Why is antigay rhetoric so effective? Why the antigay obsession?

First off, I'm a little reluctant to post in general forum.  I'm a gay man who has had many ups and downs, wonderful successes and mind numbing failures, losses and once in a while, a win.  I've been in love more than once, and lost it more than once.  life has had wonderful experiences, and terrible ones. I've experienced discrimination,  both overt and sneaky, and I've experienced support for my humanity.  

Despite all of that, when people start debating the origins of homosexuality, often with the same old "theories" that have been proposed for 50 or 100 years, it depresses me and sometimes angers me.  When people state, as happened last month or so here, that LGBT people should be "cured", it is as difficult for me to hear as if someone was told their gender should be "cured", or their atheism should be "cured", or their race should be "cured".

That prelude is why I feel reluctant to post in the general forum, and why I reluctantly will have some "rules" here.  But I do think it's important to hear what people think, and inspire people to think.  Also,, whether I like it or not, antigay rhetoric is in almost full season now. For the person who is not LGBT, or is not following politics, it may not be prominent, but every day I see antigay slogans, arguments, and rhetoric.  Sometimes it feels like being a fish in in an antifish ocean.  Even in 2011 in the USA.

The topic at hand, then, is the origin and usefulness of antiLGBT, or antigay, rherotic; why is it perpetuated; why is it useful?  How can we turn it around, so that it becomes as unacceptable to be antigay as it is to promote other forms of bigotry?

The questions:

(1) Why is there so much antiLGBT, or antigay hate in the word?  Africa and the Caribbean, Southwest Asia / Middle East, Russia, the US Southeast, the US Republican Party, US Evangelical churches, and the US Catholic church, are all good examples.  Is there an underlying psychology, or is it all the reiteration or old religious tenants?

(2)  Why is it so useful today, for politicians and religionists to use antiLGBT and antigay rhetoric to fire up their followers?

(3)  What can be done to counter this rhetoric and make it unpopular and ineffective?  

The rules, (I apologize for having rules but read the first paragraphs for why).

(1) This is not a discussion of how, why, or even whether, LGBT people exist.  Those discussions are elsewhere, you can search on them and revive them if you want.  to revive those discussions here is to derail this post. 

(2) This is not a discussion of whether LGBT people should have rights.  Those discussion are elsewhere, you can search on them and revive the if you want.  See #1 about derailing.

Thank you for thoughtful responses.  To give my own answers (only fair to do that), if overly simplistic

(1)  To be the "cloaked other" is to inspire fear.  It's like McCarthyism, the communist scares, even atheistphobia.  It's a human trait that is universal.  It's a bit the opposite of Jerzy Kosinski's "The painted bird", wherein a bird was painted and its flock seeing difference, destroyed it.  It's more like the idea of birds who lay their eggs in the nest of other birds, to be raised by  unwitting surrogate parents and push the "real" fledgling offspring out of the nest.  I think antigay rhetoric is useful because it creates a scapegoat system, possibly a universal human way of thinking.

(2)  Not much different from #1.  Politicians and religionists love having someone to scapegoat and bring together their followers.  Their followers love having someone to revile.  There aren't many people left who they can do that to.  It is so much easier than actual thinking.

(3)  I think it's important for everyone, everywhere, to know, face to face, LGBT people.  Once you know someone, as a real-live flesh-and-blood person, it's much harder to make blanket generalizations.  It might also be useful to show the hypocracy of antigay rhetoric and scapegoating.  In a world where catholic and protestant clergy are seemingly being arrested every day for sexual abuse of parish followers and children, mainly female, and for other crimes, scapegoating LGBT people looks more like an "out" than a real expression of concern.  (See multiple entries in Atheist News - it's mind boggling).

My hope in discussing this topic is to see how I should approach it with others, and better understand how to view these issues as they will play out over the next year.

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I would agree with the Nerd. I don't understand the hatred myself. It's a foreign concept to me. I try to show kindness and respect for everyone.

I'll give it a shot by putting my $0.02 in.

#1. The ideas of "in group" vs. "out group" have been around at least as long as homo sapiens have walked upright. Longer, I suspect, since other primate troops exhibit this same type of social acceptance/denial of members of their own species. And, how have us primate traditionally looked upon others not a member of our group? With fear. Fear that strangers not like "us" will take our territory, resources, women, and bananas. And, my own personal opinion, fear is the parent of hatred. Hatred is valuable to group leaders as a method of staying in power. Have the group fear and hate someone, or some other group by defined characteristics (skin color, ethnicity, national origin, religion [or lack thereof], or sexual preference), offer protection from the enemy, and you've improved your chances of your group keeping you in power. Worked for "W" in 2004 with fear of Muslims and fear of gays (still works today).

