Thursday, June 19, 2008

On Homophobia

Why is there such a vitriolic hate in some people against gays and lesbians? After all, people have all kinds of preferences, so why is this preference considered so hateful? I don't want to argue whether homosexuality is a genetic predisposition or if it is a after-birth preference. I only want to address the issue of homophobia. In many countries, including India, homosexuality is a crime under law. Why?

Firstly, it is clear that sexuality in human beings has evolved with reproduction as its function. The ejaculation of sperm in male orgasm and the menstrual cycle in the female are proof enough that sexual organs are to propagate genes by reproduction. Hence, the first charge against homosexuals is that of "perverting" (assuming they had a choice in the matter) a fundamental natural principle of the human body.

Secondly, since sex for homosexuals has no reproductive function, what function does it serve? Pleasure, of course. And sexual pleasure is anathema (hypocritically of course) to most conservative societies and religious groups. Homosexuals are therefore an easy target for the charge of sinful fornication and pleasure seeking.

Thirdly, in many patriarchal societies, young males are prized possessions. Their violation by elder males for sexual pleasure is considered a graver offense than the rape of a woman or of a young girl. If a young male is lost due to a sexually transmitted disease, or if he loses his "manhood" by becoming psychologically feminine due to sodomy, it is considered a great loss for the community. So also, an adult homosexual with effeminate behavior is considered an embarrassment for the male community in general, and one who is considered a liability and not an asset in case of conflict.

A woman who chooses to have only lesbian relationships is seen as an insult to the males whom (according to the males) she does not find desirable enough to have sexual relations with. This rouses much rage in a conservative patriarchal society.

Fourthly, there are various groups in society where cohesion exists because of the absence (or the assumption of absence) of sexual tension and sexual competition. Male clubs, fighting collectives (e.g. in the army or navy), female gossip groups (e.g. kitty parties), sexually segregated religious gatherings (e.g. in mosques, Sikh temples, Hindu temples, Christian churches, etc.) all assume that there will be no sexual complications in their gender-segregated groups. Once a person in such groups is known to be homosexual, he/she is shunted out because to keep him/her in the group will mean that others cannot relate to him/her as sexually neutral (they are also now the potential objects of his/her sexuality).

Fifthly, by the very nature of sex, one finds pleasure in mundane bodily fluids (saliva and sweat) and gender-neutral objects such as hair, hands and lips. This pleasure is associated with such fluids and objects because of the underlying gender of the other's body, and not because of the objects on their own. These fluids and objects are normally not considered attractive (they may in fact be considered repulsive) when observed in the person of someone of the same gender as oneself. Hence, the awareness that another person (having these unattractive or repulsive attributes) is looking at oneself with longing at some level, is enough to cause consternation and revulsion in heterosexual people. After all, males will frequently overlook a female's superficial attributes and have sex with her anyway because she is after all, a female and is attractive because of that important fact. On the other hand, it is extremely hard for a heterosexual male to tolerate, e.g. while in a conversation, even the flying specks of saliva of a moderately attractive male.

Sixthly, since society has established taboos against homosexuality at various levels, it is an open challenge to society and its stability for some people to rebel as far as sexual preferences are concerned. There are various taboos and restrictions on sex of all kinds, but one may still be able to hide sexual kinks insofar as they are had with a person of another gender. Having multiple partners is also permitted in various ways in many societies. But having a partner itself from the "wrong" gender is considered a grave wrong.

Seventh, since this is such a strong taboo, homosexuals grow up to have feelings of isolation, being repressed and being alienated. Sexual orientation for them becomes a focal point in their lives. "Coming out" becomes a big thing. Once out in the open, they wear their sexuality on their sleeve, as it were (it is debatable whether this is due to feelings of triumph, or due to an attitude of cocking a snook at society, or a consequence of just letting it all out after a long period of repression).

Frequently (this is only my opinion however, and I might be wrong), homosexuals seem to be very conscious of their sexuality, sexuality seems to occupy a large part in their lives and in their behaviour (more than normal people) and others cannot fail to notice it. Now even the so-called liberals, who have grown up to consider homosexuality as a tolerable form of behaviour, are outraged. It is one thing, according to them, to be homosexual, but quite another to be blatantly sexual, touchy-feely etc. even in normal social discourse. This is abhorrent to many who otherwise think homosexuality is in principle OK. This feeling, coupled with a guarded attitude lest one become an inadvertent object of the other's affections, leads most people to avoid homosexuals in social settings.

Eighth, homosexuals (especially males) are at increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS and an increased risk profile leads others to incorrectly see them as diseased already. Since most people are uneducated about the infection vectors of AIDS and other STDs, they avoid this high-risk category altogether, lest a handshake or the sharing of a toilet seat lead to some life-threatening illness.

