Okay, okay, not the greatest title in the world. But I'm serious, here. I'd like to take a moment out of my ranting and raving about religion and equal rights and asshole bigots who just will not go away to offer an olive branch to a particular group of individuals.
After many years of debating, discussing, and outright arguing LGBT rights, two particular things have become very clear to me:
It is point #1 that this little ramble is mainly about, but I think it's important to explain point #2 first. A phobia is generally understood to be an irrational fear -- a thing or place or creature or situation that gets you panicky even just thinking about it. Someone with a phobia will avoid said situation at all costs, will literally run screaming from it, due to the terror it makes them feel. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but when I think of what is generally branded homophobia, I don't think of people fearfully running away from queers. I don't think of people fainting in anxious terror at the sight of two girls kissing, or deadbolting their doors, crying, upon seeing two men holding hands as they walk by. In fact, I tend to think of the complete opposite. I think of bullies surrounding a gay kid to beat him up or harass him. I think of loud-mouthed assholes on the internet telling lesbians they just need a good dick to straighten them out. I don't think of fear at all -- I think of hostile, confrontational violence (whether physical or verbal).
Also inaccurate is the implication that homophobia is aimed exclusively at homosexuals. It has been my experience that these people tend to feel equal amounts of hatred and disgust for bi/pansexuals, transexuals, genderqueers, even those who are polyamorous or merely androgynous. Homophobia is not an irrational fear of homosexuals -- it is an irrational disdain for anything outside of the absolutely "normal".
It is for these reasons that I both reject the term "homophobia", and feel the need to give this shout out.
There is a certain group of people out there that I feel have been unfairly labelled homophobes and bigots. These people are not hateful, they do not protest or fight against gay rights, they do not use words like "faggot", they do not rage at queers on the internet. These are people that just...feel a little icky about it. They don't understand why a man would want to have sex with another man, or how anyone could want to switch genders. They feel a little unsure that these things are natural. They feel a little unsure that we should be playing God like that. They don't hate anyone, they don't want to take away anyone's rights or stop anyone from being happy, they just don't understand, and wish, somewhere deep down inside themselves, that these people could somehow just...not be like that.
Needless to say, I do not sympathize much with this position, but I can empathize with it. After all, can we not all think of something that we just don't feel good about, for no rational reason? Isn't there something that makes us uncomfortable, even if it maybe shouldn't? Is feeling that discomfort enough of a reason to be labelled a bigot?
Personally, I don't think so. I think these are the very people we need to be reaching out to. These are the people that can perhaps one day be convinced that we are just normal people, who want to live normal lives. These are people who simply lack understanding -- people who may have misconceptions, or are fighting with their preconceived notions, or are perhaps just ignorant through no fault of their own. We must remember that not everyone grew up in a time or place where different orientations were common or accepted. I remember being shocked upon moving to Vancouver to find that tattooed, freaky people like myself were pretty standard viewing. It was a bit of a culture shock -- and it was my own culture! I have to imagine that suddenly being faced with all of these orientations, lifestyles, statuses, and labels after growing up knowing only heterosexual, cisgendered monogamy might be a tad overwhelming. Rather than lash out at understandable wariness, I propose we take it as an opportunity.
Bigots are a write-off. Let's be honest, here, and just get that out into the open. I applaud you idealists, you tireless optimists, for your continued efforts in changing the minds of raging fanatics, but I fear your battle is a futile one. While it's certainly neither impossible or unheard of for a bigot to change their mind, it is, unfortunately, rare. I feel we would gain far more ground leaving those pitiful creatures to wallow in their own hatred and instead reach out to those who do not know us. When we encounter someone on the internet, or at school, or at work, who says they "just don't understand...", or thinks "that's kinda weird...", let us not react in anger. Let us not lash out and put them in the bigot box, or start shouting slogans about homophobia and equal rights. Let's instead hear these statements as questions -- and let's answer them. Let's help them understand, let's show them that weird is okay. Let's show them that, actually, our sexuality, gender, or type of relationship is just one very small part of who we are, and we are really just regular ol' people with regular ol' lives. Let's, perhaps, give them a chance to feel comfortable.
I know it becomes tempting after hearing the same crap from the same intolerant assholes over and over and over to just assume that anyone that isn't with us is against us. But it is exactly that mentality -- that us vs. them bullshit -- that causes all this hatred in the first place. We are doing ourselves no favours by making an enemy of anyone who isn't marching beside us. We must remember that within our ultimate goal of equal rights and freedoms comes the right to not like everything, to not understand everything, to not be comfortable with everything, and to change our minds about things. We mustn't expect everyone to react to difference with enthusiasm. We cannot control the innermost feelings and fears of others -- all we can control is whether we react in anger, or in kindness.