Homophobia: it’s a big word that has taken on a lot of meanings over the years. It can mean dislike, hatred, fear, discomfort, mistrust, prejudice towards gay people. It can mean any kind of negative or harmful attitude towards homosexuality.
Unfortunately, this is a bigger problem than it might seem.
Worldwide, there are only a handful of countries where you can count on govenment protection against discrimination.
But there are literally dozens of countries where homosexuality is illegal, punishable by years of imprisonment or even death. These are countries where homophobia isn’t just the opinion of the people. There, the states themselves enforce homophobia.
Especially countries on the African continent and in the Middle-East are not safe for you if you are gay.
Now, most of my readers don’t live in any of those countries. Most of us live in Europe or North America. But even here, homophobia is a severe problem.
Homosexuality in the Western world
In 2001, on April 1st, The Netherlands (where I’m from) was the first country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. Luckily it was not an April Fool’s joke.
Then, over the next five years, Belgium, Canada, Spain and South Africa joined the fray.
And now, 19 years later, same-sex marriage is legal in 29 countries.
According to the United Nations, there are 193 countries in the world. That means that there are 164 countries where same-sex marriage isn’t legal (yet).
The vast majority of these countries lies on the African continent, in the Arab world, and the Eastern world. In several African and Arabian countries, homosexuality is punishable by death.
Luckily, we don’t have to fear our governments when it comes to being a homosexual in the Western world. Not for our physical safety, at least.
But we do have to fear for our rights, and we do have to fear for our fellow citizens.
Public opinion on homosexuality
Judging by this map, Western Europe is a pretty good place to be if you’re gay. Especially here in the Netherlands, where 92% of people say homosexuality should be accepted by society.
Across the ocean, in the United States, the image is a little bleaker. Only 72% – though still a fierce majority – agrees on the matter. The other 28% are apparently of the opinion that homosexuality should not be accepted.
So what’s behind all that homophobia?
Honestly, I don’t know. Well, I have a couple of solid theories, but those are just explanations. They’re not excuses.
Of course religion is a significant contributor to homophobia. But even religious ideas came from somewhere.
Nowadays religious people claim that being gay is wrong because their religion tells them it’s wrong. But even that religion got its ideas from somewhere.
And personally, I think that it all boils down to the same evolutionary underpinnings.
The evolutionary background of homophobia
If there’s one thing every living being on this planet is good at, it’s this: trying to survive and hopefully reproduce too. I’ve said it many times before on this blog, but this is the only reason that we still exist.
Self-preservation is deeply rooted in all of us. And since we’re social animals, that self-preservation can extend towards our tribe too.
We often shun anything that isn’t normal, anything we subconsciously view as a threat to our tribe. You see it in nature too: albino animals are often kicked out of the herd because they ruin the herd’s camouflage.
And let’s be honest, non-heterosexuals are in the minority. So we are already inclined by evolution to shun homosexuals because they are not ‘normal’.
So what kind of ‘threat’ do our instinctual, subconscious monkey brains perceive?
Reproduction of the tribe
Even if we’re not reproducing ourselves, we want our tribe to survive and to be able to reproduce. Subconsciously we all know that reproduction is the only way to survival. Not necessarily the survival of ourselves as individuals, but of ‘our people’. Those we consider a part of our tribe.
And of course, gay people can adopt, or depending on the anatomy of the people involved they can still carry a child.
But adoption doesn’t register as reproduction in our primate brains, because it’s not a propagation of our genes.
So our primate brains think: gay people can’t reproduce. So if people are gay, they are a threat to the survival of our species.
I think that’s where the fear of homosexuality actually comes from, deep inside.
Homosexuality outside of the tribe
But if the gay people that homophobes fear aren’t a part of their tribe, why do they care if they’re not reproducing? Isn’t that a positive thing? Less reproduction of the other tribes is less competition, right?
Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. (What isn’t, really?)
Some homophobes treat gays as if they’re contagious. You’ll frequently hear them saying things like “keep that nonsense away from my kids” or “we’ll have none of that in our community”.
