A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘homophobia

[LINK] “Ugandan gay activists denied visas to World Pride conference”

I’m sharing Nicholas Keung’s Toronto Star article from the 16th of this month because, although it describes a situation since resolved satisfactorily, it also reveals a certain hypocrisy on the part of the Canadian government. How is it proper to condemn the human rights situation in a particular country and then make it difficult for people directly affected by this situation to claim refugee status, especially when the government has encouraged people to claim refugee status on this ground in the past?

Canadian officials have granted visitor visas to some of the Ugandan gay activists who had been denied a chance to attend the World Pride Human Rights Conference in Toronto.

The immigration minister’s office said the visa applicants were asked to resubmit new applications with substantiated documentation.

Half of the 10 Ugandan activists received visas in the past week, and conference organizers hope the rest will get their travel documents in time for the two-day international conference, which begins next Wednesday.

[. . .]

Ottawa’s flip-flop followed a Star story about the Ugandan delegates being rejected for visas over concerns that they would stay here to seek asylum.

The rejection drew public outrage because of Uganda’s recently passed anti-gay legislation, among the harshest in the world. Canada has joined many other countries in condemning the new law.

Calling it a serious setback for human rights, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird vowed when it was passed to “continue efforts to decriminalize homosexuality and combat violence against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

The delegates were denied entry for a variety of reasons: lack of travel history, family ties in Canada and in Uganda, and insufficient funds for the trip (though the conference is sponsoring travel for some of them).


Written by Randy McDonald

June 20, 2014 at 7:32 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On not being homophobic by saying all homophobes are homosexual

The news that Cardinal O’Brien of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, he who has made a name for himself in the United Kingdom and the wider world for a variety of anti-gay statements, has himself resigned his position after being accusations he of undue sexual conduct with four different men became public, resdonates. The man seems to have been a hypocrite, condemning a class of behaviours and a certain identity that he himself indulged in–and, worse, may have engaged in a certain amount of coercion of subordinates.

O’Brien seems to have been a hypocrite. Generalizing from his case to all homophobes and all homophobia–assuming that it’s all a matter of sexual repression–does not follow. That’s the subjects post of “Homophobes Are All Secretly Gay”. (Not.) Wonkman points out that claiming that a homophobe is secretly gay plays into traditional anti-gay stereotypes.

You just told us that a homophobe is secretly a broken, twisted piece of work: that his conduct and personality are defined by urges he’s working extremely hard to suppress; that he lashes out violently and publicly in order to help keep his broken sanity together; that he cannot possibly be a complete human being; that he is, fundamentally, an extremely sad and disturbed person; and that all of this is because he is secretly gay.

In short, he’s a wild-eyed freak.

You have no reason to think that he’s secretly gay. No study has ever concluded that a majority of homophobes (let alone all of them) are secretly gay. Sure, studies like this are constantly reported in the popular press, but the findings are always exaggerated and most of the studies reported in the popular press weren’t even looking into this phenomenon to begin with.

There is a weak scientific basis upon which to conclude that some homophobes experience some degree of latent homosexual attraction, but this degree is not necessarily higher than large numbers of people who live as perfectly contented, well-adjusted heterosexuals. (Having some small degree of same-sex attraction [that one time you kissed a guy in college; noticing that your personal trainer has nice abs which, in the back of your mind, you’d kind of like to rub; etc.] doesn’t make you gay.)

What we’re left with, then, is you digging up a particularly nasty and hoary stereotype in order to discredit someone who you dislike.

[. . .]

Can you avoid invoking homophobic stereotypes in order to make your case? Can you stop using “gay” as an insult, and can you rise above this sort of schoolyard namecalling (“OH YEAH? WELL YOU SECRETLY LIKE COCK!”) to make your points?

Coverage of the scientific research has frequently been nuanced, portrayed well last April in Scientific American.

