Elevate Difference

Homophobias: Lust and Loathing Across Time and Space

Homosexuality seems to always be a topic of interest for researchers, at least in this day and age. Perhaps it is most interesting because sexuality is one of the most private aspects of a person’s life, and nothing seems to generate interest in quite the way that something so mysterious and private can. Homophobia, like homosexuality, varies in degrees of presence, and is often intertwined with the complexities of the cultural, economic, and political workings of the environment it finds itself situated. In Homophobias, edited by David A. B. Murray, the topic of homophobia and its prevalence is examined across cultures and time.

Of particular interest to me has always been the weaving together of racism and homophobia, which is discussed in the article by Brian Riedel titled, “Stolen Kisses: Homophobias as ‘Racism’ in Contemporary Urban Greece.” Ratsismós, which is the Greek word for racism, encompasses much more than the North American conceptualization of “race,” as stated in this article, in that racism is not restricted to a form of discrimination based on phenotype. In the context of the North American concept of racism and its history, relating racism to homophobia would be and is often vehemently protested by people of color. The argument lies in the views of many who are victims of racism that a person can more or less hide sexuality, while one cannot hide his or her skin color. However, with the linguistic structure of the aforementioned word and its encompassing of not only a race but also a nation or tribe—as opposed to a specific group of people based on phenotype—one would be forced to contemplate how one relates to the other.

In the essay, “The Emergence of Political Homophobia in Indonesia” by Tom Boellstorff, an examination of masculinity and national belonging takes place. Boellstorff defines political homophobia as a “cultural logic that links emotion, sexuality, and political violence,” and states that homophobia is often specific to geography and history. He writes that this definition was exemplified in an anti-American newspaper in Indonesia that gave former President Bush a makeover in the form of lipstick, earrings, and a leather jacket, equating him to an emotional transvestite. This was to signify the failed masculinity Bush displayed in seeking allies to attack Afghanistan, as opposed to a one-on-one duel with Osama Bin Laden; thus, by those standards, Bush was operating as a non-normative male.

Suzanne LaFont’s “Not Quite Redemption Song: LGBT-Hate in Jamaica” captures how firmly heterosexism is institutionalized in Jamaica, in that prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people are tolerated and supported partly by police and politicians. She states that there is a moral superiority held by Jamaica over Western liberal sexual ideology. The institutionalized discrimination of gays also evidenced by the outspokenness of Jamaica’s music artists attests to this held superiority and is reinforced with the continued support of artists that speak out so strongly through their music, even promoting murder against gays.

Homophobias is a well-edited collection of how homophobia is captured across cultures, time, and space. It also questions how homophobia—an exclusive prejudice against homosexuals—can exist as a universal form of discrimination, and how that discrimination can exist in various forms from political emasculation to violent attacks. Homophobias serves as an important collection of works with which to move past preconceived ideas of what one thinks constitutes homophobia.

Written by: Olupero R. Aiyenimelo, March 24th 2010

I enjoyed this, thanks :)

This fits in with a blog post I read on SoCalVoice about the Kill-the-Gays bill in Uganda: http://socalvoice.net/caucasian-voice/don’t-read-his-lips-watch-his-hands