Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Homophobia

"Homophobia" is an interesting word and in my opinion has evolved in a way that muddies the relationship in society between gays and non-gays. Let's start with phobia:

phobia
noun
1.a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.
"Phobia" is derived from Phobos, the Greek god of fear, and virtually every phobia definition defines some fear. For example, acrophobia is "a pathological fear of heights," nothing more, nothing less.

But homophobia is doesn't fit the pattern:

homophobia
noun
1.unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.
Suddenly "antipathy" is added to "fear" and the British definition from the same page pushes it further: "intense hatred or fear of homosexuals or homosexuality" with "intense hatred" coming before "fear." It's probably not uncommon to hate that which one has a "pathological fear" of, but it's far from inherent and that brings me to today's story.

Once upon a time, long ago (summer of 1980) and far away (in Boston, Massachusetts), when I was still in college, I was invited to a party with free beer, and being a young college party animal, free beer was a huge draw. The party was thrown by the friend of a girl friend of one of my friends. That's pretty indirect, but there was free beer. The party thrower was one of five housemates. Two of the housemates were gay males, the other three were not and it was planned as a party mixing gays and non-gays with free beer. So, enticed by free beer, a group of seven of us decided to attend.

At the last minute, the three non-gay housemates pulled out of the party, making it a gay party. Or more accurately, a party with 80 gay guys and the seven of us non-gay, intrepid, free-beer seekers. Since we had absolutely nothing against gay guys, we decided to go anyway. Did I mention free beer?

We went to the party and we talked to various gay party goers for a while and we eventually retreated to hanging about the keg. The keg was at the edge of a dance area. As the party progressed, the gay guys started dancing and it was no big deal. Then they started slow dancing. Then, while slow dancing, they started kissing and grinding and fondling. And two guys at a time would head into a bathroom at the edge of the dance floor for a minute or two before emerging with smiles on their faces.

Suddenly, I had a overwhelming panic attack and found myself literally running out of that house. I couldn't stop to tell any of my friends I was leaving nor could I stop to say goodbye to the hosts and thank them for the free beer. There was no hate involved. There was simply overwhelming fear - in other words, a phobia.

I found what happened next quite interesting. There I was, quite surprised at my reaction. After all, I had intentionally gone to gay party because as far as I knew, I had no problem with any aspect of homosexuality. "All sex is good sex" had been one of my frequent (and apparently naive) sayings up until that point.

So there I was, miles from home, in the days before cell phones so I couldn't let anybody know that I left, my ride was still at the party and as a poor student I couldn't afford a taxi, so I was readying myself for a long walk home.

I looked up as I was getting ready to walk, and there were two of my friends on the sidewalk who had left the party before me. The same thing had happened to them - they had also completely freaked out and exited the party at a rapid pace without telling anyone else. We were trying to decide what to do when out of the door came two more of our friends with panicked expressions on their faces (it was comical) and fortunately one of them was our ride. We exchanged our embarrassing stories with lots of nervous laughter (ok, I'll admit it, we were giggling like junior high girls) and decided to do "rock, paper, scissors" to determine which two of us would somehow find our courage to go back inside to the "scary gay party" (yes, we knew how unbelievably ridiculous that sounds) to let the last two of our friends know that we were leaving and if they wanted a ride, now was the time to say goodbye to the free beer and the rest of the party. Fortunately, before we even finished "rock, paper, scissors" the last two friends exited the party. They weren't particularly panicked but admitted to "significant discomfort."

Seven out of seven.

Seven out of seven guys who intentionally went to a gay party because they were completely confident that homosexuality didn't bother them at all had negative reactions ranging from "significant discomfort" to complete panic. Maybe the two with merely "discomfort" wouldn't qualify as homophobic, but at least five of us were clearly homophobic. And this was a self-selected group that was willing to go to a gay party. Seven out of seven in this self-selected group indicates to me that our reaction isn't terribly unusual or abnormal. I believe that the majority of homophobia is simply like that which happened here.

There was no hate. None of us hated gays. I don't hate gays now. I just panic or feel fear when seeing gay physical intimacy. At this point, I've been sensitized, so I feel mild panic when I see a couple of guys with arms around each other or even holding hands. I realize that's totally my problem just like my fear of heights (which isn't quite a phobia - I go rock climbing for example) is my problem.

