Friday, September 20, 2013

Subtle forms of homophobia

If you run in certain progressive circles in Western countries, it's increasingly unacceptable to hold an outrightly homophobic opinion. Unfortunately that doesn't mean that homophobia has been eradicated; it's simply taking on more sophisticated forms which, if left unchecked, can become insidious.

Growing up, I was exposed to predominantly heterosexual narratives. Anyone who has developed a love affair with books from previous centuries would know that homosexual narratives are uncommon to the point of invisible. And even though I have a very contemporary reading agenda for the most part, I am constantly surrounded by people who prioritise those heteronormative narratives, and are constantly deprioritising the lack of stigmatisation towards homosexuality.

People get inordantly excited about sexuality of a hetero bent, insisting subconsciously that there's something ultra-lucrative about a practice which often depends on male dominance and female submission (just take a look at how frequently women erase their family histories by changing their last name to that of their husband's, for example). They aren't even aware they are doing it, but it's similar to the way a racist reserves their highest attention and respect for humans who they identify as having shared characteristics. It's everywhere.

Heterosexuality can make you popular in a way that homosexuality can't. I speak from personal experience: people suddenly became more interested in sharing their time with me in high school upon the discovery that I was interested in men as well as women. It was like this whole new social circle opened up for me - and of course I wanted nothing to do with the bigots. It was a depressing wake-up call to the level of acceptance that I had previously been excluded from.

This is 2013, they say. Yes, it's 2013, and it's a homophobic year. Even though some countries have legalised same sex marriage, discrimination remains responsible for disproportionately high rates of depression and other forms of mental illness in the GLBT community.

Richard Florida, a leading academic (he self-styles himself as an Urbanist), has identified economic innovation as being led by three social groups, of which "gays and lesbians" are one. (The other groups are immigrants and bohemians.) This doesn't surprise me, because people who choose to have same-sex relationships dare to defy both the written and unwritten social codes. They have decided that they are secure enough within themselves not to cling to heterosexuality, but to pursue their own romantic (and/or sexual) interests, and that makes them more open-minded than the heteronormative status quo. (NB: I'm not saying that homosexuality is better than heterosexuality - love is love.)

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