lot more for saying to me “Well, to be honest, I don’t understand gay people. But I’d be willing to learn more about them”.

If you live your life in denial about being prejudiced, how do you ever expect our civilization to move forward and progress?

Aisling Kelleher

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