The Homophobic Homosexual
We all think we live in an enlightened age. After all, it was just two generations ago that gay bars were being raided and individuals – citizens of the United States – were thrown into jail simply because they were gay. Now, gay marriage is the law of the land, gay men and women and even transgenders can serve in our armed forces without shame.
Having said that, we also are painfully aware that homophobia in this predominantly heterosexual society is still alive and well.
The Pulse shooter is one painful example. A homophobic’s homophobic who lashed out at gays because he hated himself.
Or look at the Republican Party’s platform for the past presidential election – the worse yet when it came denying LGBT our rights. The Log Cabin Republicans who say Trump is our friend are like the German Jews in the early 1930’s who didn’t believe Hitler would act on his anti-Semetic smears.
Or the persistent ploy by some states to use religious beliefs as a way to discriminate against us in housing, employment – and selling us wedding cakes. And as I said in a recent blog that is only the beginning.
Ah, but there is another, more insidious discrimination going on around us, one the gay media and our sub-culture have only skirted with, at best: homophobia within our own ranks, i.e., the homophobic homosexual, at least among gay guys whom I know the best.
The first category of homophobia within our own demographics is the homosexual in denial, though not off the deep end like the Pulse shooter was. They can be high school or college age students, single adults, even married men and women with offspring. They are extremely conflicted in accepting their sexuality, due to deeply personal, often religious reasons, and their inability and refusal to identify with a sub-culture which appears to overemphasize physicality and, some would argue, hedonism. Consequently, the homosexual in denial will remain silent when the subject of homosexuality arises among family, friends or co-workers, and many actually engage in anti-gay rhetoric as a way of rejecting or masking their own deep seated fears about themselves. Sadly, among them are the gay bashers who act out their frustrations regarding their conflicted sexuality by victimizing the vulnerable. Individuals comfortable in their own sexuality, while not necessarily endorsing or condoning another’s, truly don’t care what other people do in the bedroom as long as it does not adversely affect them.
I have a friend who, at 65, divorced his wife after 27 years of marriage and two children to lead an openly gay lifestyle. Yet when I asked him if he had had any attraction to men when he was younger, he is adamant about his conviction that he did not “become” gay until his late 50’s, something I find hard to accept in light of the growing evidence that sexual orientation has genetic roots.
Next there are the homosexuals who lead active sex lives with other men, be it clandestine encounters or long term relationships, but who remain “in the closet” to family, friends, spouses, co-workers and employers because of very legitimate personal and professional reasons; and by the air of masculinity many of them project, can easily “pass” as straight. Like the homosexual in denial, they are often forced to express anti-gay opinions when the subject arises as a diversionary tactic to deflect any suspicions that they may be one of “them.”
I am not proud to say that as a former senior executive for a Catholic health care system back in New York, I was one of those people. In my defense, I clearly had justification for such behavior, as I witnessed firsthand a “brother,” who was open about his sexuality and up for the chief operating office position of our organization, being passed over simply because he was gay. In fact, the archbishop was even rumored to have said that no way would he ever permit “a queer” to run one of his hospitals. Eventually, my friend Charlie, who had more degrees and experience than all of our shop’s execs combined, was demoted and forced to resign by our new boss. Two years later, our system filed for bankruptcy.
Years later, in my second career as a college instructor down in Fort Lauderdale, my new home, I befriended a fellow faculty member who came out to me. She and her partner had moved to Salt Lake City from New York, where she eventually became the press secretary for the mayor who, learning of her orientation, exploited it for his own self interests by having her “out” herself to the local media. This subsequently led to a cover story in The Advocate. Now, back on the East Coast and teaching, she was daily mortified that her students would “Google” her and uncover her secret life. In a form of over-compensation, she admitted she was silent and avoided comment when the occasional anti-homosexual dispersion cropped up in her classroom.
Then there is the gay male who I would characterize as the “straight gay,” the homosexual man leading an active and open gay life either solo or with a partner (including divorced fathers raising their children) who, like some closeted gays, projects a totally masculine demeanor and physical presence not unlike a typical American heterosexual male. In his mind he is as much a man as any man in American society and, as a result, he uncategorically abhors and is uncomprisingly critical both privately and in public gay venues of his effeminate, effete counterparts, the “queens,” “fems,” twinks” and cross dressers, even transgenders to whom he cannot relate, and for whom he blames, in large part, straight society’s distaste of gay people.
Ironically, though in lesser numbers than the “straight gays,” there are some effeminate homosexuals who feel equal antagonism towards “butches” whose demeanor they view as hypocritical and pretentious.
Lastly, from the larger, more global perspective, we have the tensions that often arise sometimes subliminally, other times quite overtly, between gay men and gay women, whom many male homosexuals stereotypically feel “hate men.”
All this is more than some overblown sociological dissection of our sub-culture; it points to a very real dilemma and an obstruction in our movement for equal rights under the law. Because of this animosity and prejudicial behavior among us, it is impossible for us to stand as a united front and show heterosexual society that just as it is diverse, so, too, are we and that we – all of us – are not asking any more or less than any other American. The convincing of larger society of this reality is paramount to our success since we cannot forget that the destiny of our equal rights movement still rests in the hands of a body politic, legislators and voters, that is overwhelming hetero (just as back in the’60’s, African Americans relied on a predominantly white Congress for civil rights legislation to be passed) or in present day America, largely conservative Republican.
For attitudes that divide us to change, channels of communication need to be established in some way among the various factions within our demographics, with the end goal to achieve a better understanding of one another and, in the process, ourselves. Challenging given all the reasons I have detailed in this piece? Undoubtedly. Yet the dialogue needs to start somewhere and soon.
Perhaps it can start right here, right now.