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Homophobia & Heterosexism
The tragic suicide of Rutgers University first year student Tyler Clementi last fall led to a wave of national hand-wringing anguish about the daily torture and humiliations suffered by young gays and lesbians. An article in The New York Times expanded the conversation to include the stories of several other gay teens who recently committed suicide, such as Seth Walsh of Fresno, Calif., who endured a “relentless barrage of taunting, bullying and other abuse at the hands of his peers.” Walsh hanged himself in September at age 13.
Yet, in our collective search for explanations and solutions we’ve missed one salient fact.
By Jessica Green
Reprinteed with permission from www.PinkNews.co.uk
Statistics from the FBI have shown an 11 per cent rise in reports of homophobic hate crime across America in the last year.
The data, released yesterday (November 23, 2010), shows an overall rise of two per cent for all hate crimes, but this was markedly higher for anti-gay incidents and also for hate crimes based on religion, which rose nine per cent.
It shows that 7,783 hate crimes were voluntarily reported to the agency by participating law enforcement agencies, involving a total of 9,691 victims.
A majority (58 per cent) of the 1,706 victims targeted for their sexual orientation were gay men.
Roughly a third of the cases were physical attacks, another third were intimidation and the remaining third were vandalism or property damage.
The FBI has cautioned that year-to-year comparisons are difficult due to the change in the number of law enforcement agencies which chose to participate.
The number of participating agencies rose by 449, or 3.4 per cent, versus the prior year.
All oppressions have common roots. Born out of misinformation and directed toward the "other," the goal of any oppression is the unjust, destructive, and unequal distribution of power to the advantage of one group over another. And although there is no specific hierarchy of oppressions, the context in which they manifest themselves - history, economics, or politics - makes some types of oppressions more closely related than others.
I propose that everyone in our society is homophobic. In addition, it is my strong belief that gay and lesbian individuals, prior to coming out, are among the most homophobic people in our society. Most of us do not think of ourselves as homophobic, however, and many people will disagree with this concept of universal homophobia, especially as applied to them.
As an organization striving to be affirmative of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered, queer, and intersexed persons, NOMAS understands homophobia to be the individual and psychological response to those who do not conform to the expectations of binary heterosexual expression. Homophobia, as an irrational fear and loathing, is to be distinguished from heterosexism, which is the presumption of heterosexuality as the normative state, and identifies L/G/B/T/Q/I persons as deviating from the norm.