Homophobia means the fear–and often hatred–of gay or lesbian people. As an out lesbian, I have addressed that fear many times. I have soothed anxious parents of gay teens and reassured angry protestors that I, nor any other gay person I know, has any intention of interfering with their day to day lives. Yes, sometimes I get tired of educating and explaining. Some days it would be bliss to scream back at the protestors and return hate for hate. But I know their hate is born of fear and just might, with the correct information, someday transform into indifference or even love. So I continue to educate. This article examines some of the myths that cause people to hate and fear gays and lesbians.
When people find out I am a lesbian, their first response is often almost comical shock. I’ve even had people ask me if I were a “real” lesbian. (My usual response: “As opposed to the cheap imitation brand you get on the Playboy channel?”) Somehow I just don’t fit the stereotype. And perhaps because I don’t, people seem to feel freer to come to me with questions and concerns about gays and lesbians. I’ve heard all the fears and anxieties. This article addresses some of the most common ones.
MYTH: Gays molest children.
FACT: Actually, the group of people most likely to molest children is heterosexual men. Perpetrators are generally someone the child knows well, if not a relative, then at least someone in a trusted position like a coach or a teacher. That’s a reality most parents shudder to face. In some ways, it’s easier to think that the danger lies “out there” in the gay community. But if you truly want to protect your child, you’ll make yourself aware of the important people in his or her life and how he or she interacts with them…regardless of sexual orientation.
MYTH: Gays can’t reproduce, so they recruit children.
FACT: For most people, homosexuality appears to be a character trait that they are born with or acquire very early in life. The majority of gay and lesbian people feel that their attraction to the same sex is no more a choice than a straight person’s attraction to the opposite sex. In fact, far from being recruited, gays and lesbians throughout history have had to make a conscious and often heroic effort to find and connect with the gay community.
MYTH: Gays want special rights.
FACT: Gays want equal rights. For instance, I want the right to marry a woman I love. The right to marry can hardly be called a special right, since it is enjoyed by some 90% of the population. I want the right to be free from discrimination in my job, my housing, and my community. As things stand today, if my supervisor were homophobic, she could call me into her office and fire me tomorrow for no other reason than my being a lesbian, and no law would protect me. My landlord could enter my apartment, see a calendar featuring famous lesbians, and evict me, and no law exists to protect me from that, either. Luckily, my supervisor and my landlord are decent people, but I would like to be able to rely on legal protection rather than simply hoping for random good will.
MYTH: Gays want to undermine Christianity.
FACT: In this country, the majority of gay people identify as Christians (as do the majority of straight people).
MYTH: Gays pose a risk to the institution of marriage.
FACT: With the divorce rate at a solid 50%, networks broadcasting shows that wed billionaires to bimbos, and celebrities getting married in Las Vegas only to divorce a day or so later, I can’t help but think that heterosexual marriage faces far more alarming challenges than allowing couples of the same sex to marry. In truth, allowing same sex couples to marry would simply give a small portion of the population a right that most people take for granted. It would not detract anything from traditional marriage.
MYTH: Gays spread AIDS
FACT: When AIDS first began to show itself in North America in the early 1980s, it was seen disproportionately among gay men and IV drug users (the disease is so rare as to be almost unheard of among the lesbian population). Since then, however, AIDS has become an equal opportunity disease and is now deeply entrenched in the heterosexual community. Never assume that you are safe just because your partner identifies as “straight.”
I hope this article has addressed some of your fears about gays and lesbians. The next time you meet a person who identifies as gay or lesbian, try to look past the stereotypes and get to know that person as a unique human being with a wondrous variety of traits, one of which happens to be homosexuality. At the very least, you may learn something new; at best, you’ll make a new friend.