The Coastal Post - February, 1998

The Roots Of Homophobia

By Stephen Simac

A drunken, youthful voice assaulted and insulted me with a sexual suggestion. The voice sounded familiar, but I didnÕt look up. It was New YearÕs eve in a small town, and I was feeling too good to be drawn into someone elseÕs bad year.

After lies were about me and a good friend over a decade ago, some boys in Bolinas felt compelled to publicly denounce me. I confronted them one by one and they had stopped. ItÕs been years since the last incident; would confront this kid later.

Being slandered teaches you not to believe everything you hear, and who your true friends are, the ones who ask you if itÕs true before they pass it on. The Miwok believed that those who slandered you gave you their power.

When I was younger I felt shamed, reacted angrily, even fought over insults to my manhood. Fighting is stupid, but if youÕre willing to defend yourself, it prevents so much abuse. If at all possible, I ignore the ignorant. ItÕs obvious that they are projecting their own fears and desires-usually the vocal ones are of awkward ages and confused sexual identification.

While the face of homophobia in America may most often appear on drunken youths, these attitudes are part of our cultural training. This hatred and fear creates hazardous conditions for all those perceived to be homosexual, that is, almost any man who deviates from societal norms of what is a Manly Man. These macho images are as unrealistic and unhealthy as Barbie dolls are for girls

What are you, a girl?

When my mom decided that haircuts were passe in the late 60Õs, my hippie phase was a little in advance of the southern redneck norm of Florida in 1968. I was called girlish, pansy, queer, fag and hippie homo.

At the time my sex life was nonexistent, 'though that didnÕt matter-the haters were following a long tradition of labeling anyone different from them as homosexual. When I started dancing at 17, the abuse got even more fierce.

Pink triangles/golf stars

Since the Dark Ages of Europe, religious dissidents were uniformly accused of homosexual sodomy. The Gnostics, the Cathars, he Knights Templar, the faggots tied on the pyres of women burned at the stake as witches and the Bogomils, the bogey men, a Protestant sect in Bohemia, were murdered by the Roman Catholics, all accused of ŅbuggeryÓ and child sacrifice.

Hitler regarded homosexuals, drug users, Jews, retarded, insane, Gypsies, Slavs and their supporters as non-human. The general population agreed with him or kept silent.

In America, political dissidents were similarly accused of being commie pinkos or peacenik pansies. The technique is meant to invalidate and dehumanize deviants in the minds of the larger society.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors' ass.

The death penalty for homosexuals was considered moral by Old Testament Hebrews.

Many of the thousands of "thou shalt not" laws of Deuteronomy and Leviticus were legal means to suppress the religious practices of the Palestinian pagans. They were never entirely successful, especially in Galilee.

The CanaanitesÕ worship of the Great Goddess and her immortal son was practiced by most ancient cultures around the Mediterranean. Sexual freedom was the law and preferences were not rigid, to say the least. (A little like Tijuana when the navy is in port. And they loved to dance!) Official morality is determined by whoÕs in power, while the evil they do is state sanctioned.

Some historical sources claimed that Jesus, his apostles and the early Christians had indiscriminate orgies, that it was carnal knowledge of Jesus that Peter denied three times before the cock crowed.

The Christian story, from baby JesusÕs virgin birth, his birthday, his sacrifice, his resurrection and his promise of immortal life is archetypically of the grapevine or barleycorn type of cult, which believed sex was good for the crops.

Jesus new laws of "thou shalt love above all" was a graft of new-wine grapes on Hebrew monotheistic root stock. The bottling by the bishops left out most of the champagne bubbles of loving sex.

All male friendships are suspect

After millennia of official persecution of homosexuals in the Judeo-Christian tradition, homophobia is engrained in our society, just as racism is.

This pressure to conform to straight male jackets of behavior and appearance is reinforced by acquaintances and strangers, male and female, but it is even more strongly internalized by men.

Almost every man has been called a little girl, a wuss, a pussy, a wimp, queer or faggot at some point in his life. Even Manly Men can fear being thought of as queer or deviant, because it is the Ņinvisible plagueÓ.

Anyone can be one, and every one different is assumed to be Ņthat way.Ó ThatÕs why men have so few close male friends. No wonder men die of heart disease at such a high rate, they are so constricted and armored.

As long as this internal homophobia is in place, most boys will avoid anything which is deemed to be less than manly, like not jumping off high bridges when dared, or fighting when insulted, crying, even feeling emotions, using big words, wearing pink or even pastels, dancing, or whatever.

Since I was willing to fight, had older brothers and was good at sports, I got abused less than many kids who were basically tortured. ItÕs little wonder that gay adolescents commit suicide at four times the rate of straight teens.

There are so many narrow, regional rules on what a real man was allowed to do, that where I grew up unless you had a big gut, bad teeth and drank Budweiser you were probably queer.

The youth of today have a little more latitude it seems. When I was their age, an earring meant you were a sailor faggot and someone could feel free to punch you in the face. Now guys are piercing all over their face, and construction workers are ordering lattes from them.

Most of our assumptions about how men should act are culturally defined and unspoken. In Italy, men feel comfortable holding hands with their male friends in the plaza, but if they donÕt make rude comments to strange women they are not real men.

ItÕs hard to be a manly man, more fun to break the rules. ItÕs only a man whoÕs comfortable with his sexuality, whatever it is, who can be a little fey. You get a lot of attention, even if some of it is fear and loathing. ItÕs exhilarating to have that much effect.

Even after years of breaking all the rules, I have my own internalized homophobia, but when IÕm feeling daring, I sometimes wear pink. Keeps 'em guessing.

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