We’ve heard the term homophobic but how about being homo-ignorant? Even if you’re GLBTIIQ, even if you support those who are, might you be guilty?
The “ignorant” part of the word homo-ignorant is not to suggest someone is stupid, a moron or mentally challenged, but rather to suggest they simply do not know something accurately or haven’t thought a subject, topic, term, phrase, etc. through to understand what it can really mean though they’ve used it. Regarding homo-ignorance, Aunt Martha (see this reference link) said, “I think it’s a very useful term to distinguish between people who can be educated, and those who are willful haters, no matter how nicely they try to gussy it up.”
It is not to minimize or directly compare itself to the seriousness of true homophobia, but in it’s way, homo-ignorance can be a broader, more insidious type of problem affecting people every day of their lives contributing to depression, anxiety, and any number of negative emotions and behaviors that lessen a person’s quality of life.
When we learn of a homophobic attack: the beating of a transgendered person, the terrible killing or suicide of a young college student after being lashed with verbal insults or derogatory remarks about their sexuality, disgusting slang words designed to wound, one can understandably be incensed by the sheer idiocy and hatred shown by the perpetrator(s).
But have you thought of the little comments, the opinions expressed some of which might be believed as innocent or even correct by you, but which aren’t, or slighting glances or attitudes directed towards certain GLBTIIQ persons or groups? Have you displayed homo-ignorance by your comments or remarks towards others within the GLBTIIQ community?
There is so much misinformation circulating in the first place, so many opinions that have been influenced by incorrect data that was no more than made-up “facts”. Not to mention, the opinions and “I thought’s” produced by another person’s “I thought’s” where a lone or limited example is then applied broadly to a whole group.
Recently, I completed an interview with author Robert Dunbar whose dark fiction novels and short stories occasionally include gay or bisexual characters or situations, though his work isn’t generally labeled as gay fiction, and certainly not m/m fiction. He mentioned a comment from a reader who “who marveled that (he) wrote about gay characters who seem like regular human beings.” I thought this was particularly interesting as it seemed this person felt they were giving the writer a compliment, and I don’t doubt it, but if you look at the comment itself? Gays ARE regular people anyway, but unfortunately (and I can well understand their point) so many writers and media in general, such as TV and films, have presented gays as caricatures and stereotypes.
Some of the homo-ignorant comments I’ve heard from GLBTIIQ people or those who say they support, or who write about them?
1. “You’re gay? But you have long hair. I’ve never seen a gay guy with long hair. You must be trans then, right?”
2. Regarding transmen (though I simply call them men) or intergenders who choose to identify solely as male and gay: “Well, that’s not gay at all!” (Do you see the inherent problem with this opinion that chooses to tell other people what they are or are not? Not to mention the gays who discriminate against and exclude these men because of their personal prejudices.)
3. Regarding an expression from a young man revealing a decision to undergo gender reassignment therapy and eventually surgery, from a well-known author of m/m fiction who prides themselves on their knowledge and support of GLBT people, “Why would you do that? You wouldn’t make a ‘good’ woman, your face is too masculine!” Completely ignorant of the psychological aspects that contribute to the choice, not to mention the very emotionally devastating effect such a comment can have upon the recipient.
4. As a gay person, in my writing, studies, life and work, I do support GLBTIIQ causes in general, personally and actively, but I do not wholesale ‘jump on board’ any and all causes, even those such as The Trevor Project or It Gets Better, because I don’t agree fully with their actions and statements, although I do believe they can help some people. No doubt of it. Yet, I’ve been blasted a few times, mostly from women who do support those, that since I am gay why am I NOT part of those movements. Just because I am gay does not mean I agree with all things gay, support anything related to being gay or have a need to immediately interact with all other gay people or those who claim to be supporters, which often only means “certain” gay friends.
5. A mother whose transitioning ftm 13y.o. had been suspended from a popular social media network because of their long history of sexual explicit dialogue with older men, who replied, “That’s just how we roll. He feels he’s gay anyway, so that’s normal.” All kinds of ignorant in that statement, first because of the age difference and the danger presented to the child; secondly, though sexual interest is normal, just because a young person identifies as gay doesn’t mean they are more sexually active or desirous than any other teen. In fact, studies have found that the strong majority of gay teens who display sexual addiction through physical or even internet means have been sexually abused as children. So it is not an innocent conclusion or “response.”
Speaking on that last entry, which references “Covert Cultural Sexual Abuse of Gay Male Teenagers Contributing to Etiology of Sexual Addiction” by Joe Kort, an absolutely outstanding piece of writing and research, homo-ignorance displayed by parents, people in authority whether it was school officials or social workers, peers and the societies in which they lived in, directly contributed to the negative patterns of life and behaviors that resulted in preventable psychological disorders and general life angst specifically for gay males, but can just as easily be applied to other groups as well.