#2. Fear and hatred are as useful today, as tools of political power, as they were 100,000 years ago.  I tend to agree, but on a broader context of humanity with, Bill Maher.  He refers to Americans as stupid.  I don't limit that assessment to the mid section of North America. It's much easier to believe in a person of power, or supposed power, who claims he/she will save you from the boogeyman, than it is to think for yourself. Since this is an atheist site, religion is a prime example. Start with fear of death, offer protection from death (an eternal afterlife), and instill fear in your followers that others not of the group will rob you of the immortality of your soul, while at the same time taking your territory, resources, women, and bananas. For those, like me, old enough to remember the civil rights movement (I date myself here), the fear instilled among whites was that blacks would move in and devalue their homes, while having sex with everyone's wives and daughters. Similar thing with LGBT persons. In the 1960's black people had little power in white society, but had made some, albeit small, advances since WWII. Today, LGBT are (in my estimation) in a similar position. So, like the bullies we all hate (and who have existed throughout history), heap fear and hatred onto marginalized and powerless groups, and you get to keep most of the bananas.

#3. That's a tough one.  Though I see ultimate acceptance of the LGBT community as inevitable. There was an excellent work written several decades ago entitled The Anatomy of Revolution. While it dealt with major historical revolutions (English, American, French and Russian), the author made an interesting and valid point about societal change.  It's not the completely marginalized and powerless who affect societal change.  It is those who are given a small stake in society and want more, i.e. equality in society. The LGBT community is no longer hidden, marginalized, and powerless as they were prior to the Stonewall uprising of 1969. It may be 3 steps forward and 2 backward, but the good news is we're moving in the right direction. And, as Nerd said, the rest of us giving a fuck.

1) I think there are a couple reasons. One being, it's a convenient scapegoat (this ties into question 2, so I will leave it for now). Two, religious intolerance has influenced people for so long, so many have been exposed to these teachings of homophobia. Three, I think it's somewhat a fear of what you don't understand. I think some people aren't good at handling the fact that not everyone is the same, and they bring this confusion out as hate. This is true of more than just homophobia.

2) It's useful for those in power because it's a good scapegoat and general tool; so many people have this irrational fear, so when you are screwing up every other aspect of people's lives, they will just pay attention to the "Holy crap, gays exist!" The comedian Dave Chappelle actually said it well in a parody he did of George W. Bush, where a reporter would ask him what he thought of people saying the war in Iraq was just for oil. "What are you talking about, that's not important! Do you realize what's happening here? Gays are getting married!" This demonstrates (in a somewhat more upfront way) exactly what politicians and religions do. When people don't understand something, and therefore fear it, that can sadly be used very effectively.

3) A somewhat more difficult, but excellent question. As Pat said, I think we're on the way to being a more tolerant society. But it will take more people caring, and more people realizing that there is no possible reason for hatred, When people realize that sexual orientation does not change how human someone is, or when they realize that the religious lunacy is just that, there will be greater strides to a better society in these terms. 

These thoughtful comments are appreciated!  Im trying to figure out how to get through this election cycle without going figuratively ballistic.  I kept hoping that, as the previous generation basically died off, their successors would be more sophisticated and progressive.  Any more, I don't know....  but statistics look better for the millenials.

I think gay people are just an easy target. It's a symbol of something that the vast majority can't understand. It's a minority that is unlikely to ever outgrow the majority within any of our life times. Nothing brings the dumb masses together more than hate, and if you need to focus that hate and fear, you want to pick a target that won't ever become bigger than what ever group you belong to.

Sentient, I do think that as previous generations die off, their successors (while not necessarily sophisticated) do progress.  But, like evolution, the progression is slow, and can take multiple generations.  When I was young and sitting around the dinner table during Dr. King's March on Washington and the murder of the civil rights workers in Mississippi, my father used to refer to persons of different ethnicities by every derogatory racial epithet he could think of.  And the "N" word was very common in our household.  My father apparently forgot that during his father's and grandfather's generations, the Irish and Catholics (my family) were referred to by equally disgusting epithets. While his generation is about gone, there are still plenty of examples of that type of racism in my generation. Sit in a white, redneck bar sometime, and listen to them talk about the President.  Less bigotry in my generation than his, but certainly more than in my son and daughter's. And so it goes. 

