Does being anti-marriage make you a homophobe?
December 16th, 2013
Brandon Ambrosino, writing in the Atlantic, argues that being against gay marriage doesn’t make you a homophobe.
If it’s “anti-gay” to question the arguments of marriage-equality advocates, and if the word “homophobic” is exhausted on me or on polite dissenters, then what should we call someone who beats up gay people, or prefers not to hire them? Disagreement is not the same thing as discrimination. Our language ought to reflect that distinction.
I would argue that an essential feature of the term “homophobia” must include personal animus or malice toward the gay community. Simply having reservations about gay marriage might be anti-gay marriage, but if the reservations are articulated in a respectful way, I see no reason to dismiss the person holding those reservations as anti-gay people. In other words, I think it’s quite possible for marriage-equality opponents to have flawed reasoning without necessarily having flawed character. When we hastily label our opposition with terms like “anti-gay,” we make an unwarranted leap from the first description to the second.
Irrespective of the fact that this piece made anti-gay activists giddy, he’s right. It gains us no new converts by calling our opponents names, and (perhaps not too surprisingly) telling someone that they are your enemy often makes them so.
It is also true that there are some who oppose civil and/or religious gay marriage who do so not out of animus. It is entirely possible for someone to truly believe the disingenuous arguments about “the children needing opposite sex parents”. Or to support rights, but not quite be comfortable with the history and religious associations with the word marriage. Or to have stepped out of a time machine from 1994.
It is also true that there are many who do not favor same-sex marriage simply because they’ve not yet gotten used to the idea and it’s what everyone they know believes. We should be cautious not to conflate the not-yet-supporter with the wild-eyed opponent.
Yet, Ambrosino’s critics also have merit to their rebuttal. This debate is no longer novel nor is this a debate reserved to some ivory tower. It becomes increasing more difficult with each passing year to simultaneously hold to opposition to marriage equality while also being a person of good will and intent.
But I think it is still possible.
So, yes, I would agree with Ambrosino that being against gay marriage doesn’t make you a homophobe. But it does give you something in common with one.
How to recognize a homophobe
April 27th, 2012
Here at Box Turtle Bulletin we don’t throw around the term “homophobe”. People may have positions that differ with mine without holding personal animus and labeling them with a pejorative term pretty much precludes any future efforts to reach them with reason.
For example, many libertarian minded people may oppose non-discrimination policies not out of any personal desire to discriminate, but out of the desire to be free to do so without their government coming in and telling them that some hiring decisions are unacceptable. They might laugh at those who eliminate a qualified candidate due to race or orientation and figure that such decisions will hurt their business.
Others may seriously believe that marriage equality is a detriment to society, or are – at least presently – not yet ready to go as far as marriage. Yes, sometimes those objections are based in undue deference to tradition or to fear or even to prejudice, but that does not make them homophobes. For example, New Jersey Governor Christie opposes marriage equality, but still publicly advocates for civil unions and has no hesitation about socializing with gay people or appointing them to the supreme court. And I doubt anyone would describe President Obama as a homophobe.
But homophobes do exist. (And for the fools who say “homophobe means afraid of homosexuals and I’m not afraid of no pansies”, no, that isn’t what ‘homophobe’ means, you homophobe). And sometimes a situation arises that allows you to identify those who base their policies on principle and those who act out of animus.
Such a situation has arisen.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has selected Richard Grenell as his foreign policy spokesman. Grenell is gay and, as seems to be the case with virtually every gay person from the most liberal to what some call “sell-out quislings” (i.e. all gay people registered Republican), Grenell believes that gay citizens are entitled to the same rights and recognitions to marriage as heterosexual citizens.
To most Americans – hell, to most Republicans – this is not exactly worth noting. Republicans claim to support meritocracy and hire those who are best qualified without regard to race, religion, and sexual orientation – and most probably do (or, at least, have convinced themselves that they do). So for Romney to select Grenell, who served as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy for the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations under George W. Bush, is hardly an eyebrow raiser.
(And to be honest – okay, to be cynical – Romney’s opposition to marriage equality is probably as firmly committed as his opposition to mandated health care or any other position he happens to be espousing today. He seems to share with our current president – and most of our past ones – a strong devotion to whichever way the wind is blowing.)
But for some, hiring a gay man is unacceptable. Those folks are called homophobes.
Now 20 years ago homophobes would have railed about the homoSEEEXshulls infiltrating positions of power and proudly announced that they would have nothing to do with no perverts. Today that doesn’t sell well. So instead they come up with criteria that precludes hiring gay people and rant about that instead. It’s not their orientation that we object to, it’s their liberal anti-american position on fill in the blank.
