Yesterday was IDAHO, the International Day Against Homophobia. I celebrated it here in Lund, Sweden at the Smålands Nation student group and did my Homo No Mo play to a packed house. I head off to Umeå in the North to do another presentation.
Exodus International president Alan Chambers wrote a blog entry in support of IDAHO (no not the US state of Idaho but the actual anti-homophobia day).
Today is the International Day Against Homophobia. And, you might be surprised to learn that I support this effort. Homophobia does exist. Irrational fear of those who are gay or lesbian is a real problem in our culture. While I believe we have come a long way, I still see true homophobia at work each and every day.
So, when it comes to the evils of homophobia, bullying, name calling, hatred and violence where those affected by homosexuality are concerned, I stand with all decent human beings who are fighting and praying for an end to the ignorance and ungodliness that cause them.
This is not the first time I heard an Exodus leader (current or former) speak about the mission to inform and reform the often anti-gay church. No doubt when an Exodus member goes into a church to give testimony of their dramatic deliverence from the gay lifestyle, in addition to depicting in details the horrors of that lifestlye, they do challenge some folks to think about gay people as not simply evil and sinful and worthless dangerous human beings.
Ex-gay leaders have confessed to me that they even experience homophobia at times within the churches they attend and the Christian organizations where they work with lots of straight people who either avoid them all together or treat them differently from “normal” men and women.
I imagine it gets confusing for some of the straight folks in the church when they hear messages about how wild and out of control gay people live in our unsaved state coupled with the exortations to treat LGB and maybe even T people a little bit better. This is especially true when leaders, like Alan, on the one hand state he stands “with all decent human beings who are fighting and praying for an end to the ignorance and ungodliness that cause” homophobic attacks, and on the other hand he publicly opposes hate crime legislation that would protect LGBT people (like it protects people attacked because of their religion.)
While I applaud Alan for taking a stand within the church and using his platform in order to point out the prejudice, fear and hatred that exists, in addition to the mixed messages he sends, I think he is missing the point, but then so many of us do when it comes to these issues. I spoke the other day before the screening of Fish Can’t ‘Fly and began my talk by saying,
Heterosexism has affected me much more deeply than homophobia.
I have never been physically attacked by a homophobe and only on a few occasions been verbally assaulted because I am gay, but I suffer the negative effects of heterosexism everyday. Heterosexism most simply defined is the belief that heterosexuality is the preferred, idealized norm for society and anything other is deviant, weird, dangerous and subversive. The people at Wikipedia put it this way,
Heterosexism is a predisposition towards heterosexual people. A related term is Sexual Prejudice, a negative attitude toward someone because of her or his sexual orientation.  This bias is not the same as Homophobia, but rather is the discrimination towards or against non-heterosexual behavior due to a cultural or sociobiological bias. Heterosexism suggests that the basis for this bias is not found in the individual per se but rather has a broader cultural or biological basis that results in weighted attitudes towards heterosexuality over other sexual orientations.
While homophobic attacks happen daily, heterosexism happens by the nano second. A young child gets the message over and over again in books, TV ads, teacher’s examples and even heterosexually paired salt & pepper shakers, that anything other than heterosexual pairing is just not right. Growing up in such a world, with virtually no positive examples of same-sex couples, queer and questioning young people begin to develope a negative sense of self and can even grow quite isolated and suicidal within a society where they do not see themselves reflected or accepted.
Heterosexual privilege in our society makes it clear that some citizens are more valuable than others. This not only affects LGBT folks, but also unmarried heterosexuals, particularly women. McGill University’s Equity Subcommittee on Queer People provides a list of how heterosexual privilege works. Of course most heterosexuals do not see these things as special privileges. They just seem normal. Ah, but if you are not heterosexual (or one practicing heterosexuality in a marriage or other romantic relationship) you sense the significance of these privileges. Here is the list of some heterosexual privileges. Heterosexuals…
- Show affection in public safely and comfortably, without fear of harassment or violence
Openly talk about one’s partner and relationships to others without considering the consequences
- Benefit from societal “normalcy”: the assumption that heterosexual individuals and relationships are valid, healthy, and non-deviant
- Assume that all people and relationships are heterosexual, unless otherwise known
- Do not face rejection from one’s family and friends because of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity
- Easily access positive role models and media images for one’s gender identity and sexual orientation
- Cannot be asked to speak on behalf of all heterosexuals
- Use gender specific pronouns when referring to one’s spouse or partner without discomfort or fear of reprisal
- Have automatic recognition of one’s spouse as next-of-kin in emergencies
- Easily select reading or viewing materials in which heterosexuality is the predominantly reflected orientation
- Have families similar to one’s own represented in children’s literature
- Raise children without fear that they will be rejected or harassed by peers because of their parents’ sexual orientation or gender identities
- Receive support and validation from a religious community
- Not risk being denied employment, housing, or other services because of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity
- Not be seen as needing therapy to “cure” one’s sexual orientation or gender expression
Standing against name calling and violent acts against homosexuals (as we are known by some) sounds like a good thing for a religious leader to do. But when a leader like Alan Chambers also stands against hate crime legislation and marriage equality for lesbian and gay people, it reveals the hollowness of his words.
True, compared to folks like say, James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, Alan Chamber’s words sound progressive and thoughtful, but words without actions, just like faith without works, and all sorts of fine sounding words without love are really dead, clanging, clashing gongs that do no more than distract and confuse and contribute to the problem.
UPDATE: Do you want to see heterosexism in action? I just read some comments over at Alan’s blog, and Mike Ensley, the assistant to Exodus’ Director of Student Ministries, wrote
The fact is, heterosexuality is innately superior. Only heterosexual partners enjoy the complimentary aspect of their physiology, and only they can produce children.