Finally, homosexuals are stereotypically seen as flagrantly promiscuous and unwilling or unable to hold long term relationships, and this raises even more heckles in "normal" people (hypocritically of course). After all, they think, not only do you have to be "perverse", you have to exercise your perversity to the fullest extent possible, eh?

The end result is that homosexuals typically feel comfortable only in the company of other homosexuals. Hence the emergence of gay bars, clubs and such.


Anonymous said...

I have a gay friend...I agree with your observations on "homophobia"...thank you

Free-Fallin' said...

very very apt observations ...i'm normally not one to be prejudiced against something that's obviously a very personal preferance, and could'nt care less, because it does'nt effect me in anyway, but blatant flaunting frankly offends my finer senses. it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Unknown said...

It appears you have taken into account the debate on the question as going on in the West.There are communities like the pathans where gays have always been in large numbers.Secondly while discussing the sex question in global context it will be more rewarding not to mix 3 categories of sex,love and marriage.Sex and reproduction also do not seem to be so closely related today.

Unknown said...

Sex in humans and animals does not seem to go the same way in as much as animals go for sex only in the mating season.Hence sex and reproduction are not congruent in the human situation.

Harmanjit Singh said...

I agree that humans use sex for both recreation and procreation, but still one has to accept that sexual organs are primarily designed for reproduction. Recreation seems to be a later development, serving emotional and hedonistic needs, for example.

dadi ma ke kisse kahani said...

A little more research will reveal that sex is indeed meant for recreation in some species including humans. But social, religious conditioning puts premium on its reproductive utility hence homosexual tendencies ( not resulting in progeny)have been labelled as unnatural. The same applies for other tendencies like sexual love for animals or other species. They are considered unnatural and hence the very articulation of such possibilities is an anathema.

The collective disgust or ridicule that the hetrosexual humans display towards the homosexual humans is somewhat similar to hatred one acquires towards the 'other' in any form: be it religion, color, country etc.

Because homosexuals are in minority and prevalent/dominant culture is heterosexual , that specific gay bars come up, which leads to further alienation of homosexuals.

As for Homophobia, the prejudice can run deeper than one understands. Try calling someone a gay and the response of that person will reveal if the person is indeed homophobic or not.

Most of the times it will be taken as an accusation and a vehement denial will follow as if being called gay is an invective of the highest order!!

Harmanjit Singh said...

"A little more research will reveal that sex is indeed meant for recreation in some species including humans."

# I disagree. Sexual intercourse has reproduction as its primary purpose. I am not dismissing the recreational aspect, only pointing out that procreation is what sex is primarily for (as far as nature is concerned).

"But social, religious conditioning puts premium on its reproductive utility hence homosexual tendencies ( not resulting in progeny)have been labelled as unnatural."

# Hmm.. It is unnatural in some sense, as the anal orifice does not provide lubrication, is tighter than vaginal opening, and contains feces which can lead to infection, not to mention a complete absence of procreative function.

"The same applies for other tendencies like sexual love for animals or other species. They are considered unnatural and hence the very articulation of such possibilities is an anathema."

# Though I agree that these are unnatural, as in not having procreation as the objective, I consider consensual homosexuality as pretty harmless and simply a preference. Bestiality etc. is complicated also because consent is hard to determine and evaluate in animals. It can be considered some form of torture/abuse to have sex with domesticated animals, who are in one's dominion, as it were.

"The collective disgust or ridicule that the heterosexual humans display towards the homosexual humans is somewhat similar to hatred one acquires towards the 'other' in any form: be it religion, color, country etc."

# True.

"As for Homophobia, the prejudice can run deeper than one understands. Try calling someone a gay and the response of that person will reveal if the person is indeed homophobic or not."

# Firstly, what is the intention behind calling someone as "gay"? Frequently, such an intention is questionable for being malice or sarcasm-free. Usually it is intended as a slight. Secondly, to point out someone's sexual nature or sexual preferences in public is just bad manners (whether one be straight or gay). Thirdly, to tell two straight men or straight women (or even a straight man and a straight woman) that they seem to have something fishy going on when they hug each other or have affection for each other may be preposterous and may invite a defense.

Most of the times it will be taken as an accusation and a vehement denial will follow as if being called gay is an invective of the highest order!!

dadi ma ke kisse kahani said...

Anatomical sex, which has all along been regarded as a given essence to human beings, is taken as the starting point for developing one’s identity. Sexual categorization provides the fundamental basis for constructing one’s identity. Thus, human beings always feel the need to categorize people into different categorizes -- man and woman, western and non-western, and so forth. “The notion of “sex” made it possible to group together, in an artificial unity, anatomical elements, biological functions, conducts, sensations, and pleasures, and it enabled one to make use of this fictitious unity as a causal principle...Michael Foucault

Crazy Sam said...

