No to ‘homophobia’

I’m sick and tired of ‘homophobia’, and I reckon it makes life harder for those of us fighting anti-GLBIT attitudes.

Why?  Well, simply put, it’s become a cliché.  It’s the first screech of those who are quick to take offence at the slightest hint of discomfort towards people of an different sexuality or gender identity.  It’s used to demonise people who may have not had the opportunity to have their fears and prejudices put to rest.

It may be our worst enemy.

It’s easily dismissed by those who would like to spread anti-gay sentiment, calling us ‘over sensitive’ ,  wanting to report us for having ‘opinions’ and exercising ‘free speech’.  It allows them to portray those of us who want a world where gays and lesbians feel safe and included as ‘stifling debate’.

In the past weeks, a consortium of GLBTI-supportive organisations in Victoria launched a fantastic campaign to raise awareness of the effects of bullying and negative behaviours towards people of diverse sexualities and gender identities.

Pop over and visit www.notohomophobia.com.au and check out this excellent educative resource for our straight brothers and sisters.  It encourages everyone, straight or gay, to report behaviours they find offensive.

And, for the record, the No To Homophobia campaign deserves full marks for including bisexual and transgender people, showing that the queer world is not just ‘gay and lesbian’.

But, to the hardest hearted, the intolerant, the abusive, and the haters – will it reach them?  Will it educate them?  Will it encourage them to curb their behaviour?

I think not, and here’s why: it’s that word ‘homophobia’.

Cameron Spink runs Resistance Thinking, a website of notoriously anti-gay Victoria-based fundamentalist Christian micro-group Salt Shakers.

Spink takes the No To Homophobia campaign to task in a blog post: The War on Homophobia.

He starts by describing the recent case of AFL player Stephen Milne, fined under the AFL Players’ Association’s code of conduct for calling Harry O’Brien a ‘f*cking homo c*nt’ . His first criticism is that the recipient of the abuse isn’t actually a gay man.

Of course, he glibly forgets that straight people can be offended by anti-gay behaviour, and that the slur clearly was designed to dehumanise O’Brien (because of the negative connotation attached by testosterone-laden heterosexuals to the word ‘homo’), as a way of sapping another man’s machismo.

Spinks makes no comment, of course, on how the comment dehumanises about half the population who happen to have a vagina.  But of course, O’Brien’s not a woman, right?

Spinks then mounts some very feeble slippery slope arguments: that the campaign is by the ‘usual’ GLBTI subjects; that it has government support; that the word ‘gay’ has been hijacked.

He claims his free speech as a so-called Christian could be deemed ‘homophobic’, leading to him being hauled before the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal or Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

He even says that anything could be construed as ‘homophobic’, subject to whatever definition is ‘concocted’. He even claims that casual conversations at work could have him hauled up before Fair Work Australia for ‘homophobia’.

Spinks goes on: “Of course, the other implication of this initiative is a reinforcement of dangerous behaviour. People continue to be encouraged to participate in unhealthy lifestyles by a society that accepts it as normal. It is not deterring to see this campaign. But these advertisements should not be left unchallenged. The Bible has a clear mandate on natural sexuality. When the Government starts to minimise the dangers and promote a sinful behaviour we cannot let it go unchecked.”

And that’s the point, no doubt, at which many readers would proudly proclaim that Spinks has a ‘homophobic’ agenda: that he’s ‘homophobic’.

But like many branded as ‘homophobic’ for their views (no matter how backward) – whether they are a politician, shock jock, blogger or fundamentalist – they won’t care.

In fact, many will proudly wear the badge of being called ‘homophobic’ with pride, boasting that their opponents can do nothing but call them ‘homophobic’.  And that’s why the word has lost its power.

Time to move on.

Instead, let’s call a spade, a spade.

Spinks article isn’t ‘homophobic’.  It’s anti-gay.  It’s  illogical and unthinking.  It’s intolerant, because of his so-called Christian viewpoint.  It’s uninclusive and divisive.  It’s condescending, hostile.  Some might say it is backward and even nonsense.

But it’s not ‘homophobic’.

The group that gives Spinks his voice – Salt Shakers – is not ‘homophobic’.  They are intolerant of gays, hateful towards gays, and should be exposed as such.

Stephen Milne’s behaviour, similiarly, was not ‘homophobic’.  It was dehumanising abuse on the basis of both gender and sexuality and it should have been described as such.

Let’s disempower ‘homophobia’ as a term, and empower each and every one of us to identify behaviour that is wrong and call it what it is.  If it is hatred of gays, call it hate and expose it.  If it is ignorance, call it ignorant and say why.  If it is stigma and stereotype, set it straight.  And, if it is uneducated, then let’s educate.

Because once we start calling things what they really are – rather than hiding behind a worn-out cliché like ‘homophobia’ – then more and more people in our increasingly civilised society will say no to behaviours which are clearly inhumane and wrong.

Maybe it’s time to stop saying No To Homophobia and start asking people to say yes to something: inclusion, human rights, decency, a fair go.

Maybe we can encourage people who don’t walk in the footsteps of GLBTI people to stand up for us, by saying yes to a better world.

One where ‘homophobia’ is eliminated by embracing inclusion.

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