“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear.” 1 John 4:18
This isn't a blog post about religion, even though I've started it with a quote from the New Testament. No, my topic today is homophobia, as part of a 'net-wide blog hop by authors of gay-oriented fiction to raise awareness about the issue.
These days, any discussion of homosexuality seems to generate a lot of anger and hostility. The typical rhetoric tends to be militant, whether supporting or opposing the rights of people to pursue sexual relationships with individuals of their own gender. When a state votes to legalize gay marriage, GLBT activists celebrate a “battle won”. When a court rules that a gay couple can't adopt children, jubilant anti-gay organizations vow to “continue the fight” against the abomination of homosexuality. Either way, there's a strong tendency to consider people on the other side of this contentious issue as “the enemy”.
Now, I believe that adults should be free to choose their sexual and life partners without any constraints related to gender. I think that two men or two women who are attracted to one another should enjoy the same rights , privileges and protections as a male/female couple, that this equality should be legally guaranteed, and that the relevant laws should be enforced. To me, this position seems rational and fair.
However, I understand that many people on the opposite side of this debate hold positions based not on reason but on emotion – specifically, fear. After all, that's what “homophobia” means, literally – fear of homosexuals. You can't argue away fear. And treating someone who harbors that kind of fear as the enemy won't help change that person's beliefs or feelings – if anything, it's likely to make those feelings more extreme.
What are homophobes afraid of? In some cases, their own sexual curiosity or repressed desires. In many cases the fear is based on misinformation or ignorance. Some homophobes believe that most gays are pedophiles, and thus fear for their children's safety. Some subscribe to the popular but ridiculous theory that homosexuals are more sexually voracious or extreme than heterosexuals, and thus somehow obscene, dirty or dangerous. Some are simply afraid of the unknown. Men who love men (or women who love women) are strange and thus threatening.
Of course many homophobes cite religious arguments for their opposition to homosexuality. Personally, I think this is just a convenient justification, masking the underlying fear. And some people truly hate gays and lesbians, considering them subhuman and worthy of extirpation. Even that kind of hate may be rooted in fear. In any case, that's why legal protections for GLBT people are so important.
I'm not sure what sort of intervention is needed to deal with extreme homophobes, the sort of people who perpetrate hate crimes. However, for less extreme cases, I believe that the solution is love.
Love? Oh come on, Pollyanna! What sort of pastel fantasy world are you living in?
I don't mean love in the romantic or erotic sense, but more in the sense of the Golden Rule. To reduce the amount of homophobia in a society, anti-gay individuals need opportunities to really get to know gay people. Only specific, positive experiences with real homosexuals will be effective in counteracting the stereotypes and myths about homosexuality in general. The more homosexual neighbors you have, the more you enjoy their company, the more you see that they're just people, not some alien, sex-crazed demons, the less strange and “icky” the whole idea of same-sex relations will become.
I'd like to believe that in some small way, my M/M fiction and that of my colleagues can play a small role in helping to diminish the fears of homophobes. Of course, M/M romance has become wildly popular, even in the conservative heartlands. The fact is, there's not much emotional difference between a gay romance and a heterosexual romance. Both deal with the growth of a loving relationship in the face of challenges. The specific problems encountered by M/M couples might be somewhat different, but the emotions are predominantly the same.
Although our characters aren't “real” gay people, they're far more realistic than the stereotypes that feed homophobia. To the extent that people can accept gay lovers in our fiction, they're more likely to be comfortable with homosexuality in real life.
But what do you think? Am I overly optimistic? Leave me a comment and I will enter you in a drawing for a copy of the M/M erotic romance anthology Gaymes, which includes my story Crossed Hearts. Be sure to include your email address in your comment if you want to part of the giveaway. I'll draw a winner on Monday the 21st of May.
And please visit the blogs of some of the other authors participating in the Hop Against Homophobia. You'll find a full list at: http://hopagainsthomophobia.blogspot.com