Homophobes should consider a little self-reflection, suggests a new study finding those individuals who are most hostile toward gays and hold strong anti-gay views may themselves have same-sex desires, albeit undercover ones.

The prejudice of homophobia may also stem from authoritarian parents, particularly those with homophobic views as well, the researchers added.

“This study shows that if you are feeling that kind of visceral reaction to an out-group, ask yourself, ‘Why?'” co-author Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, said in a statement. “Those intense emotions should serve as a call to self-reflection.”

The research, published in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, reveals the nuances of prejudices like homophobia, which can ultimately have dire consequences.

“Sometimes people are threatened by gays and lesbians because they are fearing their own impulses, in a sense they ‘doth protest too much,'” Ryan told LiveScience. “In addition, it appears that sometimes those who would oppress others have been oppressed themselves, and we can have some compassion for them too, they may be unaccepting of others because they cannot be accepting of themselves.”

Ryan cautioned, however, that this link is only one source of anti-gay sentiments.

“May.” “Sometimes.” “Only one source.” None of these adjectives refer to certainties. If you go to the paper in question, there you’ll find those adjectives and others like “some.”

One thing that the accusation that homophobes are closeted allows, incidentally, is a vindication of heterosexuals as not beign homophobic or implicated in homophobic norms. If homophobes is just a gay thing, what do heterosexuals have to do with it all? The accusation can be a convenient way to excuse heterosexuals from having to change anything about themselves.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 4, 2013 at 5:55 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On homophobia, homosexuality, self-censorship and anxiety

Daniel Engben’s Slate article makes the necessary point that the recent University of Rochester study suggesting a strong linkage between homophobia and one’s own homoerotic impulses isn’t the end-all of the story.

In fairness to the University of Rochester, its coverage of the report was subtle and not nearly as overblown as the popular spin would hold: the press release was titled “Is Some Homophobia Self-phobia?”, and the author went on to suggest that “[t]he findings provide new empirical evidence to support the psychoanalytic theory that the fear, anxiety, and aversion that some seemingly heterosexual people hold toward gays and lesbians can grow out of their own repressed same-sex desires” (emphasis mine). The authors of that study certainly didn’t exclude the possibility that someone could be homophobia and not experience any homoerotic impulses at all. An honest homophobia is possible.

Engben makes the further point that even this connection isn’t confirmed by the study on its own terms. Freudian slips may well exist, but the mechanisms used by these researchers–and by others, too–don’t distinguish sufficiently between different emotional states.

The new study works like an elaborate game of “homo say what?”: Evidence of private, homosexual urges is elicited by subtle verbal cues. The researchers start by asking college freshmen, mostly women, to rate their sexual orientation on a scale from 1 to 10 (1 means completely straight; 5 means bisexual; 10 means totally gay) and then to say how much they agree with politically charged statements like, “Gay people make me nervous” and “I would feel uncomfortable having a gay roommate.” Once the students have been characterized according to their relative degrees of gayness and homophobia, they’re shown a series of icons or photos of wedding-cake figurines on a computer monitor—two women, two men, or a man with a woman—and told to label each one as being “gay” or “straight.” In a final twist, some of the “gay” and “straight” images are preceded on the screen by a subliminal verbal cue—a word flashed quickly on the screen that reads either me or others. If seeing the word me shortens a student’s reaction time for the gay-themed imagery, it’s taken as a sign of her implicit homosexuality. On a subconscious level, at least, she’s associating the word me with gayness.

[. . .]

Whatever the precedents, their homo-say-what task leaves itself open to an easy, alternative interpretation. It could be that both gay people and homophobic straight people responded more quickly to the gay-themed imagery because they were all secretly gay. Or it could be that both gay people and homophobic straight people are more keyed up by gayness in general. A homosexual might be more attuned to a picture of two men because it aligns with his personal interests—no surprise there. But a homophobe would be more attuned to it for the opposite reason: It runs counter to his personal interests; it makes him nervous. The sociologist Michael Kimmel has argued that some men are less afraid of gay people than they are of being labeled as gay (and thus emasculated) themselves. By that logic, me-gay pairings would be particularly nerve-racking to true homophobes. And it’s well-known that these two factors—salience and anxiety—tend to shrink reaction times. People get a little speedy when something upsets them, or turns them on.

