Behind Homosexual Biases
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 12/21/02
Let me state
1st off that I'm
100% for gay rights- adoption, marriage, military, housing, & think AIDS
could've been nipped early on. But, it seems to me that neither gay
nor straight people are willing to talk ‘straight’ about the real reasons so
many folk- gay & straight- have misconceptions &/or misperceptions about
various aspects of homosexuality. & I’m not gonna focus here on the
origins of same sex lust & love. I’ve stated before that I do not buy
either extreme position on that matter because both ultimately reduce the person
in question to a lab rat status, & even the dumbest human is far more
complex than the smartest rat. Simply stated, I think the reactionary takes on
homosexuality do not wash because there are simply too many obviously
‘faggy’ males & ‘butch’ women to support the idea that it’s ALL
about conditioning or the failures of parents in poorly raising their kids, or
abandonment issues, etc. Similarly, I have seen far too many kids who get no
positive reinforcement in life- & not just runaways but those seemingly
ensconsed in great families- who get their 1st touch of such from
someone who happens to be gay, & the person reciprocates. As humans we are
far more adaptable to things which may not appeal on 1st blush than
we think. The objections gays raise is that no one would choose to be part of a
scorned minority. Well, how many white suburban kids of recent years have
become, save for hue, de facto black kids? & who would logically choose to
be in a gang, if not for some positives, because gang life has even grimmer
prospects than the worst of gay life? The fact is that even blacks, or others of
a different racial group, experience bigotry in their lives in perhaps only 1-2%
of their existence. Most of life moves on too quickly & really doesn’t
give a rat’s ass about others- black, Jew, queer, Moslem, etc. So why
wouldn’t a kid who gets his/her ONLY positive reinforcement from a group NOT
decide that their loyalty from that group, a near constant, far outweigh the
miniscule encounters with bigotry that occasionally crop up? Of course they
would. Dan, are you suggesting that there are closeted ‘straights’ in the
gay community? DUH!
Another problem with alot of political claims made by gay rights activists is the general tenor of how they conduct their protests- the biggest & most hurtful is ‘outing’- especially of the dead. This is a despicable practice that Elie Wiesel, the Nazi Hunter, has used to defame & destroy 100s of innocent lives, yet militant gays see nothing wrong with that. As a poet, I’ve seen this tactic used on luminaries such as William Shakespeare & Emily Dickinson. & unlike the more obvious Oscar Wilde, & Walt Whitman, there is zero evidence- repeat ZERO evidence- against any such thing. Yet, both these names appear in The Gay 100- a series of books which promotes learning about historically significant people in various groups. The inclusion of Willy & Emily is as ridiculous as if The Black 100 had included baseball legend Babe Ruth because archrival Ty Cobb always called him a ‘nigger’.
But back to the idea of closeted ‘straights’ lurking in the gay community. Why would gays object to this, given that they have often tried to purport that there is a sliding scale of sexuality, from 0-100, with straights at 0, gays at 100 & bisexuals somewhere in between? Have not gays also tried to propagate the idea that all people are a little ‘gay’? ‘Once a man’s felt cock he’ll never want sock!’ & other such claims? Personally, I don’t hold much stock in the sliding scale as most folk I’ve had serious talks with over the years seem to lead very dull straight sex lives. Studies have generally confirmed this- sorry, but fantasies do not constitute sexuality- sexuality is determined by actions, not thoughts. Another objection to the politicization of ‘gay culture’ comes from the mid-20th Century Masters & Johnson survey which purported up to 10% of the population was gay. This striking correlation with W.E.B. DuBois’s assertions of the Talented Tenth in black culture was not lost on gays- who claimed most of the creative classes were so because of homosexual leanings. Palpably not true, but good political invective. Studies in recent years have pegged (pardon the pun) the gay population somewhere between .5 & 3%. A very small portion, but given a world with nearly 6˝ billion inhabitants that still leaves anywhere between about 30-200 million homosexuals on the planet. That’s a force to be reckoned with!
