I touched on this briefly in my Aug. 30 discussion of Milk, but I want to explore it further. Why is homophobia still socially acceptable? Why is it okay to express anti-gay opinions in a public forum? I see it on a weekly, if not daily, basis: people casually talking about how they don’t want to see gays on TV, how gays should just go kiss on their own channel. “It’s disgusting.” “It’s unnatural.” “The Bible says it’s wrong.” People don’t think twice about putting these opinions out there. And the irony is that a lot of times these are people who, if asked if they’re racist, might gasp and say, “Of course not!” And, yet, all you have to is replace the words and it’s the same exact display of ignorance. “I don’t want to see blacks and interracial couples on TV.” “They should kiss on their own channel.” “They’re disgusting.” “It’s unnatural.”
Why don’t more people acknowledge that? Is it because linguistically it’s a “phobia” and not an “ism” like racism or sexism that implies hate? Is it because you’re allowed to be “afraid” of the unknown as long as you don’t translate that fear into violence? Is it because we, as a society, are obsessed with what goes on in people’s bedrooms? Is it because we are so careful to tiptoe around religious freedom that we allow people to use their holy books as their shield for their bigotry? Like, “Oh, they’re not gay-bashing anyone, they’re just being a good Christian/Hindu/Muslim, etc.”?
Intolerance should not be excused because it hasn’t led person x to violence. Homophobia is virulent and dangerous in any form. Because you’re defining a person by one thing: their sexuality. Just like boiling down someone else to their skin color or their religion. The minute you stop seeing someone as a living, breathing person and only view them as The Gay, The Black, The Hindu…you’re treading on dangerous ground. It’s easier to hate an abstract Other, to dismiss it as feeling-less, and unequal and undeserving of rights. (Which is bitterly ironic, given much of this country’s stance on giving the abstract potential of The Baby equal rights.)
Sometimes I really just ache at how the Civil Rights Movement is not seen as a fight that should apply to the LGBT community as well.
Decades ago (and, sadly, still in the present day), people believed someone like me shouldn’t work in my current industry — both because I’m a woman and because I’m of Indian origin and have a funny “furren” last name. People like me belong at home, married and subservient, working in a motel or busing tables at a restaurant. Insert your stupid stereotype here. But here I am. I have a voice. I have a face. Thousands of people across the country have heard me, seen me, and I am not invisible. And, yet, some readers send us mail that says “Dear Sirs.” (We have more Madams than Sirs.) And some say, “I’m so glad they killed off that Korean. I want real Americans on my soap.” And others write in telling us that they’ll stop watching if soaps continue to focus on those perverted, disgusting gays.
Women work in publishing. People of color work in publishing. East Asians, Hindus and Jews and Muslims work in publishing. And, yes, gays work in publishing, too. And in every other industry. (Hello, Hollywood!) We post on the message boards alongside you. We sit next to you on the subway. We pass you on the sidewalk. Are people really so naive as to think that everyone, everywhere, is exactly like them? Do people not think before they drop a letter in the mail or hit “post” on a Web site? Who do they think reads these diatribes — their fellow bigots?
It truly disappoints me that casual prejudice and intolerance is waved away, shrugged off and seen as commonplace. Why is hatred something we shall likely never overcome?