For example, Matthew J. Franck – Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute – ranted in National Review.
Grenell has made a particular crusade of the marriage issue, with a kind of unhinged devotion that suggests a man with questionable judgment. And when the Obama State Department is already moving to elevate the gay-rights agenda to a higher plane than religious freedom in the foreign policy of the United States, it is reasonable to wonder whether Grenell, after taking such a prominent place in the Romney campaign’s foreign-policy shop, would be in line for an influential State posting where he could pursue his passion for that same agenda.
You see, it’s not him being gay or even supporting equality, it’s his unhinged devotion.
(To his credit, National Review columnist Kevin D. Williamson snarked all over Franck’s head: “…surely to preemptively attack an aide to Mitt Romney because he disagrees with you on a single issue — an issue that is not a very large part of the foreign-policy portfolio, one that ought to be about No. 13,479 on our national to-worry-about list — might to the uncharitable eye appear to be something like “unhinged devotion,” and in any case those of us who work at think tanks or journals of opinion might want to be a bit circumspect when arguing that a man should be distrusted because his devotion to a cause is too zealous.”)
Such a nice easy example: Matthew J. Franck is a homophobe.
He’s not alone, of course. Plenty of others, like American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer (who I really do believe is mentally ill) joined the fray. And, of course, there are haters of the other brand (Republiphobes?) who hate (yes, that is the accurate term) Grenell for his party affiliation (I suppose they absurdly believe that we are better served by having no gay people advise or have positions of power in Republican administrations – but we’ll save that for another time.)
For today, we’ll just note that Franck stands out as an excellent illustration on how to recognize a homophobe.
NOM blatantly appeals to homophobia
August 30th, 2010
The National Organization for Marriage has now officially become part of the wackadoodle extremist end of the anti-gay religious right. While Maggie Gallagher was officially at the helm, they managed to carry a pretense of civility and wore the mask of being issue driven rather than just acting out of animus and contempt.
But now that Brian Brown is the name on the masthead, the mask has come off. NOM no longer pretends to be civil, but instead now is openly using the tactics and language of those who seek not just to “protect traditional marriage” but to demonize gay people themselves and stir up hatred towards them.
No longer content with scare tactics such as “Mommy, I can grow up to marry a princess”, NOM is now spreading fear about radical homosexual activists and putting “gay marriage” in scare quotes. NOM has now become indistinguishable from Peter LaBarbera or Brain Camenker or Eugene Delguadio.
When the District of Columbia voted for marriage equality, NOM has become infuriated. And so they have involved themselves in the Washington DC councilman race.
Ward 5 Councilman Harry Thomas voted for marriage equality in the nation’s capital, so NOM has declared him to be an enemy and has funded a mailer for his opponent, Delano Hunter. It is as disgusting a piece of blatant nastiness as one would expect to find coming from MassResistance or the Traditional Values Coalition:
Thousands of dollars from homosexual activists outside Ward 5 are attacking Delano Hunter become he supports our right to vote on whether the District legalizes “gay marriage.”
Radical, gay marriage activists are flooding Ward 5 with money to defeat Delano Hunter, not because they don’t like his plan to improve our community, but only because the supports the Biblical definition of marriage.
The outside gay activists don’t care about our right to home rule and right to vote on gay marriage. They only care about their agenda to redefine marriage. Don’t let them target Delano Hunter.
There is, of course, no explanation of why the Sister is in the picture. We don’t need one; we know exactly why that picture was selected. The Sisters are “scary” and for those who don’t know better she makes a good illustration of just what a radical homosexual looks like.
And, of course, since it’s NOM, the claim is a complete lie. Not a cent has been given to Thomas from “militant gay activists” in San Francisco or New York.
NOM’s Maggie Gallagher loves nothing more than to complain that mean gay marriage supporters are calling her names. “They call us bigots,” she whines at every opportunity.
At BTB we seldom engage in slinging slurs like “bigot” or “homophobe” or “liar” at those who oppose our equality. It serves no purpose and tends to shut down any possible hope for dialogue. And the truth is that most of those who don’t favor equality actually aren’t motivated by hatred or animus. Prejudice, presumption, and apathy are probably more to blame.
But while I am not calling Brian or Maggie names or accusing them of being bigots or homophobes, this particular mailer seeks to do nothing other than to appeal to hatred and fear. This mailer is, without question, bigoted and homophobic.
World Net Daily officially endorses homophobia and anti-gay slurs
July 15th, 2010
This hardly counts as news; World Net Daily makes no bones about being virulently anti-gay. However, most anti-gays make at least a shallow attempt to say, “we don’t hate” and try to keep their language – in public – from including the worst slurs.
