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(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Internalised Homophobia

I have a friend, called ____. To keep things easy, let's call him Edmond, the name of a guy I had a huge crush on in my first couple of years at high school (tall, sandy hair, blue eyes, a fanatical cricketer.)

Edmond is in a long-term relationship with a guy we'll call Steve. They love each other very deeply. Both had girlfriends before they realised that they were gay. Edmond lived with his girlfriend for 6 years before he started dating guys. Edmond was in the armed forces and had to endure the hypocrisy of the "don't ask; don't tell" military policy. Edmond is a classic southern gentleman, courtly, honourable, decent and brave. He has a lovely sense of humour, and is very likable. Both blokes were afraid to come out to their parents. Edmond's parents resolved the problem by putting the two men in the double bed when they came back from uni for a home visit, making it plain they knew. Edmond was very moved at their acceptance.

Steve was not so lucky. His parents are hostile to Edmond, blaming him for turning their son homosexual. Why is it that gay men aren't turned straight by good sex with women, if it's so easy to turn a straight man gay by a few fucks? It's because, doofuses, being gay or straight isn't about the sex. It's not about hot tight butts and erect penises or juicy pussies. It's about love. Now it is entirely possible that you may love someone enough that you partly set aside your primary sexuality and embrace the alternative, as I have done with my wife, as another guy I know (who is otherwise straight) did with his husband. But it's not because of the sex. Oh, when you love someone, the sex is special. Sharing your bodies and your pleasure is wonderful. But it's wonderful because of the love. Despite all the stories on Nifty about straight men turning gay because of one great fuck with a guy after the big game, it doesn't happen like that.

Maybe these guys were really bisexual. Bisexuality is extremely common. I argue this point (and others) in The End of Gay in more detail. I will quote just one statistic from Kinsey's research:

25 per cent of the male population has more than incidental homosexual experience or reactions (i.e. rates 2-6) for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55. In terms of averages, one male out of approximately every four has had or will have such a distinct and continued homosexual experience. But most of them still end up married -- to women. Only 4% of the male population is exclusively homosexual.

So Edmond didn't "turn Steve gay". And maybe both of them are really bisexual. But they love each other, not women. Isn't that what matters? Really and truly? Love one another as I have loved you.

I'm rambling. The point is that Edmond, when Steve's parents turned hostile, became deeply depressed. Their homophobia brought back all his memories of the times when he doubted the morality of being gay, when he was filled with self-loathing and depression, when he wrestled with his Southern Baptist upbringing to reconcile the way he was with the way he thought he was supposed to be.

All of us who suffered from the implicit and explicit homophobia of our cultures and homes when we were growing up, still struggle with internalised homophobia. I do; and yet my first time with a man was absolutely, utterly right. I have a fairly well-honed sense of right and wrong. I can tell you that I know loving someone of the same gender as you is not evil. On the contrary, love is good, whatever the gender of your partner. (It's heartless casual sex that's morally dubious, but I won't go into that now)

All I could do was reassure Edmond that he was a top bloke, that I loved and admired him, and that he was a wonderful and worthwhile human being. Whatever Steve's parents say, whatever the batty religious right say. But it's hard persuading him.

One day the churches will be as embarrassed by their position on gayness as they now are about their support for slavery and the oppression of women in the past.

(BTW, the pic comes from A Day In Hand, a group which encourages men and women to hold another man's or woman's hand one day a year. Nice idea.)


Adam Phillips said...

"Maybe these guys were really bisexual. Bisexuality is extremely common."

Maybe. But Edmond and Steve think of themselves as--and label themselves--gay.

Great post, btw. And as you well know, straight guys have fallen in love with other guys in more than one instance.

Btw, thanks for the CC link in the places where you have it. I plugged this blog over at my Yahoo group.

Nigel said...

I'm not sure the labels mean anything much. Most people who did not know me would label me straight. I've been with my wife since 1976. We are an obvious couple, and though we don't liplock each other in public (vulgar!) we are obviously in love when we are together. Yet my primary orientation is gay. If (God forbid) my lady were to leave me or die, my next partner, if I had one, would most likely be a man. So what am I? A gay man in denial? No, because I know I'm "gay" and so does my wife and my friends and family. I love her not all women. Am I "bi"? Or am I, as judged by the fact that I have not made love to a man for 30 years, "straight"?

Kinsey says there are no such things as homosexuals, heterosexuals or bisexuals. There is just homosexual behaviour or heterosexual behaviour