[. . .]

If the reaction-time tests can’t provide a satisfying proof, is there any hope left for the he-who-smelt-it-dealt-it theory of sexuality? Could scientists ever demonstrate that, as Freud suggested, homophobes are reacting to subconscious, gay urges? Maybe if there were some more direct way to measure a man’s private sexual desires, we’d be able to tell for sure whether he was a closet homo. Imagine if you put a bunch of homophobes and more tolerant straight people into a room and forced them to watch man-on-man sex films while measuring the size of their erections with some kind of circumferential strain gauge. Would the gay-haters be revealed by the size of their boners?

Good news: This exact study was carried out in the mid-1990s at the University of Georgia. Using penile plethysmography, researchers compared the erectile responses of 35 homophobes and 29 non-homophobes to pornographic films in various gender configurations. All the men were clearly aroused by the lesbian and straight porn, but their sexual responses differed when it came to the gay clips. Around three-quarters of the guys in the homophobic group experienced some engorgement—not nearly as much as they’d had watching other clips, but enough to be labeled as either “moderately” or “definitely tumescent” by the researchers. In the non-homophobic group, the proportion was just one-third.

But even these penis-based findings won’t tell us very much about human nature. The results haven’t been formally replicated by another lab since they were published, and as the Georgia team concedes in its original paper, there’s a long history of research demonstrating that anxiety itself can produce sexual arousal. A 1977 study, for example, measured vaginal blood volume in women as they watched erotic film clips, some after having viewed a graphic depiction of an auto accident. Women in the crash group became aroused more rapidly than the others. More recent work from a group at the University of Texas, Austin, finds that moderately anxious women have a much higher sexual response than either low-anxiety or high-anxiety women. The UT researchers propose that activation of the sympathetic nervous system (the one we use for fight-or-flight responses) plays into our erotic behaviors.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 1, 2012 at 12:26 am

[URBAN NOTE] “Rob Ford Should Participate in Pride. Period.”

I agree with most everything Torontoist’s Hamutal Dotan wrote..

Every political leader has can’t-miss events, occasions whose significance are such that they simply must show up. Sometimes, they do it reluctantly. Sometimes, they do it out of obligation. Perhaps some politicians who go to Pride do so only because they feel they must. Perhaps some of them are homophobic and hate every minute.

They should—and yes, this is a controversial position to stake out—show up anyway, and be supportive when they do.

The only way we make progress, collectively, is by normalizing certain attitudes and holding others unacceptable.

It is unacceptable for Toronto to have a mayor who either is or acts—and these are not the same thing—homophobic. But we have to start with the visible signs of action. We do not know what is in Rob Ford’s heart. His feelings about the queer communities in Toronto may be simple or complex, fully known to him or largely subconscious. (“I think the mayor is shy. I think the mayor is insecure,” councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam told NOW today, and it’s certainly a plausible theory.) We are not the thought police and we cannot, nor do we want to, monitor his mind. But we cannot tolerate this kind of action.

And it is an action. Ford isn’t skipping the parade this year, he didn’t skip all of Pride last year, out of forgetfulness or busyness or getting the dates wrong in his calendar. Large numbers of people, including many of his council colleagues, invited him to attend. Columnists asked him to attend. No doubt many of his advisers pointed out the political backlash he would risk by staying home. This did not just slip his mind. It was a decision, and it was indefensible.

Go to the Torontoist site and read the debate. It’s noteworthy that the distinction Dotan makes between feeling something and acting as if one feels something–in this case, homophobia by intent or by accident–is controversial. I disagree with this criticism, inasmuch as first principles are actually pretty critical in resolving many situations and their outcomes.

