Society's underlying homophobic bias still present
// Leah Scheitel

From cute homosexual couples on Glee, to full HBO series like The L Word, gay and lesbian characters are becoming increasingly more commonplace. With all of the positive attention directed towards homosexuality by the heterosexual media, one would hope that homophobia is a fading issue; something that our parents had to deal with in the 1970s and ‘80s. After all, Canada legalized gay marriage in 2005, and Vancouver itself is a gay-friendly city, with its annual Pride parade and gay neighborhoods.

However, it would be ignorant to believe homophobia has been eradicated because of a few popular television series, because clearly it has not. The University of Manitoba and University of Winnipeg conducted a survey of 3,700 high school students from December 2007 to June 2009, and found that homophobia is rampant in high schools. Seventy per cent of students reported that they heard phrases such as “that’s so gay” on a daily basis; 48 per cent say that words like “faggot”, “dyke”, and “homo” are everyday words in the hallways; and an alarming 64 per cent of homosexual students say that they don’t feel safe at their own school.

Homophobia is mainly generated from organized religion. Although many progressive religions have evolved over time and adopted an acceptance of a homosexual lifestyle, many have an ancient belief that homosexuality is wrong.

On Jan. 9, 2012, during a New Year’s address at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI commented on homosexuality, stating to an audience of 180 diplomats, “This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself.”

Even today, there are many religions teaching that homosexuality is “dirty”, “sinful”, and “disgraceful”, making it easy to pinpoint the roots of homophobia.

Sometimes, homophobic activists can be driven by the shame that they, themselves are gay. A study published in 1996 in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that up to 80 per cent of tested homophobic men may be extremely homophobic because they fear that they are homosexual themselves.

The University of Georgia conducted the study, which was spearheaded by Professor Henry E. Adams. Men who claimed they were heterosexual and homophobic were shown gay porn, and four out of five of the subjects became sexually aroused by the images. Their penises were being monitored by a plethsymograph to record if it was stimulated while watching the erotica.

Although it is an old theory in psychoanalysis, this was the first scientific study to show that homophobia is actually an expression of self-hatred and repressed homosexuality. The findings from this study are reflected in real-life examples as well with a multitude of anti-gay Republicans being exposed for being homosexual. A recent case was brought to media attention last year when State Rep. Phillip Hinkle was caught propositioning an 18-year-old man for sex over Craigslist, but there are many other stories like this.

Society still has hang-ups in regards to homosexuality. If our society were homophobia-free, high school students wouldn’t hear degrading messages towards homosexuals in their hallways every day, gay marriage would no longer be in debate, and public figures wouldn’t make openly homophobic statements.

We need to see gay people on prime time television. We need to hear role models and celebrities tell us that it is okay to be gay. We need our politicians to let everyone have the choice of whom they marry; but most importantly, as a society, we need to treat homophobia as a current and continuing issue, one that has not yet been surmounted despite the progress that has been made.

//Leah Scheitel, writer

//Graphics by Tiaré Jung

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