A comment over at The Journal:
Homophobia is often a symptom of latent homosexuality. Homophobes need to be encouraged to accept their orientation.
I quote it because it’s so common. We hear this all the time. Someone expresses wildly homophobic views, and the response is that they must be closeted themselves. They’ve got some issues to deal with, amirite? Some personal stuff they need to work out. Wink. Nudge. Know what I mean?
Yeah. I know what you mean.
Sometimes you’re right. Lots of people do respond to internal conflicts by acting out. Loads of vehemently homophobic people are closeted. But I’ve got a few issues with ‘homophobes are all queers’ being our go-to explanation.
You’re a straight ally or a happy out queer. You don’t go around using homophobic slurs- except maybe with your BFFs in private, because that’s different. Until, that is, someone starts loudly proclaiming that queers are evil sodomites who’re bound to hell and should be kept far, far away from children. Against them, all bets are off, and you just know that the best way to get under their skin is to call them the thing that they hate the most. And y’know what? I’ll bet you also do it because it’s fun. We don’t get many chances to make gleeful insinuations about someone’s orientation. That’s normally considered impolite, isn’t it? But when it comes to loud homophobes, we can gleefully let out our gossipy sides and speculate to our heart’s content.
It’s a pity that by doing that, we’re throwing queers under the bus. We’re perpetuating the idea that there’s something salacious about queerness. That it’s okay- even in very particular circumstances- to mock someone’s internal struggles with a homophobic society.
Closet cases’ orientations shouldn’t matter. You advocate homophobia? I’ll come down like a ton of bricks on your views. What goes on inside your head is irrelevant to me, in all but one instance.
You see, to be honest, homophobic closet cases are one of the few kinds of homophobes I’d have genuine sympathy for. I get that coming out is terrifying. I get that internalised homophobia can mess you up. Those things damage us all, and closeted homophobes have been damaged even more than most of them. I oppose their views utterly- and at the same time I wish them the best and hope that they’ll learn to accept and love who they are. But I know that’s one hell of a tough road.
Which brings me to straight people.
Straight people are off the hook.
A hell of a lot of the speculation about loud homophobes’ orientations seems to come, not from queers, but from straight people. The straight people who we know and love, who call themselves allies and love us right back. Lots of the time, it comes from straight folks who walk the ally walk as well as talking the talk- the people who march beside us, defend us even when we’re not around, listen when we tell t hem how it is, support us. I love you guys to pieces, by the way!
But when you say that the loudest homophobes are closeted LGBT folks, you erase the fact that the vast, vast majority of homophobia doesn’t come from closeted people. It comes from straight people. Casual, everyday homophobia overwhelmingly comes from straight people (and yes, by the way, I know that all of you aren’t like that). The vast majority of people who vote against marriage equality are straight. The vast majority of the people who draft gender recognition legislation that enshrines gatekeeping, divorce, diagnoses and compulsory surgery are cis. The people who think that knowing we even exist should be kept from kids, because we’re too ‘confusing’? Mostly straight and cis. The people who treat us ever-so-slightly differently, who tokenise us, who judge us by how closely we conform to stereotypes? Mostly straight and cis. And, yeah, most of the people who brainwash, reject and demonise us are straight and cis too.
But if we joke that homophobes are all homos, we let straight people rest easy. Homophobia becomes something that isn’t just targeted at LGBTQ people. It’s something perpetuated by us too. Homophobia stops being straight people’s problem.
It erases the structures that make closet cases into homophobes.
Do homophobic closeted queers exist? Hell yeah! Is it a disproportionate thing? I think it is! Do closeted homophobes come from nowhere? No.
Every closeted homophobe is themself a victim of decades of oppression. They’re not demons. They’re seriously, horribly damaged people who have been twisted into caricatures of the antithesis of what they should be. They’ve been so profoundly distorted by the communities they grew up and live in that It’s gotta be horrible, and they didn’t start it. Our society is riddled with homophobic structures both overt and subtle. Homophobic queers are the crowning glory of a society that tells us that who we are is shameful and disgusting. If we want to fix that? We have to look a little deeper. We have to quit looking at the weeds and dig out the roots.
Isn’t that just letting closeted homophobes off the hook?
I hope not!
There’s a huge difference between the responses that we have to homophobes who’ve been outed, and the idea that every single homophobe gets tarred the the queer label. If we know that a particular person is a hypocritical, lying piece of shit who’s, say, using their massive public influence to turn people against LGBT folks while secretly messing around with people of a distinctly similar gender to their own? They’re fair game. Homophobes in general, though? Let’s remember that they’re far more likely to just be garden variety hetero bigots.
And just because I can, have some Roy Zimmerman:
- Michael Solis: 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Homophobia: A Guide for Straight People (huffingtonpost.com)
- Murray Lipp: We Must Target the Origins of Homophobic Violence: Religion, Patriarchy and Heterosexism (huffingtonpost.com)
- Solidarity of the oppressed makes resistance stronger (socialistworker.co.uk)
- Why Straight People at Pride bother me (thepoliticalgetspersonal.wordpress.com)
- Homophobia: Hypocrisy Optional (thequietvoice18.wordpress.com)
- Donte’ Stallworth: ‘I was very homophobic’ (tracking.si.com)