Harmanjit, this comment is not specifically directed at you, but at those who try to defend their homophobia with your said perspectives.

[1] The gay-hating people should understand that the homosexuals didn't have a choice. They felt the attraction towards same sex just like heterosexuals felt for the opposite sex. Did heterosexuals have a choice on getting attracted towards the opposite sex? The homophobia makes our life arduous and forces us to live a closeted life. Do you think would any one "choose" a life which faces constant ridicule and contempt?

[2] If sex was just a mechanical act for reproduction, I don't think we would have been given the sense to feel the pleasure that comes out of it. If heterosexuals can have sex for the sake of getting sexual pleasure, why can't homosexuals have the same?

[3] VIOLATION OF YOUNG MALES BY ELDER MALES FOR SEXUAL PLEASURE IS NOT ASSOCIATED WITH HOMOSEXUALITY. Pedophiles are a different breed altogether. Please understand, a pedophile is not the same as a homosexual. This is what the gay community is trying hard to make others realize. I'm not finding fault, but if you analyze, most of the pedophilic acts are done by the so-called "heterosexuals."

A woman doesn't choose to have lesbian relationship. I say, stop butting in to others lives and see how much satisfied are we with our personal lives and try to improve it rather than finding reasons to hate others. Who are we to dictate others on how they should conduct their personal lives? If somebody is not interested in you, MOVE ON!

[4] If a person is homosexual, it doesn't mean every one of the same sex becomes his/her target. Just like heterosexuals get attracted to only certain people, homosexuals feel the same. Just because I'm gay, I don't get attracted to every person who has a schlong. If a person feels he could be targeted because a friend reveals his homosexuality, I would say he has insecurity issues regarding his sexuality.

[5] Stop picturing how it would be when two homosexuals do sex. Why do you even bother to imagine such things when you are clearly not interested in having one?

[6] Society is having too much time to meddle with others personal affairs. It's high time that we give importance to what is going on with us, rather than peeking in to others lives. Gays are not celebrities for God's sake!

[7] Coming out is in fact a big thing for us. We expect the worst things to happen when we come out. But then knowing that, there are people whom we care about, in turn care about us for who we are and that, they do not wish to change a thing about us to continue the friendship/relationship, in fact becomes a testimony of that strong bond. Don't you think such friendships/relationships are rare and it indeed should be taken as a big thing?

About wearing ones sexuality on sleave, not every homosexuals do that. I have met many gays and I haven't felt even one as "wearing his sexuality on sleave." It all depends on how you want to percieve homosexuality generally.

Don't straight guys tell each other in the most bizarre and explicitly graphic ways about how they wish to "handle" a gal? Don't you think it is a kind of wearing sexuality by straight men?

Sexual orientation and sexuality shouldn't have been a focal point in our lives, but it became that way only because people were intolerant and didn't want to see homosexuality in good sense. People wanted to see us as inferior beings just because of our sexual orientation. Equality then became a paramount issue. Homophobes first make it a big issue, not homosexuals.

[8] Every one who is promiscuous are at increased risk of sexually transmitted disease irrespective of whether they are straight or gay. When the subject of sex itself is considered as a taboo, how are we to expect educating people on safe-sex?

Continues on the next comment..

Crazy Sam said...

Continues from the previous comment..

[9] I liked the way you put - "stereotypically seen as flagrantly promiscuous and unwilling or unable to hold long term relationships."

Do you think a heterosexual relationship could stand a chance if it is being constantly subjected to ridicule and contempt from the society and when every minute of it is lived in secrecy?

And.. not homosexuals, but men are promiscuous. If women were as carefree, unrestrained, aroused and lascivious as men, we could have seen a different picture altogether on the heterosexual promiscuousness.

[10] Homosexuals feel comfortable not only in the company of other homosexuals, but also with the people who are secure about their sexuality and who doesn't make a fuss of others sexual preference.

Di said...

For C.S: Good to get view points from "other" side too.

It seems that as long as people don't express their opinion (homophobia) and take action, it is OK to dislike/hate gays, in their minds/hearts/behind closed doors????

How are you going to go about thought control? People tend to hate everything that is different (jews, blacks, harijan, women....on and on). As long as they don't tell me about it, throw a brick at me, I am ok, with whatever their personal opinions are and I do not want to know them either.

On Gays: I can understand gay-men but I totally do not get lesbians. So yes the thought "how-they-do-it" comes to my mind. So C.S. you cannot dictate others not to think about these thoughts :)

How about the monks in monstrary, men in prison? They indulge in the act out of need and lack of female outlet. Are they to be considered as gay?

