Homophobia In America Essay, Research Paper
Homophobia in America
Homophobia continues in our society, urban and rural, which is apparent in Michael Lassell’s poem “How to Watch Your Brother Die” and in Neil Miller’s essay “In Search of Gay America: Ogilvie, Minnesota.” What are homophobic people afraid of? Do they know? Knowledge and awareness of homosexuality is the best way to prevent homophobia. According to Religioustolerance.com “Homophobia has a variety of meanings, including hatred of homosexuality, hatred of homosexuals, fear of gays and lesbians, and a desire or attempt to discriminate against homosexuals. The suffix “phobia” is derived from the Greek word “phobos”. In English, it means either fear or loathing” (1).
Gays, lesbians, and heterosexuals suffer from homophobia. Some gays and lesbians suffer from internalized homophobia. Internalized homophobia is the negative attitudes they have concerning homosexuality. It usually occurs more often in gays and lesbians who are unsure or confused of their sexual preference and those who have not came of the closet. Some feelings that they might be experiencing are the fear of being recognized as a gay or lesbian in public, self-hatred, and fear of not being accepted socially. “Ross and Rosser’s (1996) factor analytic study revealed four dimensions of internalized homophobia: (a) public identification as gay, (b) perception of stigma associated with being homosexual, (c) social comfort with gay men, and (d) the moral and religious acceptability of being gay” (qtd in Szymanski, Chung, and Balsam 34: 28). Some symptoms of internalized homophobia are depression, loneliness, trouble sleeping, nervousness, headaches, and unstableness of one’s self.
Many who suffer from homophobia believe they do not know any homosexuals, even though there may be gays and lesbians that they work, live in the same community, and socialize with on a daily basis. Many popular and influential people were homosexuals or bisexuals. Some examples are Rock Hudson, Plato, Leonardo da Vinci, Julius Ceasar, Alexander the Great, and Michelangelo. Homosexuals who live and interact in a homophobic society could lose their self-respect. They fear they will be ridiculed and not accepted by society, which could cause them to lose their self-esteem.
What makes a person gay? Does anyone really know? Is it genetic abnormalities or the environmental factors? Some researchers agree it is a combination of genetics, biology, and environmental influences working together that determines sexual preference. Studies suggest gay men may be homosexual due to a genetic link with a X chromosome which is inherited from their mothers (Dahir 30). In early studies the XYY syndrome, in which males inherit an extra Y chromosome, may lead to antisocial, aggressive behavior, below average intelligence, and homosexuality(2). This has been a controversial topic. If everyone had all the right answers, would it change people’s views on homosexuals? Would discrimination against gays and lesbians go away? Environmental factors such as culture, customs, politics, and religion could be the cause. According to Isay there is no real evidence to support this (Dahir 13).
Michael Lassell is a gay poet, critic, and essayist. He lives in New York City. He received the Lambda Literary Award for his books, “A Flame for the Touch That Matters” and “Decade Dance”. He received degrees from Colgate University, California Institute of the Arts, and Yale.
Michael also wrote the poem “How To Watch Your Brother Die” in which he shows see examples of homophobia. “How to Watch Your Brother Die” is a poem about a man’s gay brother who is dying of AIDS. The brother has to deal with his homophobic feelings when his heart leads him to California to see his dying brother. He did not know how to respond to his brother’s partner or what it was like to be a lover of another man. The partner emphasized it was just like loving a wife. He also experienced what it was like for a man to hold another man and his arms. It is ironic that he would experience homophobic reactions from other people, which angered him, even though he was having homophobic reactions also. The border guard would not let him bring illegal drugs across the Mexican border that might have let his brother live longer. Also, his homophobic wife did not even want to know all the details about his brother’s affairs. The homophobic funeral director would not embalm the body, fearing contamination. The brother took care of all the arrangements with his brother’s partner next to his side. He tried to remain strong for his brother, his brother’s partner and his own respect. Since he was able to remain strong and continued to interact with the brother’s partner, he was able to return to his family more compassionate and a little less homophobic. He felt more comfortable at home with his family where he was involved in a more familiar lifestyle. Many heterosexuals would have dealt with this situation in the very same way.