Why? Because somewhere deep inside, there’s a fear that their sexuality will somehow transfer to members of their tribe.
As if people become gay by following someone else’s example.
Because then, anyone in your tribe that gets ‘converted’ no longer reproduces, thereby hampering the reproductional success of your tribe.
The flawed assumption behind homophobia
Underneath all that reasoning about protecting the tribe is one giant flaw, one colossally misconceived assumption.
Because being gay is not some kind of ideology. It’s not a culture. And it’s not a choice.
They fail to see that your sexuality doesn’t come from the outside, it comes from within. The outside can mold you, and modify your behavior, sure.
But it’s been shown time and time again that a homosexual leopard doesn’t change its rainbow-colored spots.
Even if you belong to the rare individuals that experience their sexuality as fluid, that fluidity is usually stable too. In other words, the fact that your sexual orientation can change doesn’t change.
The appearance of changing sexuality
To many people, it might seem like your sexuality can change over the course of your life.
Most people only ‘find out’ that they’re not heterosexual as they grow up. Up until that time, they may have behaved themselves in a heterosexual way. They may even had intimate relationships with people of the opposite gender.
But very often, this is all part of discovering who they truly are. In fact, many gays and bisexuals – myself included – feel like our sexuality isn’t something that changed over all that time.
We just needed some time to figure it out and realize that we’re in fact not heterosexual.
And the only reason people ‘start out’ as heterosexuals is because that’s the socially accepted party line: you’re straight unless otherwise specified.
We live in a very heteronormative society. That means that we collectively view heterosexuality as the norm, and anything else as ‘abnormal’.
That’s why you don’t have to come out of the closet as a heterosexual: society already assumed you’re straight. So that’s what you assume as well while you grow up, until you discover that it just doesn’t really fit.
So while someone’s behavior and attitude often changes while they grow up, their sexuality has usually always been present underneath all of that.
Sexuality doesn’t change and isn’t contagious
That’s why gay conversion therapy usually doesn’t work (and is frankly an outrageously inhumane practice). And even if it does appear to work, it frequently turns out to have been an artificial veneer. Most people later discover that they simply can’t continue to deny who they truly are.
Because sexuality isn’t a choice. It’s part of your identity. And for the vast majority of people, sexuality can’t be changed.
And therefore, sexuality isn’t contagious either.
If your child comes out as gay, they have most likely always been gay. If they come out as a result of contact with a gay person, it’s not like that gay person converted your child. That gay person helped your child find out who they really are inside.
If anything, you should be grateful. They just saved your child a lot of years of trying to navigate the search for their identity.
Too many people view homosexuality as something that is ‘wrong’. But so far, not a single compelling argument has been made as to why.
The only valid threat homosexuals pose is that they’re less likely to reproduce. And that might harm us as a species.
But in reality, non-heterosexuals are such a small part of society that we really don’t have to fear for the extinction of our species.
And there are no real scientific signs that homosexuality is becoming more prevalent.
The increase in homosexual visibility
If it feels like or sounds like gays have become more numerous, it’s most likely because of the ongoing normalization of homosexuality.
Homosexuality has been condemned by religious communities as a sin for God knows how long (pun intended). Homosexual activity was still illegal in several US states around the turn of the century.
In 1986, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Georgia sodomy law was not unconstitutional. Let me say that again. Just 34 years ago, the US Supreme Court said that it was not against the US constitution to make oral and anal sex between consenting adults illegal. And I quote: “the Constitution does not confer a fundamental right upon homosexuals to engage in sodomy”. Luckily, the case was struck down and overturned later. But still.
In my country, The Netherlands, it started at the end of the 19th century when homosexuality was no longer seen as a religious sin, but rather as a physical disease or mental illness. That meant that criminalizing it was no longer warranted.
But still, society viewed homosexuality as an affliction.
So how likely do you think gays were to speak up about their sexuality?
But now, luckily, more and more people know that homosexuality is a normal part of humanity. And luckily, it’s no longer illegal in as many countries. So it’s only logical that more and more people dare to speak openly about their sexuality.
