Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Homophobia or Fear of the Different?

It is striking to see how some issues arouse discomfort in many people, especially when those who respond with anger are far from being actual victims, or even worse, are on the opposite side of the spectrum. The cases of gay marriage and adoption by gay couples will undoubtedly appear in the top spot on this scale.

Being homosexuality a common phenomenon throughout history, independent of the culture of the society, its level of economic development or prevailing religious beliefs, it is curious that many in the heterosexual majority have seemed right to make life miserable for those who do not share their sexual orientation. But sexual orientation is just one dimension of the problem; historically, blacks, women, Jews, Muslims, Gypsies and others have been the perfect excuse to pursue what seems to be what we really want: a society where everyone is exactly alike, meet the same standards, and where we are totally predictable. We want a society where everyone else is identical to ourselves.

In the case of homosexuality the exclusion ranges from the denial of the civil rights that heterosexual couples do enjoy, to consider it as a disease. It includes the public ridicule, persecution, and morbid processes of the so called "social cleansing". With a poor understanding of what the word democracy means, many homophobes hide behind the argument that heterosexuals, by being the majority, have the right to impose the social order they like and, therefore, to deny their rights to any minority, in this case gays ("you can't ask the majority to accommodate to open room for a few"). This argument does not take into accout the idea that in democracies citizens subject themselves to the democratic competition because they know that even when they are in the minority their rights will be respected. Our democratic homophobes seem to forget that detail, and thus they end up denying basic rights such as freedom to marry freely, to create a joint estate, inherit property upon the death of a mate, etc. That is, gays are not sent to be killed openly but instead are offered living conditions that seem to be aimed precisely at that.

Another position on the issue, which is often found, is the one of those who are comfortable "tolerating" homosexuality as long as they do not have to see a homosexual, to share with him/her, to have him/her as a neighbor, or any other act that would generate so uncomfortable nuisance. That is, they "accept" that homosexuals make their with their life whatever they want, as long as they do not engage with the rest of society. Later on I will go to other historical examples where people have thought in similar ways, but for now just think about the kind of society we would get if this were a principle that governed it and it were applied not only against gays but also against any minority.

But, anyway, if accepting homosexual marriage is for many a gigantic moral issue, what will be said of the adoption by homosexual couples? Then, the good father or mother within us finally awakes. Now the education of children becomes a great concern, along with their education, type of example they will receive from their parents, their future sexual orientation, etc. Since when, I wonder, so much interest in children for whom in any other context we would have not been interested at all? Why do not we care about the lives of children whose parents abuse them permanently? Why do not we worry about the example that children of criminals of the worst kind receive? Why do not we worry about the future of millions of children that go to bed every night without a meal? The reason is simple: because our real concern is not the children. They are just an excuse for us to get what really give us pleasure: excluding from our little world all of those who look different to us, and be content living in a uniform society, perfectly standard and totally predictable.

In that train of thought, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and trans-sexuals are also an excuse. Their sexual orientation, behavior, tastes, morals and so on, are not what really affect the rest. These people do not bother by what they are, but instead, they upset the rest by what they are not. By seeing in them something different, the majority feels uncomfortable and instead of accommodating them, asks them to cease existing or does whatever is possible for making it happen. They bother just for not being exactly like the rest.

But this is not the first case in history. As I said before, different groups have suffered exclusion from the dominant majority and we know the results this exclusion has brought: slavery, servitude, crusades, fascism and its various versions (like Hitler's in World War II or, not to go too far, Sarkozy's today.) In these cases and now the initial argument is a false tolerance with a number of limitations: special schools, limited rights, stigma, and so on. The next step is subjection to persecution and all kinds of indignities and even death.

The difference in the case of homosexuality is that the fear of the difference disguised homophobia has a powerful sponsor: the church, or rather, the churches. It is easy to see that many of the arguments against homosexuals have an important religious origin. In their supposed great wisdom the Bible and the Koran are totally opposed to homosexuality, which has served as grounds for homophobes in their rejection to any proposed civil advance in the rights of the gay community. But this does not seem obvious to many who claim that their homophobia is independent of religious principles. At this point it is worth citing Nietzsche when he resembles the Judeo-Christian morality to a poison that spreads throughout the body that is humanity. Once the moral is injected into society, the church is no longer necessary: the morality of the majority does the work, even if the church or religion are not mentioned in the matter.

Thus, the fear of difference supported by a religious morality is responsible for ruining the lives of people whose only difference is having a sexual orientation which is not the one of the majority. Is not sexuality a matter of each own and the duty of society to guarantee equality for all citizens? Are not there, perhaps, enough problems in the world like to be concerned about the existence of people who do not exactly follow the same model of life we have for us? It is time we realize that those uniform worlds where everybody think and behave like us will never exist, and then we will learn to accept each other in our differences.

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