Homophobic reactions will also appear in Neil Miller’s essay “In Search of Gay America: Ogilvie, Minnesota”. Neil Miller, gay journalist and author, has traveled around the world experiencing the lifestyles of other gays and lesbians. He also wrote “Gay and Lesbian Life from Buenos Aires to Bangkok”. While traveling around the world he meet up with two gay dairy cattle farmers, Al and John, in Ogilvie, Minnesota. Al is the practical one who is living out his dream. John is the more sensible one and has a better financial grasp on the business of farming. John was the one who dealt with the veterinarian, the bank, and salesmen. John had a life off of the farm. He is a reporter-editor for “The Farmer”, a monthly magazine that covers midwestern agriculture and part-time news editor for a gay and lesbian paper “Equal Time”.
Al and John did not broadcast their homosexuality, but was not going to hide it either. Al and John both grew up on dairy farms. Al and John encountered all views on their sexuality. Some thought they were brothers, while others were skeptical, and for some it never occurred to them at all. Al and John had been active in local farmers organizations but this was changing due to increased awareness of their homosexuality. The awareness came when they took their prize bull to the State Fair and won. They began advertising their cattle in the Guernsey breeders’ magazine. They also placed an ad in the “Equal Time” urging everyone to stop by and see them will they were in the cattle barn at the State Fair. The number of gay and lesbian farmers that stopped by astounded them. John and Al were able to connect and interact with more gays and lesbians due to their openness. They had a group they could bond with now. Although they had a group to interact with now, Al still faced a distressing episode. A homophobic mother complained to the 4-H that Al, dairy cattle judging team coach, was gay. Al thinking of the kids and not wanting to cause turmoil he resigned. Ironically, returning to the farm helped Al and John to reconcile with their homophobic parents who were devastated when they found out their sons were gay. John and Al where the only children still currently involved in farming. John’s father was still farming the family farm and had not expected John, of all his children, to return to agriculture. Farming was an aspect in John’s life that his father could relate to. They were able to share ideas and support. Al and John’s relationship also became stronger since they were able to do what they wanted with their lives and was able to connect with the other gay and lesbian farmers.
Homosexuals for themselves and others need to come out of the closet and be more open about their sexual preference. They should just be themselves. They will be more self-assured if they can be clear to others, they are homosexual. In general, most people will be tolerant of them if they are up front and honest with them. This is probably easier said then done in a mostly heterosexual society. Finding a homosexual group they can connect with would help, as seen in “In Search of Gay America: Ogilvie, Minnesota”.
Everyone can support gays and lesbians by helping them obtain equality. Homosexuals should not be denied jobs because of their sexual preference. There are some intelligent and talented gays and lesbians in the working world. The gay rights advocates have a bill in Congress called the hate crime bill. They are also trying to get a bill into Congress called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). ENDA would prevent gays and lesbians from job discrimination. They could not be fired or denied jobs because of their sexual preference. Some states have already passed such laws except some were even on a broader scale. The states that passed such laws included discrimination pertaining to housing and public accommodations also. Same-sex marriages are legalized in some states. Same-sex marriages remain very unpopular for most of society. Thirty-four states have passed laws that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Gay advocates are trying to get same-sex marriage approval by getting laws passed in states with little objection and then getting other states to recognize these marriages. They will then get these states to allow same-sex marriages. Six times last year, the gay forces lost when it came to obtaining equal rights.
Help the community become more diverse, be aware gays and lesbians are out there and encourage them to strive ahead in life. There are ways everyone can support gays and lesbians in gaining additional self-respect. Everyone can learn to accept them for who they are and not isolate them. Do not assume everyone is heterosexual. If everyone is open and honest with homosexuals it might show, they have the same characters and actions as every heterosexual except for their sexual preference. Educating Americans to be aware and knowledgeable about homosexuality is a sure way to deter homophobia.
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