I was thinking about this while reading http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?s=&threadid=222882 (and honestly not being able to read it all the way through just to the bile level rising in it), and I remember that, up until I was 18, I was strongly homophobic.
The change was a weird one. I had worked the summer up in Wisconsin, and made a lot of good friends. At the end of the summer, I was driving home with one of them, and something came up about homosexuals, and I admitted that I was a homophobe.
He looked at me oddly, “How can you hate them? Half the people you worked with this summer were homosexual.”
It hit me as odd, and it was an epiphany. These were people, just like anyone else. They hadn’t been threatening or rude or anything like that. They were just people. I wouldn’t have even known if my friend hadn’t said anything. Just people. Just like anyone else.
Now, granted, the next fall I met a guy who was gay who used that as an excuse for his assholishness (‘you just hate me because I’m gay!’ ‘no, I hate you cos you’re an asshole!’), but that’s a different story.
When I was a kid, homosexuality really grossed me out. Then, all of a sudden, it didn’t. I don’t know what happened. But it makes me doubt that homophobia has to be taught, because I wasn’t really exposed to any homophobic elements as a child. It just wasn’t really talked about. I have a theory on this. See, when we (straight people) first learn about straight sex and straight love, it’s a little disturbing. You know how little boys and little girls think mushy stuff is icky. But we get used to the idea, because it’s all over the place, and we eventually realize it’s something we want to do. Gay sex, on the other hand, is not all over the place, and it isn’t something we want to do. So we never really have to get used to it.
The theory is that it’s that gay sex is disturbing, it’s sexuality is disturbing by default. A person gets used to the kind of sexuality with which s/he identifies, and ends up liking it. But s/he may remain disturbed by other facets of sexuality if not compelled to become inured to their spooky aspects as well.
By the way, when I say “disturbing” I don’t mean that in a bad way. I love sex as much as anybody. It’s just a powerful thing and learning about it is necessarily a heavy experience. That’s part of what it means for something to be erotic. It transgresses boundaries. It shatters innocence. It subverts the status quo. People experience the stress of coming to terms with their own sexuality because they have to. Some don’t care enough to learn about alternative sexualities, and remain frightened of them. This is bad for sexual-orientation minorities, because members of the majority can make their sexuality against the law if they’re frightened enough of it.
OK, for a Brittish tail of Homophobia.
I was brought up with the very traditional Brittish view that weakness, cowardice, and any sort of feminine or camp behaviour was unsuitable for a male of the species. People who showed such weaknesses were labelled as poofs, softies, or nancy boys and were generally treated with contempt. Later as I got older, such behaviour was linked to homosexuality, and the belief that homosexuals were weak, cowardly, and effeminate was established. This was shown to be ‘true’ by such open effeminate homosexuals as were common in carry on films and the discription of homosexuals in Monty Python.
It took many slight changes in my views to convert me away from these ingraned feelings. I realised that if I were to have a sex change tommorrow so that my body was female though my mind remained male, then I would still find women attractive, that I would appear to the world as a woman did not necessarily mean I was not a man. I learnt that some of the bravest and most courageous of people were homosexuals. It took longer to believe that someone could be a homosexual man, and yet still want to have a mans body and be masculine, instead of wanting to be a woman. As I think is common I never found lesbien homosexuality so puzzeling, as I still find it difficult to imagine anyone male or female not finding a healthy female body attractive.
Luckily for me, I never considered the idea of homosexuality icky. Though I do find people who act outrageously camp to be annoying, but only in the way I find anyone who takes something to the extreme (like a trekkie in Star Fleet uniform) annoying.
I still don’t care for people (not just males anymore) who are weak or cowardly, I don’t know if this is a moral feeling but I have not known anyone incapable of bravery, only people who prefer not to be brave for their own purposes. Combined with learning that homosexuals are just regular people, I also learnt over a similarly long period that women aren’t the weaker sex, or the stronger sex, just the female sex.