I’m sure that by now, some of you have been stewing over my prior assertion that ‘The fact is that even blacks, or others of a different racial group, experience bigotry in their lives in perhaps only 1-2% of their existence.’ How would you know, Dan- you’re a middle-aged white male? Well, I ask you- when you shit, do you do so homosexually? When you chow down do you do so as a Jew? When you fantasize about a better career do you do so as a black woman? When you watch to the tv news do you do so as a feminist? Etc., etc. C’mon, minority status matters only in those annoying & sometimes dangerous instances when a jeweler won’t allow you in, or when a drunken redneck (or 3) asks if you & your female pal are dykes, etc. The truth is that most people experience aggression toward them in very small doses. In fact, 1 could argue that people (gay, black or whatever) experience far more hate toward them if they are fat, ugly, old, handicapped, or mentally deficient. No, I’m not arguing against the revulsiveness of gaybashing or lynching, merely trying to contextualize it.
To that end, let me posit on the other end of the spectrum. Too much has been made of why gays are gay. Even female homosexuals (lesbians, who generally disdain the term gay) politically differ from most gay males on their sexuality’s causation. There is a large part of lesbian lore that extols the fact that they have ‘chosen’ their sexuality because of the repellence of Madison Avenue’s treatment of women. Gay males, who have often been the target of lesbian political attacks, generally defer to the ‘gay gene’ or ‘missing protein’ explanation for their gayness. There was also the assertion that gay males’ brains were different- usually centered on the hypothalamus. But both the gene & brain theories fizzled- to the disappointment of militant gay politicos, but to the bolster of those with a more holistic approach to homosexuality- both male & female, not to mention the other shades- bisexuality, transsexuality, & transgender. The gay brain theory foundered when many non-gay males were discovered to have ‘gay’ brains, & lesbian brains were never even discussed. As for the gay gene theory- no one has ever reproduced the results of the 1st claim. So, could gay males & females have different causations? If so, then the idea that 1000 gays could have 1000 explanations is alot more reasonable- no? After all, even the gene theory allows for only a predisposition, not a guarantee, toward certain behaviors & attitudes. Whatever, I have always found a far more interesting query resides in not why gays are gay, but why do non-gays really give such a damn about it all?
My answer lies in the very essence of why people stop & stare at terrible things. Not that homosexuality is ‘terrible’, but to many it is perceived that way. However, most people who squirm around gays, or even the notion of it, are not what I would call homophobic- a catch-all misnomer gays have crafted to not-so-subtly suggest that all folk uncomfortable with homosexuality are, indeed, closeted gays themselves. While I do not deny this as an explanation for some, & Cosmo fans know of some recent email incidents with folk who fit this description to a T, I do not believe it describes the majority. & gay folk, listen up- while you may claim authority on your own origins, let a straight guy opine on something he has more knowledge of.
1st off, the classic definition of homophobia:
Main Entry: ho·mo·pho·bia
: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals
- ho·mo·pho·bic /-'fO-bik/ adjective
Note that the word, itself, gives nothing to the causes of itself. Let me posit a new term- homotaedium- to describe the majority of peoples’ attitudes toward homosexuals. Let’s look at the word tedium- especially its root:
Main Entry: te·di·um
Etymology: Latin taedium disgust, irksomeness, from taedEre to disgust, weary
1 : the quality or state of being tedious : TEDIOUSNESS; also : BOREDOM
2 : a tedious period of time <long tediums of strained anxiety -- H. G. Wells>
would imply boredom with it all, but the more Latinate homotaedium
hits the nail smack on. Most folk I know, who would be classically called
homophobic, are really homotaedious, & homotaediots- not homophobes. In
fact, even folk like me, who don’t give a damn 1 way or the other about
homosexuality, feel a certain level of disgust about homosexual sex- male or
female. &, no, let us dash the Bob Guccione mythos that all men like to see
2 lesbos get it on. Men who like that are far rarer than you think, it’s just
become so chic to say that that dissenters are kowed in to silence lest be
branded gay if they do not assent. Also, male response to 2 typical Penthouse
lipstick lesbians is solely directed by the beauty of the 2 nude female goddess
archetypes, not their actions- which most guys, even, admit is revulsive.
Substitute Andrea Dworkin & Ellen DeGeneres for the 2 lipstickers & you
see how quickly that myth shatters.
