Homophobia: The Worst disease

March 24, 2011 at 10:56 pm (Uncategorized)

So sang Chumbawamba on their 1995 album Anarchy:  “Love who you want to love and love who you please.” (Actually, if you’re interested in the song, the Anarchy version has a fairly downbeat style; the one to seek out is the live recording on the Showbusiness album, which is faster and celebratory in its discussion of sexual orientation).

But I digress, the immediate reason for this post  is a few nights back, I was flipping channels when I came across an episode of the Royal Canadian Air Farce on the Comedy Channel. For those who don’t know, the Air Farce is a rather toothless CBC comedy which satirizes  current events. A faux newsreader reported that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had announced he was a big fan of High School Musical, having seen it more times than he could remember. The commentator concluded that Harper was the biggest fan of musicals in Canada who isn’t in favour of gay marriage.

Let’s leave aside the mildly homophobic thrust of the joke, and think about that for a moment. Just what it is about homosexuality and gay marriage that provokes such a strong response?

Last year the Halton-Peel Separate School Board banned the Gay-Straight Alliance from its schools. When the board chair was challenged about this matter, he defended himself with references to Nazism and Sodom and Gomorrah. On Tuesday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty suggested that  publicly funded schools should toe the line when it comes to equality issues, even though he stopped short of condemning the Catholic board’s policies.

But what was fairly low-key in  its Canadian incarnation is sinister elsewhere. Last year a Ugandan newspaper called Rolling Stone  (no connection to the US music magazine) published names of gays in its paper warning they were “recruiting your children” and headlining “Hang Them”. When a leading gay activist in Uganda was found beaten to death, the editors of the paper (and the American evangelists who visited Uganda with anti-gay messages) shrugged their shoulders and denied any responsibility, but it’s hard to belive they felt sorry.

I have to confess I don’t really understand the repugnance and violence that homosexuality is capable of inciting. I’ve been married for 15 years, and I suspect if I were to marry again, it would likely be to a woman. That said, why should I really care if two men want to be married? Or two women? (Although lesbianism has always been slightly more acceptable to society in general anyway)

Patriarchy makes a certain amount of sense. Well, nonsense really, but there is a certain material basis for it: Women as property and a need to control in Denise Mina’s memorable phrase women’s “big leaky bodies” has a logical (illogical?) consistency. Homophobia less so, especially given the prevalence and acceptance of it during earlier human societies.  

Given the virulent dislike by some, gay rights movements often gained a  leftist reputation which they did not entirely deserve. When the Gay Pride parades started in Toronto, a certain percentage of those who participated argued that homosexuality in its very nature was a revolutionary act because it threatened the dominance of heterosexual society.  Within a decade, pride organizers were forcing those leftists who showed up to sell papers out of the parade, arguing that this wasn’t about politics (yes, I had exactly that conversation). Nowadays, gay pride pumps millions of dollars into Toronto’s economy and politicians of all politics stripes vie for prominent positions at the parade.

It’s quite surprising how even that mild leftist character was recuperated.

But then, a  hole is a hole.

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1 Comment

  1. fischerzed said,

    Hmm. I got a hit on this page today, and re-read the post. Interestingly, a few months after I wrote this Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford, who many already suspected of homophobia, ducked out of the Gay Pride festivities, citing family committments at the cottage. “Family values,” of course, being the watch-word of many anti-gay groups. It just goes to show.

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