The point of my article is to make people think about their thoughts, actions and comments. Just as I advocated in my articles:
among others, it’s important to see GLBTIIQ people as unique individuals, and not merely representative of their sexuality, although that is a part of their make-up. Nevertheless, I won’t deny stereotypes can exist, both good and bad, somewhat truthful or false.
What are a few of the stereotypes?
If you’re a gay—
1. You want to talk about sex or sexuality most of the time.
2. You want to see sex or sexuality based media, films, photos, etc. most of the time.
3. You want to talk about or accept any questions about your boyfriend, partner, husband, etc. (or that you’re always looking for one.)
4. You support all causes related to being gay, i.e. AIDS research (yet another stereotype anyway!), Trevor Project, etc.
5. You accept usage of derogatory terms such as “fag” “dyke” “bitch”, etc. as being normal if used by other GLBTIIQ people.
So many of the homo-ignorant remarks I’ve heard, read or been made aware of were not solely given by heterosexuals or those who don’t like GLBTIIQ people, in other words, homophobes, but by GLBTIIQ people themselves and those who say they support and/or understand. Statements and comments that were generalizations, assumptions, lumping one person into a whole category they are not a part of, just because the person thinks they are or should be.
You could understand when someone whose never been around anyone gay (that they knew of) making homo-ignorant remarks even if you may not like it, but for me, especially when it’s someone who supposedly “speaks” for “us” it is more unbelievable. Or in the case of the new trend of “straight” writers and readers preferring to write or read work involving “gay” men, who say they support gays (but it seems only the friends they want to) but say they don’t really want to know about real gay life in general, they just want a fantasy “gay man”, i.e. imaginings of what gay life is just to suit personal taste not reality. Even more problematic is when it is a gay person who is somewhat influential, whether it’s in an online group or among the billions of humans on earth, who believe their opinion supercedes, overrides or is more accurate than others.
We need a greater awareness to this subtle problem, and my words are encouraging everyone, including myself, to stop, step back and take a look at ourselves, and see if we’re part of the trouble or really as open-minded as we think we are.
One of my possible foibles is I tend to avoid interaction with other gays in a group setting partly because in the past I’ve been overwhelmed by negativity and judgmental behaviors as some attempted either exclusion or discrimination against me because I do not fit the mold they think of as a “gay male.” Yet part of that may be based not solely on sexuality but the cultural and/or societal issues where they live because of supposed “freedom of speech” laws misapplied allows bias against others, and certain kinds of intolerance are rationalized, justified or even seen as normal. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences or harm done by your actions or words you should be responsible for. In any case, I, too, have to remind myself to relax although I always welcome and appreciate reasonable discussions evidencing mutual respect.
A few simple solutions (though such things are never inherently simple)?
- Be slow to judge, if ever you feel the need do so. Be more willing to listen and not make assumptions and hasty decisions that infinitely slow or completely stop greater understand being yourself and others. Let people be individuals, and respect them as such. Be open and willing to adapt and revise views to fit other people’s realities.
- Don’t be part of the problem of homo-ignorance. Seek for greater knowledge on a wider base of subjects and ideas as this expands the mind and the ability to accept and like things or people you might have passed over or judged wrongly. You might find the very best friend you’d otherwise have missed. Don’t be misled into thinking you do not display homo-ignorance at times either.
- Whether it’s homo-ignorance or racial ignorance or any other discriminatory or biased actions or opinions, be willing to be revised to a view of tolerance, understanding and love. If someone corrects you after you make such a remark, don’t get it angry or offended, or take the stance that they’re trying to put you down or something. Think about what you’ve said. You wouldn’t want someone attributing wrong facts, stereotypes or descriptions to you, whatever it’s based on, so do them the same courtesy.
Just like homophobia, homo-ignorance is something that needs to be recognized in whatever form, by whomever is displaying it every single day, and I believe it’s everyone’s responsibility to lessen and eventually stamp out such attitudes and behaviors. It doesn’t mean being confrontation, nor does addressing homo-ignorant remarks mean being argumentative or defensive. Occasionally, strong action may be needed, but sometimes all it takes is a word or two like:
- “I’d prefer if you’d not…”
- “We’re not all like that….
- “That’s not true…”
- “Please, don’t make assumptions…”
We can all help fight homo-ignorance, and in doing so, improve quality of life, self-esteem and energy, both on personal and societal levels for ourselves and others.