Personal Encounter with Homophobia

I have encountered many instances of direct hateful homophobia, but I am not interested in discussing these situations because they are so common and frequently talked about.  I find internalized and systematic homophobia much more worthy of discussion because it really shows how deeply ingrained these feelings of hatred are.

I have a friend who holds very progressive views about social issues and has a very low tolerance threshold when people speak against LGBT equality; however, he is also very homophobic himself. ¬†I find this interesting because while he strongly advocates equality and acceptance, he doesn’t even realize that he does and says things that are extremely offensive. ¬†Everyone who lives in my house is queer and a lot of the people that come over regularly are also queer. ¬†This makes my friend extremely uncomfortable and whenever he comes over we stay in my room and he avoids interacting with my room mates as much as possible.

My queer friends have jokingly called this friend attractive which is when his homophobia becomes most apparent. ¬†After finding out that a queer man finds him attractive he will start ranting about how disgusting it is and will ask “what’s wrong” with whoever complimented him. ¬†Whenever he says stuff like this I will point out to him that he never reacts that way when a girl finds him attractive and he justifies it by saying that “it’s different.” ¬†He doesn’t see how this is offensive and I find this form of homophobia much more interesting because it makes me realize how deeply ingrained these feelings of hatred are. ¬†It shows how deep the problem runs and how someone can clearly¬†know¬†what’s right, but still have difficulty believing it.

“But First, Let Me Take A Selfie”

(Title a quote from the song #Selfie by The Chainsmokers.)

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I confused my roommate quite a bit when I told her I was going out to take pictures of cisgender privilege. While she understood perfectly after a bit of explaining, the fact that ‚Äėcisgender privilege‚Äô needed to be defined at all says quite a bit about gender in our society. While cisgender privilege is just as pervasive (if not more so) than white privilege or privilege related to one‚Äôs social class, it is invisible to the vast majority of us who do not identify as transgender or genderqueer and who have not studied these subjects.
Immediately upon walking out of my room, I found the poster in the first photograph. While I very much appreciate this poster educating everyone about the importance of consent, I noticed that in the first few phrases the pronouns ‚Äėhe‚Äô and ‚Äėshe‚Äô are used. As in many situations in our society, gender here has been considered binary, and other pronouns such as they or sie are not included (even though consent is an important issue for virtually everyone!) People who do not fit into this (incorrect) idea of a gender binary are constantly ‚Äėerased‚Äô‚ÄĒforced to circle M or F on most forms and ignored by signs and posters like this one about consent.

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After a bit more walking, I came to the Stamp Student Union, where (after a lot of searching) I found the gender neutral bathrooms. The sign is pictured above. While I had heard in the past that there were gender neutral bathrooms on campus, this was the first time I had seen them. Much like the ones I had previously found on the Towson University campus, they seemed confined to only a major building like the student union, and were not present in most other buildings on campus.
Still, this was a sign of transgender and genderqueer activism on campus, and I decided to see if I could find out more at the weekly Queer Lunch in Marie Mount. By sheer luck I ran into Luke Jensen, Director of the LGBT Equity Center, and he pointed me toward the trans.umd.edu page. I visited the page to find information about using a ‚Äėpreferred name‚Äô or ‚Äėprimary name‚Äô other than one‚Äôs legal name‚ÄĒwhile any official documents always have to show one‚Äôs legal name, many other college documents can contain one‚Äôs preferred name or primary name instead. While it seemed relatively straightforward for students to register their preferred names (they just had to fill out a form), it seemed a bit more complicated for employees to register their primary names.
I continued down the page to the section ‚ÄúSex/Gender Marker.‚ÄĚ While for the most part sex and gender are not listed on most university documents (like ID cards), those who want campus databases (seen by personnel) to have their corrected gender¬†must turn in official legal or medical paperwork in order to change it. As we learned in class, accruing such documentation is often unnecessarily challenging. In addition, the only options are (as usual) M or F, so agender or bigender or otherwise genderqueer individuals will find themselves without appropriate options.
While at Queer Lunch, I also talked to a student about transgender activism on campus. I found out that there is only one real transgender organization on campus, Trans U, and that it is one of the small groups of the larger Pride Alliance. I was also told that this is not always a completely welcoming environment, and that The One Project, which purports to serve freshman LGBTQA students (note that their A stands for allies rather than aces), is also not as welcoming as it should be, particularly to transgender individuals (and aces). Both Luke Jensen and the student I spoke to felt that while there are resources on campus to benefit the transgender community, the general public is never fully made aware of them, and so even transgender students who have been on campus for years may not know that they exist.
Talking to people at Queer Lunch about transgender activism on campus was a strange experience. While they did give me some information (or pointed me toward information), I felt as though I was also making them uncomfortable or alienating them in some way by asking them about their experiences. After reading the Serano article on cisgender privilege in its many forms, I worry that my questions may have seemed overly interested, and may have seemed too much like the questions of news show anchors who attempt to sensationalize and make a spectacle out of transgenderism. While I was only asking about organizations on campus and their effectiveness (not anyone‚Äôs personal lives), it may have seemed as though I was treating the transgender community as just something to write a quick report on and then quit thinking about. This is obviously not my viewpoint‚ÄĒI have been a vocal supporter of transgender rights for a while now‚ÄĒbut to strangers in the transgender community, I seemed like an ignorant cisgender person trying to¬†overdramatize their day-to-day lives for a class assignment.
Since I am certain that I will interact with many more transgender and genderqueer individuals over the course of my life, I need to become more aware of when I am not being conscientious enough, and learn to quickly correct this. Because when it comes time to take a picture of cisgender privilege, I don’t want to be taking a selfie.