Also I totally cannot understand lesbians or even gay-men (M.J, american idol guy whose name I forget, rosie O and her partner) fathering/mothering kids by getting pregnant or surrogating in case of men.

IF you crossed over, then cross over. To me that is hypocracy. You can't believe in gay life style and have me that is contradiction. How about adoption instead?

E.M Foster wrote a great book...I believe the title was "Howard"....a must read.

Crazy Sam said...

Di, anyone can express their opinions, raise their doubts and show their disapproval. I will not find it offensive even when a person finds it uncomfortable thinking about or being with homosexuals. Fine. But I don't understand why they have to pass their homophobia to others too, there by provoking them to think on the similar lines. Just because they don't understand what the people on "the other side" are going through, that doesn't give them the right to spread hate, judge or even resort to cause emotional or physical injury. They can't tell us that we are not worthy to be treated equally, that our rights and demands are irrational.

I was not dictating on what one should think. But if someone is detested when thinking about how homosexuals have sex, they can choose not to think about it thereby saving themselves from the hatred poisoning their minds. If someone is curious regarding how lesbians do it, why not find it out from the net. Google will be happy to help him/her out. Then again, if he/she does not like or comprehend what is being written or shown, spreading hate and judging others is not the way to go. Remember, live and let live? I don't think it should be anyone's concern what others do consensually in their bedrooms.

About monks in monstrary, men in prison.. People are having this doubt because they equate, being gay equals only having sex with the same gender. But then what about the emotions, the love, the attraction and the care that we nurture for one another? Monks and men in prison if they indulge in sexual activities with each other out of need and lack of female outlet (if that is indeed the reason), they are doing it just for the sexual pleasure. These guys will go the 'straight way' if given a chance. So they can't be considered as gays. But the existence of gays and bisexuals among them also cannot be neglected. And by 'straight way', I don't mean just the physical act, but what the mind makes them feel, and the emotions they develop towards the opposite sex.

I just caught one more misconception from your comment - treating the life of gays as some sort of a "lifestyle." So I can say that being straight is also a "lifestyle"?

Let lesbians get pregnant and let gay men use surrogated mothers. How does their activities affect your life anyway?

I believe you should read the cover story of the magazine, 'Yuva'. You are welcome to check out my review on it at my blog.

Anonymous said...

If you are going for any gay-rights walk/standin, lemme know. I will hold the placards and come with you.
About procreation and gays going out of way to have babies and my disagreement over it, doesn't make me homophobic, I hope.
Sorry for the wrong use of word like "lifestyle".
And I hope they make a movie like brokeback mountain with lesbian couple, so that I understand the female gay relations better. I guess some of the difficulty or confusion comes because I am a woman.
There were two gay women in my previous workplace. One was very manly. Wore pants only and had short hair cut and behaved lot like boy/man. She was also tough. Seldom smiled. Bully of sorts. Then there was another one, who was in my own team and most of us had no clue till she sent out e-mail that her partner was sick. She was old and motherly and nice person but always wore pants with shirt tugged in and also had short-short hair. I guess there is no gaydar...but there will be some curiousity elements....just the way I am curious about hasidic jews or someone in west might be curious about sardars-sikhs of India.....that is normal....not homophobic.
Public education is key. I hope all is not directed towards "having sex" part and over other things about gay people as well.

Anonymous said...


I did go to your site...and read your article and glanced to several others. Nice blog. However too many pics of (cute for both of us, LOL) boys/men!!

Should (having) sex and our being sexual be such a central aspect of who we are.

Gay or non-gay, is it always only about sex, sex and more sex? Does that define us, wholly, totally!

Anonymous said...

Oh parents (2 moms or 2 dads) make excellent parents. I have no objections against gay parents. My fairly strong objection comes from gay women going out of way to get pregnant and procreate. Why can't they adopt? I mean the desire in woman to have kids remains strong...then somewhere desire to have sex (with man) too must reside? Don't they go hand in hand? In my eyes that is being hypocrite(sp?). If you are a pure gay, then acceptance that you cannot have biological children should also be there.

Anonymous said...

'pure gay'...hilarious proposition! what part of universe do you come from to use such a word. Or do you mean that their are 'pure heterosexuals'.

Anonymous said...

yep. There are pure gay, pure heterosexual. Then there are bisexuals. Pure here means real. Not holy. Pure bred. Through bred. Not a mutt. Not in between homo and hetero....confused person. A real gay would have been more correct??? I wonder. Sorry my English is poor.

Anonymous said...

get a life! 'pure', 'real', seem pretty confused yourself. read the post again. The blogger is directly talking about the biases against homosexuals and possible reasons/solutions to understanding the alternative sexuality.

Anonymous said...

my, my....that is heterophobia for sure!