I’m not homophobic, but gays don’t deserve equal rites!
Some of the rhetoric around equal marriage has been pretty offensive, but all too often the people speaking don’t think they’re being homophobic. Here are three examples of statements where the person is trying to distance themselves from homophobia whilst simultaneously making homophobic arguments.
“I’m not homophobic, I’m in favour of traditional marriage,” appears to be the phrase of choice for people avoiding taking responsibility for their words.
The problem is, this cannot possibly be true. “Traditional marriage” (assuming we mean the modern institution, as opposed to biblical traditional marriage) excludes same sex couples. “Traditional marriage” is therefore homophobic.
Following the logic, if statement A (“traditional marriage” is homophobic) is true then statement B (people who want to maintain “traditional marriage” are acting in a homophobic manner) must also be true.
“Registrars should be able to opt out of marrying gays if they object on moral grounds,” sounds superficially appealing, until you examine it in more depth.
First, whose morals carry greater weight in this scenario? The morals of the public servant or the morals of the people planning to get married? If my morals say, “you must marry me and my partner,” then aren’t we caught between a rock and a hard place?
Second, presumably we would also extend this right to refuse to registrars who object “on moral grounds” to marrying couples in which one partner is black and the other white? If we don’t approve of racist refusal, why should we accept homophobic refusal?
This argument fails to appreciate the role of a public servant to undertake duties and execute policy as decided by the state. Either registrars marry people (regardless of gender or ethnicity), or they find another job.
“Won’t some body think about the children? Who will explain same sex love to them?” This is only an issue if you see same sex love as something unnatural, which needs more of an explanation than heterosexual relationships.
What’s happening here is that you’re projecting your expectations of what’s normal and right onto your children. If you genuinely can’t say to your child, “some boys love girls, some girls love boys, some boys love boys, some girls love girls, some boys love boys and girls, some girls love girls and boys,” then you should probably think twice about having children.
There’s a common misconception that because homophobia in its root meant “fear of lesbians and gays” that if one says “I’m not afraid of them” that one is side-stepping an accusation. The reality is that homophobia is denying equality, visibility and recourse to people in, or people who desire, same sex relationships.
And homophobia, like racism, can occur at the individual, institutional or cultural level. If you choose to exclude gay people from an institution like marriage, it’s institutional homophobia. If you back that up with phrases like “aggressive homosexual community” that’s personal homophobia. And if society fails to challenge that – and frankly the absence of balance in reporting has been shameful – that’s cultural homophobia.
And I’m not afraid to call you out on it, however much padding you put around your words.
There’s more on homophobia in rhetoric in the ebook How They See Us: Unmasking the Religious Right War on Gay America. You should also follow @homophobes on Twitter for examples if your blood pressure can take it.