Encounter With Homophobia From My Best Friends Perspective

My personal encounter with homophobia is what my best friend’s family went through. ¬†My best friend is not a homophobe. ¬†He has absolutely no issue at all with LGBT or anyone. ¬†When his oldest sister came out as a lesbian he was completely happy for her and didn’t care at all, but his family did. ¬†It’s not that they were “homophobic” for that matter but more shocked, disappointed, and a little confused. ¬†The arguing that had erupted from her coming out caused a lot of issues with the family. Before anyone gets any hate pov from them, it will get better so hold on.

The family had split views and it caused a lot of tension overall causing her to move out. ¬†There was months of not talking, months of talking, months of not talking again and so on. ¬†This went on for about two years until she finished college. ¬†During that time my best friend and his oldest sister would have to sometimes meet and talk in secrecy because their family resented the fact that she was. ¬†I would help him meet up with her whether it be by taking a bike ride with him to the next town over, or when I finally got my license to driving him to her house so they can see each other. ¬†Sometimes if they got caught or his parents knew they would flip and he wouldn’t talk to them for a while either.

The craziness finally stopped and I am happy to say things got back to normal though. ¬†After a family sit down they all shed their differences and accepted her happily without any problems. ¬†They even have had multiple family dinners where her girlfriend has been present and they all agree she is great. ¬†His family is tighter than ever and I have never seen them as happy before as I have now at 21 years old when I have known them since I was 9. ¬†Homophobia of course is more of the fear of someone that is gay, but in this case it was the fear of someone in their family coming out. ¬†I was right there throughout the entire time helping whenever I could because that’s what friends are for.

I am from a very accepting LGBT high school and my community is as well.  That was honestly the only big case I have really experienced and was apart of helping reunite a family who just had a huge misunderstanding about what LGBT is and now they accept it and are a lot more open to it which is great.

 

Personal Encounter with Homophobia

The majority of my encounters with homophobia occurred when I was still in the closet. They were usually not personal attacks, but rather homophobic slurs thrown around amongst a group of teenage boys. One encounter that I believe I will continue to relive happened fairly recently.

At the time I had been openly gay for almost a year, and was finally beginning to feel comfortable with who I was. One night, I was walking home on U Street in DC, holding my boyfriend’s hand. As we were waiting to cross the street, we heard a man on the opposite side of the intersection yelling. As we look over, we notice he is staring directly at us, but we cannot understand what he is saying. Finally, the light changes and we increase our pace to a brisk walk. We notice the voice is getting louder, and the man has started following us. As he gets closer, we hear that he is now talking to people we have passed, while still in pursuit.

‚ÄúWhat kind of a country do we live in?? Two men holding hands?!? That‚Äôs disgusting!‚ÄĚ The man runs around us and blocks our path, ‚ÄúWhy are you two faggots holding hands?‚ÄĚ Frantically, we ducked around him and ran towards our apartment. As we do, a man and a woman, who appeared to be only a few years older than us, witnessed the encounter and approached the man. From down the street we heard the man and woman scold the man for acting so narrow minded.

