Welcome to the hop! Firstly the admin stuff for those new to this. The main purpose of the hop is to generate publicity for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) on May 17th. As readers and writers of queer romance to boot, it is also a chance for us to stand together as a community and fight discrimination against our work. Only in its second year, already the hop is garnering a lot of interest and participation and I for one am proud to be a part of it. I’ve got a series of blogs planned to run over the course of the hop, addressing everything from current events to personal experience and literary theory. There’s also some prizes on offer so be sure to read on!
Homophobia is a topic I don’t usually discuss outright on my blog – I talk about discrimination, about equal rights, about the fact that so many people seem incapable of simply being decent human beings. But homophobia is a word I usually avoid.
Usually, I admit, I consider it counter-productive. Just like I shut down and stop listening if someone starts using slurs against me, so I expect my audience to react if I do the same to them. And while I may be just as accurate calling someone a homophobe as they are calling me a dyke, I own my identity in a way they don’t. They say gay or dyke or queer like these are bad things. Being a homophobe is a bad thing. No-one’s going to identify with that.
Plus – and this is a difficult point to cede but one that’s important to note – not all anti-gay discrimination is de facto homophobic in nature. Homophobia is an irrational fear, it’s lashing out at people who are gay because they are gay. Arguing against gay marriage because you have an honestly-held belief that your religion does not condone it is not, of itself, homophobic. It’s wrong; ignorant; fundamentally unconstitutional and discriminatory, but it’s not homophobic.
I think that’s an important distinction that needs to be made – between discrimination and homophobia. I can – I have – hold perfectly amicable and reasonable discussions about equality with people who, whether they realise it or not, are openly advocating (to my face!) the treatment of me and mine as second-class citizens. Telling me that I have no right to get married; to expect the same visitation and custody and property and legal and beneficial and parental rights as any other human being, simply because my choice of spouse would be female. Believe me, it makes me so angry I start shaking that people think this is acceptable. That they’ve got the gall to come to my space and tell me that it’s acceptable. To berate me for ‘whining’ about it, even!
It doesn’t make them homophobes.
What does make someone a homophobe is when they lash out – verbally or physically – against people they perceive as gay. When they’re not debating a point of law or a religious tract but rather are using the weaponry of law and God to attack. I will happily sit and discuss the Bible with anyone who wants to have that conversation with me (be warned: I’ve actually read it), and we can cite scripture to each other all night debating what God really thought of homosexuality. We might reach a conclusion, we might agree to disagree, but the debate can still be exactly that – open and civil, with both sides prepared to listen even if they’ve agreed in advance that they’re never going to agree. What I will not tolerate is someone picking and choosing select verses to sling mud – and certainly not to cite said verses as some kind of evidence to support my lawful oppression.
We have reached a strange point in our evolution when any disagreement is taken as a sign of hostility. I have no fear of disagreeing with anyone. Indeed, the greatest civilisations the human race has yet known were founded on the philosophic principles of earnest disagreement. Would Socrates have had so much to say were he not forever correcting his friends?
Calling every person who disagrees with you a bigot; a homophobe or a racist or misogynist or whatever, is to mitigate the very real harm caused by those people who are homophobic or racist or misogynistic. It hides the real ugliness of the truth behind political and religious and pseudo-scientific rhetoric. It makes these phobias seem almost rational, when they are anything but.
The true face of homophobia is not to be found in the politician voting against extending spousal benefits to same-sex partners because the type of people who vote for him wouldn’t stand for it. It is not to be found in the minister struggling to reconcile his own interpretation of his holy text with a rapidly-changing society. It is not even to be found in the high school kids who think their friend’s new shoes are ‘soooooooooo gay.‘ We can take offence at these things and call them homophobic if we want but that is only going to further alienate people who, I am convinced, we could reach out to if only we’re less defensive about disagreeing with them. Calm, reasonable and rational discourse is the key to educating to the vast, vast majority who are simply confused or under-informed.
The true face of homophobia is something so ugly, so vicious, that most people simply cannot stand to look it in the eye. Instead they hide behind the sort of examples I just cited and say they’re addressing the problem when what they’re really doing is avoiding it. Through fear of upsetting people; of feeling their stomachs lurch in response, most people hide behind euphemisms and look the other way.
I’m sorry, but prepare to be upset.
It’s in the face of Wilfred de Bruijn, who was attacked in Paris at the beginning of April.
It’s in the face of Ukranian activist Svyatoslav Sheremet, who was badly beaten right in front of the world’s media.
It’s in the faces of all the victims of the recent spate of gay-bashings across New York City.
It’s in the face of a young man who was attacked by people he considered friends; people who stripped him naked, mutilated his genitals, repeatedly raped him with beer bottles, set him alight and smashed his skull with a 20lb rock because he told them he was gay. It is in the face of Vladislav Tornovoy, who was only twenty-three years old when he was murdered on May 9th this year.
A survey conducted in 2008 showed that one in five gay people living in the UK had suffered homophobic abuse. One in six had been physically assaulted, while almost ninety percent reported insults and harassment. 20% of all homeless youths identify as LGBT, and more than 60% of them commit suicide. Equality matters; don’t doubt me. What is happening right now in Russia illustrates perfectly that if a minority of a nation’s citizens are denigrated in law, aggression towards them grows. By placing us as unequal, inferior, lesser than our heterosexual counterparts, we are being dehumanised. We are being turned into targets. That’s why equality matters. But as loud and as long as I will scream for gay marriage, for spousal benefits and tax concessions, let us never forget that there are those out there fighting for their lives; for their right to even stand up and be recognised.
I’m sorry to start on a downer, but this is the reality faced by many thousands of people across the globe. This is what we are fighting; this is why we won’t just shut up and go away and stop making people uncomfortable. This is why we need events like IDAHO and why we need as many people as possible – gay, straight, and everything in between – to stand up and shout loud and long for equality. So please, join the hop – there’s dozens of bloggers involved, writing some fascinating posts – leave comments, share, tweet; write your own posts even. Make our voices heard. Use the hashtag #HAHAT and follow the hop on facebook and twitter.
To show our appreciation, all those involved in the hop are offering LGBT-related prizes. I’m offering a signed copy of my novel What He Wants to one winner, plus one e-copy of any book in my backlist to five runners up. The first prize winner will also have a £50 donation made to the Albert Kennedy Trust in their name. That donation will provide three nights’ accommodation, bedding, toiletries, food and travel allowance to one homeless LGBT youth. It is an excellent charity, and I urge you to check them out.
All you have to do to enter is comment on this post or check out Rafflecopter to enter by sharing or tweeting a link.