No offence Bippy, but as a British person born and bred, I’d have to disagree with your stereotype there. I don’t think that’s a traditional British trait any more than it’s a traditional New World trait. Some people think that way, some don’t. It doesn’t have much to do with being British or American or Spanish or Mongolian.
Francesca I should point out that this was relevant to a Britain of the 1970’s and also the comics, books and TV directed towards boys in those years. Any sign of weakness or even sensitivity by a boy was considered a terrible thing and would make one an outcast. This was my perspective from the Thames valley, and I was lead to believe it was stronger in Northern parts of the country. I also don’t believe it is by any means a trait only of the British, merely that from my British perspective this is what I went through/overcame.
I agree, when you think about it, gay sex isn’y any more icky disgusting ew ew than straight sex, which is really pretty ew sick when you think about it. Consider that 1) penises are ugly, and 2) 'ginies are ugly, and 3) buttholes are ugly.
I don’t think they are ugly, but than can geta bit smelly if not well looked after. Am I strange in not finding any of them ugly (unless scarred or deformed). Certainly not as ugly as internal organs or huge folds of fat.
I grew up in a town and went to a high school where there were no openly gay students. Homophobic words and images were common currency. I suppose that I didn’t hate gay people, so much as I had no idea was homosexuality was, or what gay people were like.
When I went to college, I had a really tough time my first year. I was extremely depressed, and I was eventually assigned to a therapy group. There I met a guy named Ed. Ed and I seemed to have similar problems, and we were a lot alike–we even looked like each other. Even though we in the group weren’t supposed to talk to each other outside of the sessions (don’t know why really), Ed and I started meeting to talk about our problems. One day in the session, Ed didn’t say anything. Afterwards, Ed told me that he was bisexual, that I was the first person that he’d ever told, and that he’d wanted to say it in the meeting but didn’t feel comfortable enough there to do it. I think it was there that my first steps away from homophobia started, knowing how difficult it was for Ed to “come out.”
In the intervening years I have probably made friends with almost as many gay as straight people–certainly more gay men than straight men. Somehow I lost track of Ed. I hope that he is doing well–I owe him a lot.
I kind of have to shake my head that this thread, one in which ideas are being exchanged, things are being learned, and ignorance is being fought, only has a handful of replies, while anger-laced threads on the Pit garner hundreds of teeth-clenching posts. I suppose this is what the SDMB is coming to.
The thread about “What is gaybashing like” would have been incredibly important reading to myself many years ago when I was still homophobic. One of the problems with mild homophobia is that it is insiduous, and doesn’t seem to be the cause of any harm, being apparently only a source of mild mokkery. The knowledge of that thread’s content would have helped change things far more.
Is anyone aware of any children’s books that include an instance of ‘gay bashing’ without dwelling only on issues of homosexuality, but instead within the structure of a larger story? A book which could be given as a present to the children of non-liberal minded parents without upsetting the parents sensibilities?
I’ve never known how to deal with gay men. I don’t think I could ever be in a deep friendship with a gay man…I think its because I don’t know how to interact with them. I mean, here’s a guy who has absolutely no interest in me at all. I suppose all this says loads about how I view myself in relation to men in general.
I can imagine their are many gay and straight men with absolutely no sexual interest in you at all ouisey no one is universally attractive to their opposite sex. Would you react different to a straight person who doesn’t find you sexually attractive? Would your reaction change if you found out someone was gay from before you knew to after? Would it be different if you didn’t find the gay man at all sexually attractive?
Bippy, believe me I know that its a completely irrational feeling. Maybe I take it as a personal affront to womankind that gay men are out there. I don’t know. If anyone here knows what the hell I’m trying to describe, I’d appreciate some enlightenment, because its stupid to feel this way. And you know what’s freakin’ weird about this whole thing? I don’t have any similar feeling towards bi’s or lesbians.
I wish I could get to know some gay men on a more personal basis. I know quite a few lesbians, but for some reason, there’s not a lot of out of the closet guys running around KC.