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One of things that I (KentuckyKat) have noticed in various diaries and comments on this site is that there seems to be a very divergent idea of what constitutes homophobia and what is really outside the bounds of acceptable discussion on this site or in society in general.  Today, I would like to begin a discussion of where that line should be drawn.  I do not pretend to have the answers, though I certainly have opinions.  I hope that you will follow me across the fold to see what I have found and that you will offer your opinions in the comment section.

I would like to point out up front that the opinions expressed here are my own...they should not be imputed to the other WGLB diarists unless they agree in the comments.  Also, I do not offer my opinions to foreclose debate, but to give a starting point for debate.

We have clearly come a long way since 1972, the year before the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a psychiatric diagnosis.  I think that damn near anyone on this site agrees that this was the correct decision.  Where we start to diverge, however, is in determining the bounds of acceptability.  Accordingly, I offer the definitions of homophobia and heterosexism to get us started.

Homophobia, according to Merriam Webster's online dictionary, is:

irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.

Merriam Webster also defines heterosexism as:  

discrimination or prejudice by heterosexuals against homosexuals.

I also found an interesting discussion on UC Davis's website.  

[H]eterosexism began to be used as a term analogous to sexism and racism, describing an ideological system that denies, denigrates, and stigmatizes any nonheterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship, or community (Herek, 1990). Using the term heterosexism highlights the parallels between antigay sentiment and other forms of prejudice, such as racism, antisemitism, and sexism.

Like institutional racism and sexism, heterosexism pervades societal customs and institutions. It operates through a dual process of invisibility and attack. Homosexuality usually remains culturally invisible; when people who engage in homosexual behavior or who are identified as homosexual become visible, they are subject to attack by society.

Examples of heterosexism in the United States include the continuing ban against lesbian and gay military personnel; widespread lack of legal protection from antigay discrimination in employment, housing, and services; hostility to lesbian and gay committed relationships, recently dramatized by passage of federal and state laws against same-gender marriage; and the existence of sodomy laws in more than one-third of the states.

Although usage of the two words has not been uniform, homophobia has typically been employed to describe individual antigay attitudes and behaviors whereas heterosexism has referred to societal-level ideologies and patterns of institutionalized oppression of non-heterosexual people.

I personally find both homophobia and heterosexism offensive and beyond the bounds of reasonable discourse, just like racism and sexism.  Here are some analogies to explain my basis for this belief.

Imagine that the someone claimed that African Americans  cannot be monogamous.  It seems to me that this would be beyond the bounds of acceptable discussion.  

Now imagine that a user stated that women are inherently inferior to men because of their "emotional nature."  You know, that's the reason women can't be doctors, lawyers, etc.  (In fact, someone told me in a diary here that GLB (and Ts in same-sex couples) are basically slaves to their emotions incapable of making the logical decision to avoid the negative societal ramifications of being GLBT.)  

Imagine that someone stated that being a christian is a choice and that because the individual chooses to be a christian, it is acceptable to discriminate against him or her?

But what about when you change those statements so that the disparaged group is GLBT?  Is saying that GLBTs shouldn't be given marriage rights because they can't be monogamous beyond the bounds of decency?  It is to me.  

And what about other bases?  Can there be a discussion of whether GLBTs should be allowed to marry where the opposition is not committing heterosexism?  And is that heterosexism enough to exclude that comment or the user who made that comment from community discourse?  

How would you address such comments?

As I said, my goal is not to give answers, but to spark debate.  To that end, I am not giving poll options today.  Have at it!

UPDATE- An excellent point was made about discrimination against bisexuals in the comment section...please give it a read!


ACTION ITEM: Before Tuesday


Thank you for signing the statement of support for Lt. Dan Choi.

Dan will be bringing the letters with him to his trial on Tuesday. Can you help us build support for him as he defends his right to serve his country?

There are three things you can do for Dan right now:

(1) Please forward the email pasted below to your friends and family across the country and ask them to join you in signing on to the statement of support.

(2) If you are on Twitter, please retweet the following text:

RT @CourageCampaign Lt. Dan Choi's military trial is on Tues. Help him fight DADT by signing a letter of support

(3) If you are on Facebook, please click the link below to post it to your Facebook account and share it with your friends:

No matter what happens at trial, the fight to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" will continue.  Can you contribute now to help us continue to work so everyone can serve honorably, no matter who they love?

Thank you for your time and your generosity.

Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign

Originally posted to GLBT and Friends at Daily Kos on Fri Jun 26, 2009 at 08:29 AM PDT.

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