But it looks like WND has given up all pretenses.
WND has a recurring “comedy” feature called News! News! with D.J. Dolce, WorldNetDaily Exclusive Commentary. Dolce, the wife of Molotov Mitchell, shares her husband’s contempt for gay people. But while he masks his animus in religion (he endorses the death penalty for gay people using Scripture), Dolce just engages in slurs and endorses bigotry.
In a piece from March (which I missed at the time) titled About that ‘slur’ leveled at Barney Frank …, she says
Speaking of whiners, Democrats are still complaining that someone used the “N-word” in reference to Obama and the “F-word” in reference to Barney Frank. Well, not the “F-word” … the other “F-word” …
Now one of these attacks is unacceptable. Racism is wrong.
And the other thing… [shrugs, smiles]
It’s been a while since I’ve seen hatred expressed to blatantly in public.
On the Limits of Schadenfreude
May 6th, 2010
So what does it really mean when, much to our short-lived delight, we learn that yet another gay basher is actually gay?
“This happens again and again, but do we ever sit down and wonder why it happens?” asks LGBT media expert Cathy Renna. There is the obvious chatter—the person is full of self-hate, is ashamed, is overcompensating to hide his homosexuality. But the true effect of that overcompensation can be dire. “There is an insidious and horrible impact of internalized homophobia. I have no problem pinning someone like Rekers as the kind of person who is responsible for the suicides of young LGBT people, and he’s hired a rent boy?”
…There’s another pop-psychology element to the delight as well, says [UC Davis psychology professor Gregory Herek, a leading U.S. specialist in homophobia]. ”There is this notion, one which I try to dispel, which is that people who hold strong antigay positions are always secretly gay.” Herek says to the extent that there is empirical data on the subject, there is no evidence this is true. But when people like Rekers get exposed, it fuels that pop psychology. “People get that ‘Aha!’ feeling, and take those few examples as confirmation of what is not usually true.”
Tendi discusses African myths about homosexuality
March 23rd, 2010
Blessing-Miles Tendi, writing in the Guardian, examines myths about homosexuality that are commonly believed by Africans and African-Americans.
The standard explanation offered by Africans opposed to gay rights is that homosexuality is alien to their culture and was introduced to Africa by European colonialists. A good deal of African-American homophobia relies on the same justification. But late 19th-century records on Africa and African oral history show that homosexual practices existed in pre-colonial Africa.
Gay hockey shocker!!
November 25th, 2009
There is shocking news in the hockey world this week. A young man who is the son of a team’s general manager, the brother of another team’s scout, and the student manager of his college’s hockey team came out. That wasn’t the shocker.
What has been surprising to me is that no one involved seems to have reacted negatively.
His team responds with acceptance and by trying to cut back on gay slurs in the locker room. His coaches praise him for his contributions. And his father, Mr. Testosterone, has him fly into town so they can go to gay pride together.
But it isn’t just those that know Brendan Burke who are supportive. The news reporters hoping for a Big Controversy were unable to find one. (Globe) The most they could come up with was imagined unspoken uncomfortability.
All of the players said it would not be a problem in today’s NHL for someone on their team to publicly declare his sexual orientation. They said they did not think a gay player would face any harassment from his teammates, although the topic was not one they were willing to discuss for long.
In the Hockey News, a columnist predicts that soon this will be no big deal at all.
In hockey terms, it will be very soon when openly gay students begin to try out for and make high school teams. Their buddies will have known and become accustomed to that fact and it will be no big deal. If openly gay players are good enough, they’ll move on to major junior, college, the American League and the NHL.
All of which is wonderful. And surprising.
But what does it mean?
Well, it certainly isn’t the case that hockey, or any other major sport, is now a welcome space for gay athletes. Nor are locker rooms safe from gay slurs or homophobic banter.
But the significant change that this story illustrates is that overt public homophobia is now no longer seen as acceptable – even in the most masculine of communities.
Gay-hostile comments will continue to trumpet themselves through locker rooms due to bigotry, religion, stereotypes, or ignorance, but the idea of homophobia is no longer welcome. Gay people may still be subjected to abuse, but as with racism or religion-based discrimination, it is no longer socially acceptable to openly and publicly embrace homophobia, even in the hockey locker room.
At times it can be frustrating waiting for our fellow citizens to stop making up excuses for discrimination and unequal rights. It can seem disheartening to watch yet another state give in to its fears and biases. But stories like this remind us that the war is over and we have won.
Yes we have battles to fight, and we may frequently lose, but our biggest obstacle has been surpassed. We have convinced our neighbors that it is a shameful thing to mistreat gay people.
And that is a shocking thing indeed.