Homosexuality. Gay. Bisexual. Lesbian. What crosses your mind when you read these words, or what stirs in your heart? For many, fear of the unknown or of preconceived notions surfaces. Others, their brain plunges into the dark caves of confusion, wondering where to go next, and their heart stands still for a split second, not knowing the purpose of its next beat. Though we can partly assign blame to society's teachings and our internalization of them, yet these unsavory reactions cannot possibly endure with time simply from passive allowance. No, those who experience these sorts of responses have permitted themselves to remain in them. Although such reactions can be automatic, virtually anyone can take and alter them. Some may ask, "Well, what's the big deal? It's my choice, and nobody is being hurt by it." My intent in writing to you, dear reader, is to show you what this fear looks like, and how you can move in a more positive direction with it. Nobody likes fear, and so you might as well replace it with love and faith! :)
In general terms, we call this fear "homophobia". Personally, I think it is very cliche and even abused sometimes, but for this post it is necessary to repeatedly use it. To put a semantic fence around this word, though, I define it as follows: "Homophobia - An exaggerated or irrational concern of homosexuality, which is some form of affection between individuals of the same sex." Since I want this message to reach a more diverse group of individuals, I will incorporate both LDS and non-LDS themes throughout. In defeating homophobia, we must explore behaviors, attitudes, and emotions of people with some degree of homophobia, small or great:
1. Avoiding people who are partly or fully attracted to members of the same sex, whether at work, school, or in daily life. Often, such avoidance is extreme and is most obvious when a homophobic person avoids someone's efforts to befriend them, or when in close proximity to said individual.
2. Showing discomfort in the presence of gay, bisexual, lesbian, etc. individuals, with no logical reason for doing so. Simply by virtue of them being around, the homophobic individual feels uncomfortable, usually because of preconceived judgments from religion, family, or elsewhere.
3. Misinterpreting friendly moves on the gay/lesbian/bi person's part, such as appropriate physical touch, requests to spend quality time together, compliments, and so forth as sexual or romantic advances/interest.
4. Making statements that are homophobic, but passing them off as not being such with phrases like, "I'm not homophobic...but.." or "I have gay friends". In essence, such a person says homophobic things while either subtly deflecting any suspicion of homophobia, or while citing their ties to other gay people in some sort of defense of the negative statement.
5. Using humor to say homophobic stuff, so that their laughter and the laughter of others masks and even hides the inherent disrespect or cruelty behind their words.
6. Adding statements after a sentence like, "No homo", or "Not that there's anything wrong with that" or "Not that I have a problem with it". These phrases often indicate some lingering fear, discomfort, apprehension, or anxiety concerning some or all things gay.
7. Withdrawing your company from someone after finding out they are not straight, partially or fully. Examples include hanging out less while justifying it somehow (i.e., "too busy with __ " ), asking your gay/lesbian/bi friend to bring someone else along to "make it more comfortable", the homophobe insisting on bringing their boyfriend/girlfriend when hanging out, etc.
8. Believing homosexuality/bisexuality is a choice, instead of a complex experience formed from many different areas in the individual's life.
All of these, when read, really put homophobia under the proverbial magnifying glass of truth, showing all of its ugly scars, bumps, festering sores, and all the rest of it. Homophobia is ugly, whether on the end of heterosexuals towards LGBT people, or even LGBT people toward heterosexuals. It goes both ways, though I won't assign more weight to either side. The fact remains that this divides humankind in many ways when we could be enjoying each other. It is rather saddening to think on what beautiful friendship and perhaps even romances have been missed out on, due to the piercing judgments of homophobia. The ironic thing is that close, heterosexual friendships are very healing and affirming for LGBT individuals, a great amount of the time. Thus, in allowing a form of bigotry to fester in the heart, people who are homophobic deprive themselves and others of wonderful opportunities to experience love.
I would challenge everyone in contact directly with the LGBT community to reconsider the legitimacy of their "concerns". Most of the time, the reality is that if you're fearful or anxious about someone in the LGBT community, you just need to take some time to give that person the benefit of the doubt. Spend time with them, or talk to them on the phone a bit, at the very least. Love and communication are two essential keys to promoting friendship and kindness in place of judgment and homophobia. At the heart of homophobia, fear and uncertainty rest. If one experiencing this unpleasant emotion and/or state of being examines things logically, reasoning that everyone is worth a chance at getting to know, pretty soon that fear and uncertainty will give way to bonding and enlightenment. Spiritually speaking, I know that Christ is pleased when we make honest, persevering efforts to make righteous judgment calls, instead of unrighteous/snap judgments. He also is pleased when we make effort to pursue the spirit of charity, defying the current of worldliness and riding the tide of spirituality. There is no need to perpetuate fear of potential tranquility among us humans. We must embrace the beauty of coexisting with one another, despite our differences, realizing that though opinions differ, our hearts don't have to. Until next time... Love you guys. :)