Written by Randy McDonald

April 19, 2012 at 1:18 am

[BLOG-LIKE POSTING] On unrecognized epidemics of sexual abuse of the gender non-conforming

On Monday, I linked to Morocco-born Abdellah Taïa‘s biographical essay in the New York Times describing how he, an “effeminate little boy” was also a “boy to be sacrificed”, how his non-conformity with the gender norms of his conservative Moroccan origins left him open to abuse by everyone. Not a woman to be sequestered, certainly not a proper man, young Taïa’s effeminacy marked him as an acceptable sexual object. It all culminated for him one night in a scene out of Biblical Sodom, when one night Taïa’s home was surrounded by men clamouring to have sex with him.

It all came to a head one summer night in 1985. It was too hot. Everyone was trying in vain to fall asleep. I, too, lay awake, on the floor beside my sisters, my mother close by. Suddenly, the familiar voices of drunken men reached us. We all heard them. The whole family. The whole neighborhood. The whole world. These men, whom we all knew quite well, cried out: “Abdellah, little girl, come down. Come down. Wake up and come down. We all want you. Come down, Abdellah. Don’t be afraid. We won’t hurt you. We just want to have sex with you.”

They kept yelling for a long time. My nickname. Their desire. Their crime. They said everything that went unsaid in the too-silent, too-respectful world where I lived. But I was far, then, from any such analysis, from understanding that the problem wasn’t me. I was simply afraid. Very afraid.

I’m willing to bet that this sort of blatant, almost socially acceptable if not socially expected, sexual abuse of gay children was exotic to most of Taïa’s readers, at least in North America and Europe. I fear that the lurid explicitness of Taïa’s description blinded many of these readers–including me–to the fact that very similar things go on in their countries.

The general consensus is that, while, non-heterosexual men and women are no more likely to molest children than their heterosexual counterparts, non-heterosexual children suffer substantially higher rates of harassment and assault–including sexual assault–than their heterosexual peers. The problem is very serious.

Martin and Hetrick (1988) in their study of gay and lesbian teens reported that the third most frequently reported problem for gay teens was violence. Over 40% of their sample had suffered violence because of their sexual orientation, and 49% of the violence occurred within the family. Others have obtained similar findings (Harry, 1989). They also reported that 22% of gay teens in their sample had been sexually abused. Consistent with sexual abuse of female children, most were abused or raped by male relatives. Most blamed themselves or were blamed by others because of their sexual orientation.

In a 2005 post at the Box Turtle Bulletin, Jim Burroway notes the existence of two categories of sexual molesters of children, fixated and regressed. Fixated molesters haven’t progressed beyond beyond childhood, basically. Regressed molesters?

[T]he regressed molester is very different. His attraction to children is usually more temporary. Unlike the fixated molester, the regressed molester’s primary sexual attraction is toward other adults. But stressful conditions that go along with adult responsibly or difficulties in his adult relationships may overwhelm him, causing his sexual focus to “regress” towards children. This regression sometimes serves as a substitute for adult relationship, and his attraction to children may vary according to the varying stresses he encounters in his adult life demands.

In some cases, he may temporarily relate to the child as a peer, much as a fixated offender relates to children. But more often, he is simply lashing out against the stresses in his life, and the child becomes a convenient target. The offender may find a sense of power in his sexual relationship with a child that he doesn’t get with an adult. When that happens this relationship with the child is often violent. But regardless of the nature of the relationship, the gender of the child is often irrelevant — it’s the easy access and vulnerability that makes the child a target.

Regressed offenders are typically heterosexual in their adult relationships. Unlike our three percent sample, they date women and marry them. They often are parents, stepparents or extended family members of their victims. By all appearances — and by their own self-identification — they are straight.

