Over the past few years it’s come in vogue to make the statement, “I’m not homophobic. I’m not afraid of gay people.” Without fail, a comment about disagreeing with “lifestyle,” “sin” or something similar follows. I’m not here to debate your faith, I’ll let others take that on. Instead, I simply wish to address why there is rampant insistence that homophobic comments, deeds, and thoughts are not homophobic. Just as the trend towards folks saying, “How can I be racist? I don’t see color!” is concern worthy, our collective tolerance of homophobia should be examined and changed.
Recently in Atlanta, Brandon White was exiting a convenience store and was viciously attacked because he was perceived to be gay because of the clothes that he wore. While I doubt many would deny that the attack was homophobic, still many of us watch our loved ones spew hate against same gender loving people. While you or I may not participate in beating someone who is same gender loving, you and I likely contribute to the environment welcomes such attacks through our denial of homophobia’s existence. On Super Bowl Sunday, CNN contributor Roland Martin came under fire for tweets that advocated smacking gay men (or let him tell it soccer players). A few weeks ago, Marlo Hampton on Real Housewives of Atlanta attacked Sheree by referring to Sheree’s entourage as “faggots” (she “didn’t know” the word had a negative connotation in the gay community and she made sure to immediately ask her gay assistant for forgiveness). And who can forget when Tracy Morgan offered to stab his child if his son talked to him “in a gay voice?”
In nearly all the above incidents, there has been a rally to support and defend these statements as unintentionally bigoted at worst, and in the eyes of some, not bigoted at all. Knee-jerk defenses of homophobia tend to place the onus on those who have been harmed by telling them to “stop being so sensitive” or suggesting that the perpetrator of hateful speech or act is the subject of vast gay conspiracy.
I’m going to say what no one else is will to say; there is a gay conspiracy. You heard me right; there is a gay conspiracy. Now many of you have been convinced that this conspiracy is to control the media, sway children’s sexuality, and destroy the American family, but you’re wrong. Do you want to know the gay conspiracy? To create an environment where people can live safe and full lives. That’s about it.
Gay folks are not going to come in the night and stop you from mating with whomever you choose. If gay politicians take office, they will not deny your loved ones the right to marry and access to healthcare because you don’t love someone of the same gender. I’m confident that gay people will never bar us from houses of worship because we are attracted to someone with different genitalia than our own and tell use that we are an abomination before God. I mean, why on earth would they do any of those things? Sometimes I think the greatest fear that people who don’t identify as gay have is that many of the social limits and hazards that we put in way of LGBTQ folks will be revisited on us.
I’m writing this post from a glass house. I am heterosexual Black man who navigates this world seldom having to think about being harassed for who I choose love or live under the fear that someone will try to correct my sexuality. My privilege allows me to make offensive comments about sexuality without suffering personal social consequences. Why? Because people rarely speak up about gay jokes, religious condemnation, and the hurling of epithets; thus, we co-create an uncomfortable and even unsafe environment for same gender loving folks. Why? Because our privilege often blinds us to the plight of others and there are rewards for making someone part of the ‘out’ group (no pun intended).
It’s easier to make jokes than have compassion for all our brothers and sisters. So many of us use language and perform deeds to make our lives comfortable while making the lives of our brothers and sisters just the opposite. While many of us can point to noteworthy examples of homophobia from the media, the sad reality is that there have been millions of occurrences that go unnoticed in our families, workplaces, and places of worship. No one will be perfect, but we can all take steps to create more safe spaces and stand for justice rather than rhetorically rationalizing away homophobia. When we collectively engage in this type of justice work the load is lighter and our community is better. Day by day we can build a safer and freer community and maybe then we can boast that we aren’t homophobic, not because we “aren’t scared of the gays”, but because we’ve confronted our homophobia.
Dr. R. L’Heureux Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York – CUNY. His work concentrates on race, education and gender. You can follow him on twitter at @dumilewis or on the web at www.professorlewis.com