How homophobic are you?
On a scale of 1 to 100, say.
If you said “zero,” sorry, I don’t believe you.
Why would I say that? Because after years of questioning and challenging my own prejudices and attitudes, I’ve come to realize that I’m not likely ever going to be able to honestly answer that question with “zero.”
So what’s with that last couple of percentage points? Does that mean I’m a bigot? Nope. It means although even I’m very accepting of diversity in all its forms, even though I’m completely comfortable with my own sexuality, and even though I’m proud to know lots of wonderful people in the GLBT community, (including some good friends) I still have this deeply ingrained survival instinct that make me want be sure to include the standard disclaimer – “By the way, I’m straight!”
It’s sad, really. Our culture has so ingrained in me that being gay is bad, that even though about 98% of me is enlightened, getting rid of those last vestiges of fear and discomfort – that last one or two percent – is probably impossible.
What about you? Imagine you’re at work (or school) and someone says to you, “Did you hear that (NAME) is gay?”
Play out the conversation in your head.
Did you put “the disclaimer” in your reply? Common examples might be:
- That’s ok, as long as he keeps it to himself.
- So what? She’s still our friend, whatever she does at home.
- It doesn’t matter to me. You wouldn’t even know.
It’s too bad how often people need to put that asterisk on their own statements, because if you have to end your statement with a “but” then you are sending the signal ”ignore the first part of what I said if it would cause us to argue.” Even if you are still a little bit uncomfortable about “the whole gay thing,” you shouldn’t need to apologize for being (mostly) OK with it.
My point is that in our culture and in our personal lives, it’s easier to get rid of the big, obvious signs of discrimination and hatred than it is to get rid of the little, insidious reminders of it. Even unintentionally, with those little language cues, we’re telling each other “it’s OK to keep saying it’s wrong to be gay.”
This brings me to my own quest to get to 0%. A lot of my friends still use the phrase “That’s so Gay!” as a term of ridicule or disgust. Think it’s harmless? They are essentially saying “Gay is bad.” Imagine replacing the saying with “That’s so black” or “That’s so Female”. Why do we let it slide?
My challenge to myself, in honor of London Pride weekend, is to finally put my buddies on the spot. Several of these guys are dads, and I wonder, do they consider that phrase swearing? If not, I wonder if they have considered that their kids are listening to them say “Being gay is bad. Being gay is wrong. I don’t like gay.”
On the off chance (probably higher than many parents ever want to think about) that one of their own kids could be gay, I wonder if they ever considered what it will be like for their child to have grown up hearing their own dad say “What you are is wrong.”
Well, that’s me off my high horse. Here’s hoping I’ve prompted some head-scratching, maybe a little debate, and not provoked fisticuffs.
Happy Pride, true believers!