Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Monday, May 17, 2010

International Day Against Homophobia

Today is IDAHO (the International Day Against Homophobia). Although the principles of this day need to celebrated 365 days of the year, today has been chosen as one to bring attention to the psychological, physical and social harm that comes as a result of homophobia. If you are not aware of the damage being inflicted on the LGBT community every day then you clearly are not paying attention. And this hatred comes in so many different guises that often times when homophobia happens we may not even be aware of it.

Coretta Scott King stated that "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood."

The assumption by many is that homophobia is something only straight people are capable of doing and that it is usually carried out by one (or a few indviduals) against one (or a few) LGBT individuals. While this type of homophobia is very common, it does not get to wear the title exclusively. There are several types of homophobia - internal, horizontal, and institutionalized. All are damaging to the LGBT community and all need to end.

Internalized homophobia refers to negative feelings toward oneself because of homosexuality. Self-hatred, lowed self-esteem, and no value of self-worth all result from internalized homophobia. This severe discomfort with one's own sexual orientation is generally the result of years of social training. It can result from religious upbringings, misinformed communities or conservative parents. It is also the reason why we have such a high rate of suicide in the LGBT community.

Horizontal homophobia is hatred of others because of their homosexuality. As a result of internalized homophobia, horizonatal homophobia can come from straight individuals or same-gender loving folks. Horizontal homophobia can manifest itself in many ways including bullying, verbal assaults, physical violence and murder. And because we live in a hetero-priviledged world, many assume that these behaviours are okay. The reality is in many countries it is still okay to harass, beat and kill the faggot. In some African counties the rape of lesbians in order to make them straight is commonplace. And right here in America, hate crimes against the LGBT community have been on the rise for the last few years.

The final type of homophobia may be the worst form in that it seemingly gives the other types permission to exist. Institutionalized homophobia is the way in which governments, religions, businesses, and educational systems systematically discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Churches that vehemently label homosexuality as sinful or as an abomination fall in this catergory. So does governments that pass legislation that targets the LGBT community and strips them of their rights and their equality (i.e. Don't Ask, Don't Tell and the Defense of Marriage Act). When these institutions choose to exhibit forms of homophobia they are giving everyone that navigates within their sphere of influence permission to do the same. That is why I think this final form may the worse type of homophobia.

And again, this type of homophobia (institutionalized) not only comes from heterosexuals in positions of power. I personally know of several church leaders that preach about the sins of homosexuality and secretly live down-low lives, sleeping with the same gender everytime the opportunity arises. And in the documentary Outrage, there are several politicians outed that repeatedly pass anti-gay legislation but frequently have same-gender sex.

None of these types of homophobia will come to an end immediately, but if we contintue to bring awareness to them hopefully we will see a trend on the side of reduction. Days like today can help in that trend. So please find out if your city is doing something for IDAHO. If not, maybe you can be the one to do something. Start with the man in the mirror.

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