Friday, April 26, 2013

Reviewing the roots of "homophobia" -- it was all on purpose

At this point in developing some of my book materials, I thought I would review the “causes” of “homophobia”.
Things have really changed since I came of age in the 50s, 60s, and early 70s.  I think younger gay men in larger cities (at least from affluent secular backgrounds) don’t realize how it was a few decades ago, when police would raid gay bars in some cities and publish the “arrests”.
Many cultures (at least in the past, and in less developed parts of the world) have to place an emphasis on the idea that everyone “does his (or her) part” according to gender for the good of the “tribe”..  That means that men can collectively provide for and protect women and children.  The pressure is placed on everyone (except maybe the most obviously disabled) and takes on moral dimensions and is viewed as part of character.  Many religious teachings augment this precept.  For the “common good”, sexuality is reserved for marriage where the intention is to procreate and raise another generation (and perhaps take care of the past one).
Many men are less “competitive” than others are less able to function this way, with any sense of personal satisfaction.  But there is a “transition zone” where less secure men may make this cultural model work when they believe that everyone else has to.  The “mandatory” aspect of procreation does, for some people, give it “meaning”.   Harassment of homosexuals was necessary to demonstrate publicly that this really is “required” and that the “meaning” holds.  Imagine, then, how someone feels that he is made a second class citizen not for harming anyone or for what he has done, but for what he doesn’t do.  He must “sacrifice” to support the sexual “health” of those others (not himself) who reproduce and raise families.  Understandably, some people don’t want to live in such a world.  In some cultures (Uganda), moreover, not having children is seen as a “crime”, as terminating a “family”.

People do go through real pain to "change" and then find satisfaction in something else.  The contradiction comes in that they then need to see others have to do the same.  It's hard to see how this implies righteousness, but to some people it seems to.
It’s true, as one Midwestern prosecutor wrote to me, that some people need to reaffirm their sense of social “superiority” to others in order to remain confident in their ability to raise families.
Sometimes, as with gay men, a flip side of this “meaning paradigm” develops.  The external trappings of masculinity are necessary for “meaning” when one’s sense of satisfaction or “pleasure” in relationships depends on upward affiliation.  (George Gilder wrote about this in the 1980s.)   The result seems perverse, a kind of “body fascism”, and a disinterest in others who may be in real need.
The military always a lot of input into this value system.  Societies used to demand that men make themselves available (often through conscription) to share the risks and responsibilities of defending the tribe.  The military always said that it couldn’t allow sexual tension among soldiers – not so much because sex would occur (it’s not that common, and doesn’t seem to matter much when it does), but because of the judgmentalism that goes with it.   I definitely experienced that attitude from my civilian roommate at William and Mary before my 1961 expulsion.  It took the difficult debate in 1993, which first resulted in “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, and then seventeen years of the policy, for the military and the country to get over it (in Europe and Canada and other progressive countries, even Israel, change came much more quickly).   Because of the quasi-mandatory nature of military service sometimes (for the common good), overcoming the military issue was essential for all other progress in gay equality, as has followed now with gay marriage (and parenting).

In the 1980s, a particularly frightening argument developed within the “right wing” in some parts of the country during the early days of the AIDS epidemic.  Groups like the “Dallas Doctors Against AIDS” tried to argue that certain viruses like HIV could be “amplified” by certain behavior, and then mutate and pose and existential threat to all civilization.  It did not go that way (and there is a certain logical fallacy, if one thinks about it).  Yet, I was living in Dallas in 1983 when the Texas legislature considered (but rejected, only after heavy lobbying) bills that would have banned gays from most occupations (let alone the military).  This bit of gay history seems forgotten.  But today, one could claim that southeast Asian countries need to ban raising poultry near residences to prevent bird flu from developing.
Today, the “moral” debate of the past has shifted away from “private choices” to one about public expression.  More about that soon (on my main blog). 

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