Regressed molesters describe their attraction to young boys as lying in their non-masculine physical appearance: “the young boys did not have any body hair and that their bodies were soft and smooth.”

I’m willing to bet that non-gender-conforming behaviour is also a risk factor for children–in fact, one recent study indicates just this.

Some of the childhood abuse victims in the study were gay, but most of them were straight—nearly 60 percent of them identified as heterosexual, and another 25 percent of them identified as “mostly” hetero, compared to about 10 percent who identified as gay or lesbian. (Unfortunately, the study didn’t also ask them if they identified as transgender).

Previous studies on gender identity and abuse focused squarely on “small samples of gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults recruited through gay and lesbian community venues.” They hadn’t looked into how homophobia affects kids who aren’t gay, but are perceived—or feared—to be so. Homophobia is so pervasive that even the perception that a kid might be gay can inspire homophobic parents to “become more physically or psychologically abusive in an attempt to discourage their child’s gender nonconformity or same-sex orientation,”the study posits. Outside influence hurts, too. Some parents may abuse their children because they “think others will assume their child will be gay or lesbian.”

Is Abdellah Taïa’s experience of attempted sexual abuse on the grounds of his childhood gender non-conformity really so foreign? Or does it represent a phenomenon that only now, as the bullying and abuse of non-conforming children is confronted really for the first time, people are starting to pick up on everywhere? I say that having this phenomenon hidden from any kind of public discussion is just another way of tacitly accepting it.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 31, 2012 at 5:56 am

[LINK] “Atwood drops Dubai”

Go Atwood.

A festival in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, dedicated to celebrating “the world of books in all its infinite variety” will be doing its celebrating without Margaret Atwood as a result of what Atwood calls a “censorship fracas.”

The Canadian author (and vice-president of International PEN) confirmed yesterday in an e-mail that she is turning down her invitation to participate in the first Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature, set to start Feb. 26 in Dubai, after organizers declined to let British journalist and author Geraldine Bedell launch her latest novel there.

Bedell’s book, The Gulf Between Us, published by Penguin Group (U.K.), reportedly contains “a minor character” who is both a sheik and gay with an English boyfriend. In a letter to Bedell published on the weekend, festival director Isobel Abulhoul also said the book’s setting against the backdrop of the Iraq war “could be a minefield for us.”

In a statement of “clarification” yesterday, Abulhoul said her decision to ban The Gulf Between Us was based on having lived in Dubai for 40 years and knowing what kinds of writing “would appeal to the book-reading community in the Middle East.” Atwood, one of 66 authors invited to Dubai, was scheduled for an appearance on Feb. 28.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 18, 2009 at 10:45 am

[BRIEF NOTE] The Plight of the HIV Seronegative

A LJ friend of mine has wondered whether HIV-negative gay/bisexual men need more support networks. HIV positive gay and bisexual men, upon recieving their diagnosis, often can access quite extensive support networks, helping them with day-to-day living, medical treatment, socialization and dating, and so on. HIV-negative men don’t. William I. Johnston’s online book on the subject, 1995’s HIV-Negative: How the Uninfected Are Affected by AIDS, is probably the most readily available analysis of this question of isolation, though the work of psychologist and writer Walt Odets is also worth examination. I’m somewhat wary of the idea of constructing an identity around HIV seronegativity, particularly since the equation of epidemiology and morality is pernicious in the context of HIV/AIDS as with other plagues, but there is something to the arguments of Johnston and Odets that HIV negative men do need help in getting to access the broader context of GLBT society, to construct more positive self-identities and avoid infection in the first place. I was lucky enough to get help from friends over the Internet, lucky since PEI isn’t exactly the most GLBT-friendly of Canadian provinces. For other people, education would be key, the earlier the better. Alas, this is wrongly controversial.

I wonder: How many people suffered or even died thanks to Britain’s Claude 28 and its ilk?

Written by Randy McDonald

March 8, 2006 at 2:46 pm