Sunday Homophobia Report

A couple of wee problems this weekend.

First, some idiot New York thugs have been arrested for torturing a gay man. It’s horrible (New York Times). Meanwhile in Serbia, a pack of skinheads, apparently saying things like “the hunt has begun” and “death to homosexuals”, attempted to attack a pride rally in Belgrade. They tossed gasoline bombs and trashed stuff. It’s horrible, too (BBC).

Aside from being, obviously, evil, this level of irrational hatred and fear of homosexuality is just loony. PeopleĀ  harbouring this level of angry obsession with someone else’s sex life are not well. And it’s obviously a widespread sickness since homophobia is culturally sanctioned in most of the world.

Like misogyny and racism, homophobia is irrational and dangerous. Best to think of it — and treat it — as a symptom of mental illness. In these cases, criminal mental illness.

Author: Stephen Whitworth

Prairie Dog editor Stephen Whitworth was carried to Regina in a swarm of bees. He's been with Prairie Dog since May 1999 and will die at his keyboard before admitting his career a terrible, terrible mistake.

8 thoughts on “Sunday Homophobia Report”

  1. This is horrible. Horrible. Thank-you for calling attention to these attacks.

    I agree that homophobia, misogyny and racism are irrational, in that they’re based on ridiculous, unfounded fears. I have the urge to call these people crazy, too. But still, I don’t think that equating these things, and this kind of violence, with mental illness is going to help us to deal with it. People become mentally ill for a variety of reasons, but often, it’s difficult to pinpoint. Or the mental illness is caused by something uncontrollable, like genetic predisposition, chemicals in the brain, whatever. But with this kind of hatred, the source is not so mysterious or out of our hands, is it? It’s not difficult to see how the society we live in subtly and not-so-subtly supports, creates, and sustains homophobia, racism, misogyny. Better, I think, to look at those mechanisms to figure out how to stop this. Because now, unfortunately, it’s the actual mentally ill (especially among groups that are already targeted) who are disproportionately the victims of this kind of violence.

  2. Thanks for the comment JB. One thing I think you’re getting at (correct me if I’m wrong) is that since there are broad economic and social factors in play with homophobia and since the people victimized by it should obviously be everyone’s top concern, labeling it “crazy’ oversimplifies the problem and distracts from possible solutions.

    You might well be extremely correct.

    But homophobia still looks clinically kookoo to me.

  3. Yeah, I’m with JB on this one. I’m uncomfortable with chalking homophobia up to a misfire in someone’s personal psychology.

    I think saying as such is an insult to the “clinically kookoo.” And I don’t like how it kind of washes away a bit of personal culpability.

  4. Stephen–Yeah, exactly. Even though my first reaction to a lot of these events is “ugh, batshit crazies at it again,” I’m starting to think that my equation of “irrational” and “totally f’d up and wrong” with “insane” is iffy (Which is why I have some issues with Jon Stewart’s “restoring sanity” initiative. But that’s a topic for another day).

    Like Paul says, it doesn’t quite let us get at what’s causing this stuff to happen. Anyway, I’ll let you know if I come up with a better metaphor…

  5. The other problem with dismissing mass homophobia as “crazy” is that it misses the deeper analysis that economic elites promote use homophobia in a number of ways to advance other, similarly odious agendae.

    For example, the so-called Institute for Religion and Democracy, which has used “the gay agenda” as a wedge to marginalize the progressive voices of mainstream religious denomiinations in the United States to ensure that the dominant religious voices in the public sphere consistently enforce a reactionary political and economic ideology. In the case of the Episcopal Church, this has meant the IRD funding and promoting homophobic messages in the two-thirds world, leading to legislative initiatives like the (lapsed) Nigerian legislation to jail anyone who opposes homophobia or the (current) Ugandan bill to execute those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality.”

    This stuff may look crazy. In fact, it is pure evil.

  6. Bang on, gentlemen. Labelling such behaviour as evidence of “mental illness” takes away the element of personal responsibility for one’s actions, and, while we’re at it, smacks far too much of the former Soviet Union’s approach to “aberrant behaviours”, such as political dissent.

  7. Stephen: It wasn’t so long ago that homosexuality itself was considered a mental illness. Just sayin’.

  8. Yes — thanks for bringing that up Rosie. I wanted to work something smug about psychiatry historically pathologizing “gay” into my post but it didn’t happen. I like the symmetry though: if you accept my lame, armchair shrink diagnosis that gay-bashers are nuts then the kookoo’s on the other foot now.

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