Archive for February 15th, 2007

From Alas, A Blog: Race, Opposition to Equal Marriage Rights, And Homophobia

Sometimes, when I’m off on someone else’s blog debating something or another, I get a bit anxious because I’m spending a whole lot of time there instead of right here. At times, I also wind up writing comments of such substance that I think they’re worth reposting here on ABB. So, to allay my anxiety and bring my outside writings here, I’m going to start posting about debates, discussions, and arguments in which I’m participating on other folks’ blogs, drawing out a few choice comments and posts to put up here. In addition to generating some much-needed content here (whew!), this even has the added benefit of giving other bloggers (and fellow commenters) props and linkage.

So, to begin: Ampersand at Alas, a Blog recently posted about a New York Times article regarding race and attitudes around same-sex marriage. In the post, Amp asks, “So why are blacks more likely to oppose SSM — and gay sex — than whites?” Discussion ensues. I chime in:

Conversations like this about the racial nature of homophobia always make me nervous, because they often turn into a whole lot of white or other not Black folks hypothesizing about what makes Black folks tick. And that’s never a fun path to go down.

Not that such phenomena should be ignored; I just think it’s a lot more productive and a lot less prone to awfulness for communities of color to talk internally about how to deal with their community’s homophobia.

I also think that it’s important to note that, while these statistics may be true, the politicians and legislators who actually wield the most clout in determining what rights queer folks do or do not get are, for the most part, a bunch of white men. So maybe, statistically, a larger percentage of Black folks believe homosexuality is wrong and are against queer marriage, but that smaller white percentage probably has a lot more power to doing anything about it, at least on a legislative level.

And later:

I think the key thing here for me is the racial power dynamic going on when/if white people begin discussing why Black straight people, not just straight people in general, are homophobic. The conversation shifts from a discussion about straight people discriminating against queer people to one about Blackness itself, and whenever you’ve got white folks making assumptions, speculations, and pronouncements about Black people, you’re almost guaranteed to get some racism seeping in there, whether overt or subtle.

Another thread of the conversation focused on making distinctions (rather dubious ones, in my opinion) between moral disapproval of homosexuality and homophobia. One commenter, RonF, writes:

My point is that people are taking a term with an agreed-upon meaning and are using it to try to change the viewpoint of what other people are saying. Yes, homophobia is being used to refer to anti-gay bigotry. But it’s also being used to refer to other things as well in an attempt to make anything that’s even mildly dissaproving of homosexual behavior to look like anti-gay bigotry or worse.

My response:

I suppose that it’s possible for someone to believe that homosexual behavior is morally wrong and yet not be homophobic/heterosexist/whatever word will get you past your semantic quibbles.

However, far too often, those moral judgments lead to actual discrimination against and oppression of queer people, not limited to physical violence. (And, by the way, I find your reference to the “stringing up” of Matthew Shepherd to be rather insensitive, coming from you.)

Many people use their Christian faith as justification for their disapproval of homosexuality. And many of those people will act on that disapproval in pushing for legislation to ban state-sanctioned gay marriage, gay adoption, domestic partner benefits, etc.

However, that very same Christian faith also strongly disapproves of premarital sex and divorce, amongst other things related to sexuality and relationships. And yet, I don’t see those Christians rallying to restrict state-sanctioned marriage to virgins who have never been married before, or to bar people from adopting if they’ve had premarital sex. People who have sex before marriage and divorcees are not singled out as classes of people to be barred from partaking fully in society’s institutions, whereas queer people are indeed singled out for their sexual orientations and activities.

Therein lies the homophobia, therein lies the heterosexism. It’s not because homosexual behavior is prohibited in the Bible; tons of activities in which heterosexuals partake on a regular basis are similarly prohibited and deemed immoral, but you don’t see anyone trying to take away those heterosexuals’ rights. This isn’t about faith or morality, really; it’s about continued prejudice and discrimination against queer people.