Attitudes towards gay pride
Another thing about homosexuals that rubs a lot of homophobes the wrong way is gay pride events.
You’ll frequently see snide comments like: “if you gays want equality why do you need the whole pride thing? Straight people don’t do pride events either!”
Here’s the thing.
Imagine you have two balls that you need to push towards a certain line a few meters away. One ball is already at that line, so you stop pushing. But the other ball isn’t even close, so obviously you’re still pushing that ball.
Now imagine that the first ball is heterosexuality, and the second ball is homosexuality. And imagine that that line represents equal rights, equal treatment, and equal acceptance.
What these homophobes are saying is actually: “why are you still pushing that ball? Our ball is at that line and we’re not pushing either.”
Do you see it now?
Celebrating gay pride is just the process of pushing that ball to the finish line. By doing things like that, we move that ball closer and closer to the finish line.
We don’t celebrate gay pride because we feel like we’re better than straight people. It’s not like we’re advocating for more rights than straight people. We advocate for the same rights as straight people.
But because we don’t have them yet, we have to speak up.
Because if nobody speaks up, nothing changes. If nobody fights for their rights, they won’t magically get them.
And if nobody speaks up about their sexuality, we will never learn to view homosexuality as a normal part of society.
Straight people don’t need to do all that stuff because they already have all those rights. They are already the norm. They are already accepted.
Of course gay people might behave a little differently. They might dress differently. But so far, none of that behavior can be considered wrong or harmful. At least not more so than straight people’s behavior.
Gay people aren’t evil, they aren’t degenerates. They might seem more loose with their sexual behavior than staight people do. But I have a theory why that is.
Once you’re ‘out’ as a gay person, you’ve likely already endured a lot of adverse reactions. And if you’re lucky, you have learned that it’s okay not to fit in. It’s okay to just be yourself as long as you don’t harm anyone.
So maybe it’s easier for them to explore. Maybe it’s easier for them to follow their desires, because they have learned how to handle society’s disapproval.
But that doesn’t automatically make them sexual deviants. In my eyes, it just makes them people who do what feels good to them, without harming anyone. Gay people aren’t any more likely to ignore consent than straight people.
If anything, I think gay people are often more careful with other people’s consent because they are already drawing so far outside of the lines. They have become more conscious of themselves and their sexuality. So maybe that makes them more conscious of other people’s feelings too.
And the truth is that there are also a lot of sexual ‘deviants’ among straight people. They might just fly under the radar more often because they’ve gotten used to being socially acceptable, because they’re straight.
If anything, it’s only because gay people have been freed from the thought of having to conform to whatever society expects of them. But that still doesn’t make them any more likely to hurt someone else than straight people are.
Conclusion: homophobia has no place in this world
So we have established that homosexuality and bisexuality aren’t contagious.
They don’t lead to harmful behavior. Gays and bi’s aren’t any more likely to hurt someone else.
We have established that there is no valid reason to view them as a threat.
We have deduced that the religious views on homosexuality probably derive from an outdated and flawed notion of tribe preservation.
And we have established that your sexuality is part of your identity, and therefore not something you can change or prevent.
And lastly, we have seen why gay behavior is the way it is, and why that isn’t anything to fear or despise.
So why wouldn’t you let someone else live their own life? If they aren’t hurting anyone because of their sexuality, why look down on them? Why do you care what they do with their life if their behavior isn’t harmful?
And why, just why, why does it matter what gender someone else loves?
Why would you not give another human being the rights to express and experience their love the same way you do?
The only conclusion I can draw is that homophobia has no place in this world.
All the needless hate, hurt, discrimination… it’s all based on nothing. There isn’t a single, solid, defensible reason to treat non-straight people any differently than straight people.
Because gay people aren’t any different than straight people. Not any more different than a musician is from a CEO, or a child from an adult.
A gay human being just loves another human being. Just like a straight human being loves another human being.
It’s time to end homophobia.
Because love is love is love is love.