But disgust is behind most of it. Most people, it seems, cannot do what I do- that is take the old joke Doctor’s advice: Man goes in to a Doctor’s office & says, ‘Doc, I get a severe pain in my elbow when I move it this way.’ Doc, ‘Then don’t move it that way.' Ba-dum- Bum! Similarly, if I get revulsed by homosexual acts I simply don’t think about it, much less dwell upon it. &, unless a gay guy were to make a pass at me, why would it sit in my cranial nooks & affect how I deal with that person? They are just another person- sometimes nice, sometimes assy, dumb, friendly, outrageous, sincere, selfish, & all the other pros & cons we human lot suffer from. But most do not follow my lead- partly, I think, because of religion’s mind-numbing sway, but there must be deeper reasons.
Unless, of course, you’ve got a political ax to swing. What I will be quoting from & commenting on, from here on, are some excerpts from an Australian anti-homophobia site online: http://www.lovejunkie.net/~fuck/boygetsboy.htm.
Different people have different views about sex and sexuality. Some
people have very powerful fears of homosexuality and homosexual people: called
No real politicizing yet. Read on, MacDuff!
Homophobia: the dread, fear and loathing of homosexuality, of
homosexuals, and of people perceived to be homosexual - whether the person is
homosexual, bisexual, transgender, inter-sexed, heterosexual or HIV positive.
This definition is based on that given by George Weinberg in Society
and the Healthy Homosexual (Anchor Press/Doubleday, New York, 1973).
Well, here we get the roots of where the term has gone astray- the
addition of the act of loathing.
What causes homophobia?
Psychologists and sociologists suggest there are a number of sources of
One view is that men use hostility to homosexuals to reassure themselves
about their own (hetero-)sexuality and masculinity and to assert the dominance
of 'masculine' men over women and 'effeminate' men.
No real disputes there, although this trends toward the fallacious ‘all
men are really gay’ POV.
Another view is that this fear (a negative feeling) becomes
self-righteousness (a 'positive' feeling). This self-righteousness is then used
as a cover or excuse for prejudice. This self-righteousness can take the form of
a 'moral repugnance' of homosexuality or 'being sickened by' homosexuals.
These prejudices might provide a basis for other, seemingly 'rational'
accounts for homophobia, such as a belief that homosexuals are a sexual threat
to children or that homosexuality is a 'sin'.
This touches slightly upon
the disgust/homotaedium factor, but then sails on to the red herring of
pedophilia. Are most pedophiles homosexuals? Yes. But that does not imply the
reverse- that most homosexuals are pedophiles- is true; a VERY IMPORTANT, &
Another view is that people who have homosexual feelings themselves want
to deny this because society does not approve of homosexuality. This confusion
and conflict causes them to want to distance themselves from people they
perceive as homosexual. In other words, people bash and hassle people they think
are gay or lesbian as a way of showing that they aren't themselves. Most people
who use violence against lesbians and gay men are younger people - the age when
we have to start sorting out our own sexuality. Some studies have shown that
people with homophobic attitudes often have same-sex attractions themselves.
No doubt there is some
truth to this, but these truly homophobic homosexuals are in a small minority.
Another view about why homophobia happens is that homophobia is a way to
maintain control over people's behavior. This view sees that 'society' regulates
or makes people conform through a range of attitudes and values. Homophobia
might be just one.
Now we fringe in to
paranoia. Does anyone really think that the government is capable of such
Another view is that some groups of people are marginalised and blamed
for social problems so that other, more powerful groups can keep their
privileges and benefits. This view holds that some groups of people are
disadvantaged and discriminated against to keep things the way they are.
This is a result of
homophobia/homotaedium, rather than a cause. The confusion of actions &
reactions is a major part of why many theories- generally psychological- fail.
When does it start?
Homophobia develops in young people at an early age
Two studies of young people show that young people generally hold
Van de Ven studied the attitudes of young offenders in a Sydney juvenile
justice centre in 1992. (Source: Paul Van de Ven, 'Talking with juvenile
offenders about gay males and lesbians: implications for combating homophobia',
Adolescence, 30 (117), Spring 1995) The study involved interviews with 31 young
offenders aged 13-19.
