This Whole Homophobia Thing(10/30/99)

I don't know why I keep wandering back into this minefield but I can't seem to help it. Since dk has given us all a dirty look I will return to my seat and try to behave like a gentleman for a change.

I think the word homophobe is part of the problem; the word does in fact mean 'fear of homosexuality' and is thus a label that people will naturally balk at. Heterosexuals who are reasonably comfortable with homosexuality in the abstract resent being told that they are homophobic because they don't embrace the idea of redefining marriage and spouse, concepts that are obviously significant to them and that already have well-entrenched *heterosexual* meanings. The government of Ontario has recognized this problem in that they did not redefine spouse in their recent legislation, instead they added "same-sex partner" as another category of domestic partnership that will enjoy the same rights as legal marriages and common-law relationships. It was a reasonable compromise solution IMO.

Homosexuals did get the rights that they deserve and the politicans get to defend themselves from reactionary voters by pointing out that they did not give their unqualified stamp-of-approval to homosexuality. It should be noted that the legislation was introduced under duress and that politicans have the added defence that they were ordered to bring in this law by the courts. I don't want to get off on too much of a tangent here, but the courts in Canada enjoy a tremendous amount of autonomy and some recent court decisions (including this one) have led to a far bit of grumbling about "Judicial activism" and the need to bring the court back into line with the mainstream of public sentiment. Canadians are a pretty tolerant bunch but this decision was not a popular one by any stretch.

The whole question of who is, and who is not, a homophobe does need to be addressed. Many people seem to hold the opinion that so long as they do not actively discriminate against homosexuals then they are tolerant enough. People who would never dream of calling people *fags* resent the fact that they are deemed homophobic anyway. "I have homosexual friends, I work with homosexual co-workers, I treat everyone exactly the same so how can I be a homophobe?", they ask. The answer seems to be that they are not homophobes and that is true as far as it goes.

The problem arises when homosexuals start asking for rights which heterosexuals consider integral to their own identities. Any resistance that they offer to homosexual activism is justified on the basis that homosexuals are trying to encrouch on *their* rights. They see homosexual activists as a threat to their lifestyle. They are, quite simply, _afraid_ of what the outcomes will be if 'marriage' or 'spouse' can be simply redefined to include something that is the opposite of what they mean by "spouse" or "marriage". They are afraid of what homosexuals want to do with *their* institutions and are thus, by definition, homophobes.

So what they are really saying, when they say that they are tolerant of homosexuals, is that they are tolerant of homosexuals only to the extent that they are satisfied with the status quo. Well the status quo is not acceptable to people who recognize the injustice of the situation. If you oppose the right of homosexuals to marry than you are not tolerant of homosexuality, you are simply mouthing platitudes. The two positions are mutually exclusive; if you sincerely believe that homosexuals are deserving of the same respect as any other human beings than you can not argue that some rights should be denied to them.


that's my *serious* quota for today