Friday, October 8, 2010

Homophobia Hurts Straight Men, Too

I thank my friend Kevin for pointing out the following opinion piece in a recent edition of The Christian Science Monitor whose title is:  "Homophobia Hurts Straight Men, Too."  The full article is here.

The main point of the article is made at the top, where it says, "men rarely sustain intimate, long-standing friendships with other males after childhood. And the reason might surprise you: According to a large body of research, they’re afraid of being seen as gay."

The article describes a time, not that long ago, where it wasn't strange or uncommon for adult men to enjoy physical closeness: a hug, holding one another with arms around shoulders, etc.  But not today.

Today, you can barely shake another guy's hand before he steps back to establish a large physical distance from you.  It saddens me that men have distanced themselves physically and emotionally from each other for about the past three decades -- for fear of being labeled as gay.

The article further demonstrates how name-calling from school carries into adult life.  In school, kids call each other all sorts of names.  But none are intended to be as hurtful as being called "gay, queer, or fag."  The expression, "that's so gay" refers to actions or behaviors -- anywhere from wearing jeans tucked into cowboy boots to having another guy ride as a passenger on a motorcycle operated by a guy.

A paragraph in the middle of the opinion piece spoke directly to this matter.  It said, "But to fight intolerance against gay boys, we also need to acknowledge its toll on straights – and our entire culture. Homophobia hurts all of our boys, by driving a wedge between them. Sharing your deepest feelings with another man? That’s so . . . gay. Or so we’ve been taught."

That's what bothers me a lot about the straight guys I know.  I sense that they would like to be more open and demonstrate greater sensitivity, but society has taught them through homophobia to back off, clam up, and "be a man" by being the strong silent type.  

Oh cripes, gimme a break.  Guys have feelings too, and should show them (besides losing one's temper.)

The summary of the article is so true, and telling:  "And you can hear the message still, at any school or playground, where they call each other homo, fag, or queer. That hurts the gay kids most of all, as the awful death of Tyler Clementi reminds us. But it hurts the rest of us, too, by limiting the ways that men can act and feel. And that’s bad news for all American men, and for anyone – male or female – who loves them."

Come on, straight guys, GET OVER IT!  You can't and won't "become" gay by associating with other men who are gay, or by enjoying physical closeness with another guy beyond a handshake.  It's okay, being gay isn't a disease and isn't contagious.  A boy is gay when he is born, as I was (though I didn't realize it until adulthood.)

Life is short:  get over your hangups, and enjoy close camaraderie with other guys!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, BHD for another thoughtful blog entry!

When I first read the article, I immediately thought about how different cultures define masculinity and the boundaries established for men to display affection. Remember the sad case last year or so of two young brothers who were murdered in NYC simply because they were assumed to be gay? In reality, they were from another country where it is permissible and common practice for brothers to walk arm in arm. There was no assumption that such an act is the exclusive domain for gays in their culture.

I'm also struck by another thought. I think the fear of many straight men that shy away from showing affection to other men isn't that they will become gay; rather it is that others will perceive them to be so and they may place themselves in serious risk. Unfortunately, some know well that they become as subject to violence as those of us who are gay. At the end of day, the motivation of the gay-basher is about committing violence. Gays are today's target. It will be someone else tomorrow.

As a gay black man, I see the similarities of discrimination as they relate to race and sexual orientation. I remind myself and others that it wasn't too far back in our history that black men were lynched for sport. It wasn't until anti-lynching legislation that these heinous acts ended. Yet, there are still areas in our country that are not safe for me to visit despite this legal safeguard. In addition, whites sympathetic to equal rights for blacks were victims of violence as well. That’s why the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was so important. People needed to see that the law doesn’t tolerate crimes based upon sexual orientation and that is no longer an excuse that will be tolerated.

It takes courage for people to question and unlearn the assumptions that have been drilled home since childhood and ultimately follow their hearts to do the right thing. It’s a life-long process that I’m encouraged to see more people undertaking.