It's moderately popular among some groups to hate homophobics. They think that they're hating haters, an attitude which I think has some problems anyway because it legitimizes hate. But I'm not a hater and I have no more control over my reaction to homosexual physical intimacy than gays have control over being gay. Yet I'm supposed to support them, but they and their supporters are supposed to revile me. And when I tell this story to those that revile me and those like me, they simply call me a liar and continue their hate.

Ah well, nobody said life was fair.

13 comments:

erp said...

Bret, wonder if your young self would have felt the same if thrown into a situation where the gays were women, not men? For the record, I am repulsed by depictions of sexual intimacy whether gay or straight. Voyeurism is very unappealing to me.

Bret said...

erp,

Good question.

Since this was after a few beers, I think I would've found hetero couples captivating to watch grinding/kissing/fondling and lesbian couples neither captivating nor panic inducing. I'm not totally sure though, because part of the problem was the sheer number of gay guys. It's not too painful to ignore one couple. Forty couples is a lot harder and forty lesbian or hetero couples might've made me feel uncomfortable. I'm pretty sure the lesbian and hetero combos wouldn't have induced overwhelming panic in me - maybe some general "ewwww" but nothing more.

Without alcohol, I later learned that I'm not nearly as comfortable with viewing physical intimacy as I thought at the time. Porn can be okay but I find most of it fairly repulsive and I'm definitely less comfortable when I'm present while hetero couples are doing whatever.

erp said...

I think your panic as well that of your friends was in the possibility that you would have been expected to join in the gay behavior.

Bret said...

Rationally, certainly not. They knew we wouldn't be interested and we knew they knew. Nobody approached us.

Lower brain? Well, the lower brain isn't rational - it just reacts, so I can't say that's the "reason" because there is not reason. No "reason" ever made itself known to me. It was just sheer panic.

Take fear of heights. If I'm at a railing overlooking a steep dropoff, I'll feel afraid. I know the railing is fine, I know I won't fall, but I will feel fear. My lower brain doesn't give me a "reason" for the fear, but I "associate" being near a dropoff, even a safe one, with feeling fear. Therefore, I can assign the fear to being near a dropoff and say that's the "reason."

But in this case, I associate the fear with seeing gay physical intimacy. I don't even know that doing would make me feel any more afraid. Unless gay raped, I'll never find out, and hopefully that won't happen.

Hey Skipper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

I have a couple of gay friends with whom I could talk openly about such issues.

When I described to them the disgusting feeling I have when I try to picture their, er, intimacy, they did not rebuke me for it. Apparently, they felt it was natural for a straight man to feel so.

I guess that, outside the loudest bubbles of the LGBT movement, your experience wouldn't be seen as homophobia at all.

The first time I've felt the panic you describe I was 12 years old. I was living in a closed condominium (of houses in separate lots, not buildings), and there were many houses still under construction. I was chatting in the streets with a couple of other friends, a little after the sunset, when nearly 10 men, construction workers, got out of the bushes with one other effeminate man nearly naked (I guess the provider of services for the bunch).

We panicked. It was not rational either - they made no motion toward us, and most of them not even looked to our direction - but we run like our lives were on edge.

Well, maybe it was actually rational. I would suggest to anyone in my position (a minor near a bunch of semi-naked strange older men getting out of the bushes) to run as fast as they could. But I can picture getting the same feeling in safer conditions too, as you experienced in that party.

Bret said...

Clovis,

Thanks for you story. I've known a number of people who were repulsed ("disgusting feeling") but you're the first other person (outside my friends who attended the party) I've known who also panicked and actually literally ran.

So maybe it is only "the loudest of the LGBT[QWERTY] movement" but it seems quite large to me. Don't you think that Hillary would include me (us) in her homophobic deplorables?

Clovis e Adri said...

Bret,

I did not remember her deplorables remark involved homophobia. I checked it out and it sure does:

"You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right?" Clinton said. "The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up."

Though much is said (and I agree) about Trump being unfit to be President, I guess she is pretty unqualified as a politician too. I mean, to give such a stupid remark where you alienate the voters you most need to conquer (the ones tending to the other side) is truly stupid.

---
So maybe it is only "the loudest of the LGBT[QWERTY] movement" but it seems quite large to me.
---
Or maybe you live in California... hey, which you do!


I think that, part of the reason I don't take so seriously the anti-PC crusade of US right-wing circles, is that it is far less of a problem down here. Actually, I guess we could use a bit more of PC sensitivities in Brazil, to get a better balance. Unfortunately, this PC stuff takes a life of its own, and you can't control how much you end up with...

Hey Skipper said...