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing for the elimination of hatred.  While I stand by my statement that "I see ultimate acceptance of the LGBT community as inevitable," new generations of humans will find new groups to spit upon and discriminate against.  It will no longer be based on being Irish, black, or LGBT.  But, to quote a comedian I once heard commenting on the hatred, bloodshed and violence in Northern Ireland, "You know, for a country that has no Jews, blacks or hispanics, you've got to give it to them.  They certainly know how to improvise."

I love that last quote.  I guess it's too much to ask for all people to give up bigotry.

Gosh.  I think for many people it just seems so foreign. The idea that a man (and it's usually men with men that causes the most strife) would give up his 'god given' superior place and essentially become a woman is considered an affront to manhood. Im not a feminist without a sense of humor.  The worst insult you can give a man is that he is like a woman or womanly.   Dumb azz sh!t if you ask me.  I kind of like being female.  Other than having to pee sitting down, it's a pretty cool gig.  Different but not better. 

Im ashamed to say I weird out over transgendered folk. I just cringe at people 'mutilating' themselves in order to be another gender.  This same act, surgery, makes me respect that these folks are serious and I will not take their struggles lightly.  I don't get frilly.  Im straight but kind of lesbo in personal style and grooming.  So folk who go from guy to gal perplex me. I'd love to have the standing of a man. it's not nearly as bad as it used to be and is mostly an annoyance these days.  

I hope to evolve on this issue. For most of my life I couldn't understand how someone could be an atheist.  I will not lie to myself on these matters and I hope I haven't offended any one.  I support equal rights for all people even if I don't 'get' it.  I have no malice in my heart.

All I can say is that for a transgender person the wrong gender-type body is the "mutilation" and the surgeries are corrective.  Seems like your heart is in the right place.  That's what matters.

I put mutilation in quotations for that reason.  For many it is corrective.  Just the idea of a knife near the parts! I wouldn't even consider a boob job.  Some women feel that larger breast are corrective.  I support their right but I question the social pressure behind it.  'You aren't a real woman unless you have big tits!."  As nice as they look they are supposed to feed the young-uns.  Why are you not a woman unless you are capable of but choose not to breast feed?

Scapegoating is handy for those suffering from self-loathing who want a quick injection of better-than-thou. Whomever the culture labels "other", especially if they have little power, will do. US culture is also steeped in anti-woman rhetoric, images, and song, which shore up a superior attitude among men. Regional minorities, such a Native Americans, Hispanic, or African-American serve nicely for white self-loathers.

To me the only cure is Partnership Culture instead of hierarchical Dominator Culture. In Partnership Culture one's self-respect doesn't depend on looking down on others of lower status. As long as children are socialized to internalize hierarchy, and depend on it for their self esteem, we'll find excuses to put down others.

Lots of good posts here, I think the first post (The Nerd) sort of somes up the answers to your questions best I suppose.

I would just like to say that the best way to get rid of the fear of LGBT is for people to mix, I happen to live in a country where it is perhaps easier to be gay then in other countries, many a teenager came out of the closet at an early age, and although some of them suffered bullying, they were not excluded. The people that made fun of them for being gay where often ridiculed for it, one particular gay guy at my school had a way of using incredibly clever verbal comebacks as a defensive tactic that made people burst out in laughter.

People are often afraid of LGBT people, I guess for many different reasons, but none of them are actually based in reality. LGBT people are not special, don't treat them different then you would any other person. How insecure do you have to be about your sexuality anyway if you feel threatened by somebody else's?

It's dangerous being homophobic around me, as I tend to enjoy making fun of people that are so openly and loudly. Ridicule is an excellent weapon against these kind of stupid comments, usually pretending to be sexually aggressive or to assert that said person must have had some bad sexual experiences with hairy men to explain his obsession with gay sex helps, anything really to exploit their sense of insecurity about sex.

My answer to question 3 would therefor be that it's a battle that needs to be fought in many local battles, mostly by straight people to educate people about other's sexuality and how it should not be a concern or issue to anyone but those people. It won't go away quietly, it needs to be brought out in the open and openly criticized and ridiculed as well as that it would take many a polite discussion.

Regardless or whether you accept another person or their sexuality, at the very least you owe it to them to tolerate whatever they choose to do sexually and/or romantically as it is not a concern of yours. It doesn't affect you or anyone else's rights in any way, shape or form.

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