Sixteen participants expressed completely negative attitudes to gays and
lesbians and 10 were ambivalent (they had both negative and positive attitudes
in their responses). Only five participants expressed completely positive
attitudes to wards gays or lesbians. The main reason expressed for negative
attitudes (by 15 of the combined 26 completely negative and ambivalent
respondents) was defensiveness. This is the projection of unacceptable motives
onto homosexual persons and expression of hostility towards them.
The study also found that nine respondents 'unequivocally' admitted to
having bashed gays and lesbians, while another 10 were identified as 'potential
perpetrators' of anti-gay and anti-lesbian victimization and violence. The
remaining 12 had not harassed and bashed gays or lesbians and most of them
stated that they had 'never felt like or never would do so'.
The real question I would
ask is why wasn’t further delving done into ‘the projection of unacceptable
motives onto homosexual persons and expression of hostility towards them’?
Another study was an evaluation of the 'Violence against homosexuals'
module of the NSW Department of School Education's Resources for teaching
against violence teaching kit. The research involved a survey of 130 Grade 9
students in six Sydney high schools in 1993. Schools were selected as
representing middle Australia and the cultural diversity of Sydney and were
located in areas of average socio-economic status.
The study found that homophobic anger (ie. not accepting, angry,
despising, disgusted attitudes) was expressed by:
59% of boys in
57% of boys in single sex schools
44% of girls in coeducational schools
31% of girls in single sex schools,
This was before they were exposed to the learning module. (Source: Paul Van de Ven, 'Effects on high school students of a teaching module for reducing homophobia', Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 17 (1/2), 1995, 153-172.)
This is 1 of those studies
that sounds impressive but says little more than a study on the frequency of eye
color would. What’s the point? &- like the famed Masters & Johnson
study- the #s could easily be skewed by the phrasing of the question. The main
reason that M&J got such a high 10% figure was because they phrased the
queries to be as open to pro-homosexual interpretation as possible. For
instance, a YES answer to the question, ‘Have you ever thought about
homosexual acts?’ would get that respondent filed away in the homosexual
category, whereas even a more direct phrasing such as ‘Have you ever thought
about engaging in homosexual acts?’ or ‘Have you ever engaged in homosexual
acts?’, today, would not necessarily get 1 labeled as gay. This
is not semantics, & without further explication of the survey its points are
without any scientific merit.
Homophobic violence is violence committed against someone (whether the victim/survivor is homosexual, bisexual, transgender, inter-sexed, heterosexual or HIV positive) where the perpetrator is motivated by homophobia or the violence is associated with homophobia. Where the violence is a crime and the crime is motivated by or associated with homophobia, we call it a 'hate crime'.
even go in to the Orwellian difficulties of classifying crimes by ‘supposed’
motivations, rather than proven facts, but we can see how far afield even
reasonable discussions of this topic can bring people.
I still return to my thought that there must be deeper reasons for all this hooha on both sides of the argument- I just don’t know what all of them are. However, I will stick with my supposition that 1 of them, & probably the most cogent, all goes back to the idea of heterosexual disgust with the idea of homosexuality. Perhaps its basis is silliness- 2 males &/or 2 females cannot reproduce, so they are engaging in pseudo-sex? Or perhaps there is some biologic evolutionary ground for this perception- 1 far older than any religious doctrines that demonize it. Yes, there are some gay-bashing closet cases, but I think it should be pretty obvious that this is a VERY small percentage of the reasons- after all, if only 1-3% of the general population is gay, then what smaller percentage of that population is self-loathing? I would argue that the # of people in the general population who are antsy about homosexuality far outstrips the # of actual gay folk. No? Therefore self-loathing closet cases are mathematically ruled out.
But let us start ruling other possible answers IN. The 1st I would nominate is homotaedium. Agree or not, but roll it around your noggins. &, ‘please’- whether you are gay or straight- let’s start actually talking ‘straight’ about all things gay. Because if that is not possible then there is no fundamental difference between gay-fearmongers of all stripes, & gay activists, save for the occasional stylish choice of wardrobes.
Return to Bylines