I grew up on Southern California. My brother is gay. I've had gays make passes at me.

When I was in college, I did fabrication, wiring, and assembly work for a small electrical engineering company in Alhambra. One of the things the company built was special effects generators used in discos. One evening the company owner and I went to Odyssey One, a gay establishment (which I did not know before we got there). It took us awhile to get everything installed and operating; by the time we left, things were getting into full swing.

Didn't bother me at all.

Despite the ineradicable fact I find sex acts involving the far end of the alimentary tract utterly disgusting.

So I'm not homophobic in the sense that I experience anything like fear or panic that isn't rationally justifiable. But I am homophobic in the PC sense of the term: finding some form of conduct particular to a now officially aggrieved group offensive constitutes a phobia about that group.

Which is how homophobia is just like xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism and sexism: they are all PC terms that show just how toxic PC is.

I'm not talking about the kind of PC that puts certain words off limits in favor of less harsh euphemisms. Mentally handicapped instead of retard? Gay instead of faggot? Fine. (Although I'm not at all sure why "person of color" is preferable to "colored person".)

Rather, the kind of PC that leads to [fill in the blank]phobia, and the incontinent slathering of racist and sexist has one aim: to first demonize, then ostracize anyone who disagrees with progressive orthodoxy. Everyone who opposes the progressive political agenda does so out of hatred and bigotry, and therefore deserves what they get.

Just look at some of the commentary around Damore's firing from Google. (Lesson to the dissenters: open your mouth, lose your job.) He had the temerity to make a sound, evidenced based, argument.

Sexist bastard. Get him. (Once again, I make the mistake of wandering into the frothing mob that is progressivism. Page search on "Jeff Guinn".)

erp said...

There is no "equality" except under the law. As they say in Frogland, vive la différence.

Bret said...

Hey Skipper wrote: "I grew up on Southern California. My brother is gay. I've had gays make passes at me.

I live in Southern California. I have gay extended family members. I've had gays make passes at me as well.

None of that bothered (or bothers) me in the least.

My trigger seems to be visual and triggered by expressions of physical intimacy.

Hey Skipper wrote: " I went to ... a gay establishment ... by the time we left, things were getting into full swing."

Yup. That's when I'd embarrass myself and panic and run out the door.

Hey Skipper wrote: "...finding some form of conduct ... offensive..."

I agree with this and just want to additionally point out that it's (almost completely) private conduct. It just seems to me saying, "I don't care what you do in your private space as it's none of my business but man, I'm really, really personally not into that and I'd really prefer not to see it or even hear about it" doesn't seem like an attitude for which I ought to be demonized. Maybe Clovis is right and it's only a small percentage of people (plus a larger percent in California), but still, if they want me to support them, perhaps a bit of sympathy for my discomfort, even though a character flaw on my part, might be in order.

Hey Skipper said...

[Bret:] I agree with this and just want to additionally point out that it's (almost completely) private conduct. It just seems to me saying, "I don't care what you do in your private space as it's none of my business but man, I'm really, really personally not into that and I'd really prefer not to see it or even hear about it" doesn't seem like an attitude for which I ought to be demonized.

Of course not. After all, a phobia is not an attitude. But when progressives use the word "homophobia", (or Islamophobia, misogynist, racist, etc.), that isn't what they are on about.

Rather, they treat disagreement on social policy as a mental disease. A progressive labeling me a misogynist for suggesting that the 77 cents on the dollar thing doesn't stand up to scrutiny is, in effect, accusing me of a mental disease: an inborn, uncontrollable, hatred of women.

It's odd how the mentally ill get no end of sympathy from the left; except for those whom the left diagnoses.

Hey Skipper said...

[Bret:] I agree with this and just want to additionally point out that it's (almost completely) private conduct. It just seems to me saying, "I don't care what you do in your private space as it's none of my business but man, I'm really, really personally not into that and I'd really prefer not to see it or even hear about it" doesn't seem like an attitude for which I ought to be demonized.

Of course not. After all, a phobia is not an attitude. But when progressives use the word "homophobia", (or Islamophobia, misogynist, racist, etc.), that isn't what they are on about.

Rather, they treat disagreement on social policy as a mental disease. A progressive labeling me a misogynist for suggesting that the 77 cents on the dollar thing doesn't stand up to scrutiny is, in effect, accusing me of a mental disease: an inborn, uncontrollable, hatred of women.

It's odd how the mentally ill get no end of sympathy from the left; except for those whom the left itself diagnoses.