I was shaken at the time to say the least, however I have learned a lot from that situation. DC was one of the first to legalize same sex marriage, and is viewed as one of the most progressive international cities. However, some people are simply set in their ways, and refuse to accept anything but they norm he or she was accustomed to in their generation. The fact that a younger couple stood up for us gives me hope for the younger generations. As they grow older, the lines that segregate society will become more blurred, and people will stop defining others by race, religion, or sexual orientation, but rather, as a human being.

Fear of Homophobia

This isn’t a personal anecdote nor is this a homophobic experience. This is my friend’s experience with fearing homophobic reactions from her friends and family if she were to tell them that she’s bisexual. My friend, let’s call her Annie, has this¬†insane fear that certain friends and family members will stop associating¬†with her, will treat her differently, and/or ¬†will feel ashamed or embarrassed by her. More importantly, she’s worried she will be a disappointment to her Catholic parents. Her fear is not insane in terms of “she should not have this fear”,¬†it is completely understandable; it’s insane in¬†the level of control it has over her life. She’s told certain friends who she knew would have no problem with it, but with others she’s afraid they will judge her. One friend, she’s afraid will stop letting her come over and see her child; her parents, she’s afraid will cut off communication. Her fear of this happening is obvious that these individuals have shown homophobic behavior and/or¬†disapproval of gays¬†in the past or on a regular basis.

One night Annie told me that she no longer wanted to tell her parents about her sexuality. Though she is bisexual she says she would prefer to be with another female but because of her fear she says she’ll just settle for being with a male and suppressing her true desires. I know that I can’t tell her what to do but I feel as though she shouldn’t have to do that. I feel as though she should do what makes her happy and be who with who she wants. It upsets me that it has to be this way because she (and every other queer person) deserves to be with the type of person they want. The fact that these people, though they are important to her and matter greatly in her life, are unconsciously keeping her from being happy, is sad.

Religious Zealotry, Homophobia, and Statistics

A post about my lesbian relationships, interactions with religion, and why I don’t think the world will become a better place any time soon.

[This got long. I put it under a cut.]

I grew up with a progressive family and was surrounded by a group of progressive individuals–I’ve got gay aunts and uncles, my little brother is trans*, and I myself am a¬†gynephilic (only attracted to women). I had no idea that outside my little bubble of progressiveness that there was a nasty world of homophobia and hatred. These things were phantoms to me–I’d heard about them, but coming from the little bubble of progressive that I had been raised in, I had never experience them.

That all changed when I started dating. 

Continue reading “Religious Zealotry, Homophobia, and Statistics”

Week 2 post / homophobia

It’s hard to pin down any¬†one¬†incident that encapsulates what homophobia is¬†for me. I’ve never experienced¬†any incidents of overt harassment, violence, etc.; I went to a¬†public high school in Baltimore, so that was an extremely liberal environment. We had¬†a¬†lot of openly queer students and,¬†as far as I know,¬†people were relatively¬†fine with that.

Still, there was a less overt¬†type of homophobia present. When¬†straight students spoke about a queer student, you could¬†tell by the way that they approached it that was an “us/them” situation, that queerness was different and other. And¬†whenever¬†LGBTQ+ issues came up in conversation,¬†there would be straight people who had to¬†constantly reinforce the fact that they were straight. Every statement they made about queerness had to be prefaced with “I’m not gay, but…”¬†They¬†stated their support for the LGBTQ+ community, but also¬†made sure that everyone knew that¬†they weren’t actually¬†part¬†of the community (I write in the past tense but I still hear this all the time.)

But¬†my observation was that there was one particular demographic¬†that was more recognizably¬†homophobic than the rest of the student body, and that was¬†white¬†male students who were¬†involved in sports. I had a lot of classes with this one group of kids who fell into all of those categories.¬†In one of the articles¬†we read¬†for¬†class (I think it¬†might have been Pascoe’s “Dude, You’re a Fag,” but I’m not sure and I can’t find the exact quote so I’m paraphrasing), the author described how straight teenage boys¬†seem¬†to view homosexuality as simultaneously a joke and a threat. That was exactly my experience with that group of boys. They would hurl¬†the possibility of gayness at each other as a joke¬†(“whoa,¬†why are you doing that, bro, are you¬†gay¬†or something?”) but at the same time,¬†it wasn’t a joke, because they always got so defensive about it. (I guess that says something about the ways that¬†white guys¬†and male¬†athletes are socialized to perform masculinity?)

In short, I was lucky to have grown up in environments that were relatively accepting of LGBTQ+ people, but even then there was a perceptible distancing of straightness from queerness.