White (American) Homophobia
The word homophobia tends to trouble the hearts and minds of those who hear it. There is an innate fear of the word due to social locations and cultural differences. The crucial issue is that this troublesome word has become imbedded into the ethos and philosophy of society in America. More overly, homophobia has further influenced the dichotomy of segregation within the Christian church. White (American) homophobia has created itself to be accepted and perpetrated in the general society, creating ghettos of oppression for those who are not white and who identify as queer or non-white.
The word homophobia is a compound of two Greek prefixes/suffixes. Homo translates as same and phobia as fear[i]. In essence, homophobia, in the American sense, has come to be understood as fear of those who identify as same gender loving, bisexual, lesbian, trans, or queer. The Christian church has contributed widely to the formation of this definition, being that it is and has been an organization of homogenic androcentrism. On top of it, the interpretation of Leviticus 18:22, or better the mis-interpretation or lack thereof, has had a significant bearing on defining homophobia.
Since the formation of time, humans have always feared circumstances, substances, and concepts that are foreign. A person identifying apart from the normative binaries, forecasts a dichotomy of fear. It then parallels oppression and degradation to coincide with the normative justification for segregation. Even the naked eye conceptualizes the effects that this insight has upon racism, especially in America, and in recent years, religious bigotry throughout the world.
Academic scholars have written many articles on Black Homophobia, but very few have written on the white position. It is possible to assume that white homophobia is not focused on in academia due to heteronormativity. In essence, being homophobic in the White American Anglo-Saxon Protestant world is normative. Only a nuclear family can be accepted in society and anything contrary represents non-conformability. This homophobia, again in my opinion, exists due to fear of losing privilege and power.
The ethos of America has always been to have privilege and power. This dynamic is represented in the United States history of wars, slavery, sexism, heteronormativity, racism, segregation, and now nationalism. In my study of religious movements, I conceptualize bias in this way: American nationalism is a religious movement toward purer “Whiteness,” operating and moving (perhaps the lack thereof) in the name of Jesus. It is a movement that separates those who disagree and do not “fit the part.” Furthermore, because of the actions from persons who advance extreme patriotism and elect lawmakers who implore “faith values” and resist immigration reform, American nationalism continues to grow. The fear(s) of this country’s citizens also contribute to religious fundamentalist indoctrination of younger generations with dogma crafted and proclaimed inerrant.
Some scholars support such analysis. One of them is Howard Rice who states: “[A]s is true of other expressions of sin, homophobia is neither easily identified nor easily removed. One might quarrel with the report on the grounds that we cannot, on our own, reject our homophobia. Such rejection requires God’s grace, for homophobia is too deeply rooted in our being and in our culture for us to be able to remove it ourselves[ii].” He continues: “[H]omophobia is rooted in fear and cannot be acknowledged without painful soul searching. The truth is that we generally act upon our fears by denying that we have them, by projecting unacceptable attitudes upon others, or by defensive measures which protect us from having to acknowledge our fear[iii].” Rice explains a theory that I have associated with homophobia. Homophobia is rooted in extreme fear and lack of concern to face fear.
Supported by Rice, I maintain that white male homophobia happens because of a fear to acknowledge love through pain. We can only work towards acceptance by moving through pain. The evidence of this does not have to be proved by scholars, articles, or by parents. Life teaches acceptance by pain through daily living. Acceptance and love happen situational in learning, communication, and human cognition. Life’s ethics and morals, on part by social location, teach learned fears and prejudices. The evidence of truth is exhibited in same-gender-loving/LGBTQ circles.
Labels, such as top, bottom, versatile, stud, fem, masculine-top, fem-bottom, and other colloquialisms, have been established based upon normative positions. Sometimes, in my opinion, those who identify with these labels might add that they are also only interested in certain races. In addition, an extreme dichotomy of homophobia exists on part of White males in the gay community who prefer other white males who represent a particular image. I defend this position with Simon Copeland who states, “[I]n challenging homophobia, we have become our own oppressors. We’ve adopted homophobic stereotypes and used them against ourselves[iv].” He continues: “[T]his results in gay men facing massive anxiety over body image, leading to depression, eating disorders and even the abuse of drugs and alcohol. It stops gay men from being able to be themselves, instead forcing us back into boxes and facing rejection from our own.”
Segregated ghettos of oppression exist because of normative positions of patriarchy. Although most will not admit it, the unfortunate reality is that patriarchy is dominated by Christian hierarchies. Rice states: “[T]he church attracts people who want clear and simple answers to questions which are troubling. The church is a safe place to avoid meeting openly homosexual people since most homosexual people have either been driven away from the church or have been forced to hide their sexual orientation[v].” He continues: “[F]inally, the leadership of the church is still dominantly composed of middle-aged males who are nervous and uncomfortable about sex role changes[vi].” He also explains states, “[O]ur homophobia gets in the way of our faithfulness and must be addressed whatever our particular interpretation of scripture[vii].”
Rice makes a valid point that I feel necessary to use as a conclusion: “[however] we understand scripture, it is clear that the witness of the Bible is always on the side of the oppressed. God is revealed to be a God who cares especially for the widow, the orphan, stranger, outsider or sufferer. In Christ, the character of God is clarified even more dramatically[viii].” The words attributed to John Wesley, “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can[ix]…” speak volumes to the hermeneutics implied in Micah 6:8. Our world is hurting and homophobia has not helped it. Doing justice means imploring the power of God to work within us to do better. Ending homophobia means being the embodiment of the Gospel, reaching, teaching, studying, and inspiring not only those that are struggle, but also ourselves who desire a profounder holiness amid the divine.[x]
[i] homo and φοβία, as spelled in Greek, have been transliterated into English and only used in American English since the 1960s, according to Merrian-Webster.
[ii] Rice, Howard. Homophobia: The Overlooked Sin. Church & Society, 73 no 2 Nov – Dec 1982. (6)
[iv] Copland, Simon. “In Challenging Homophobia, Gay Men Have Become Our Own Oppressors.” The Guardian. 2016. Accessed May 02, 2016.
[v] Rice, 6-7.
[vi] Ibid, 7.
[vii] Ibid, 11.
[ix] This saying has always been attributed to John Wesley, although no evidence or citation has been found to prove validity.
[x] Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 5:8, 22:37 and Hebrews 12:10, 14 all mention following this way of life.