Why Homophobia Hurts Straight People Too

Today kids across America are participating in a National Day of Silence today as a way of bringing attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.

Each year this event has grown, now with hundreds of thousands of students coming together to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior.

(Read Jason Mannino’s essay about the Day of Silence on the Huffington Post.)

I know there will be lots of discussion today about horrific acts of violence that have been committed against LGBT youth. However, I think it’s important, on memorial days like today, to step back and take a look at the broader picture.

When talking about homophobia, it’s important to keep in mind that homophobia effects everybody, including straight people.

In fact, homophobia can be thought of as the “silent hate” because it’s not based on skin color, ethnicity, accent, religion, country or origin, or any other identifying marker. The enormous underlying discomfort with homosexuality lies in the fact anyone can be gay, out or not, and this makes people squeamish

Because of this, I think it’s not enough to call attention to the hatred perpetrated on individuals in our community. We need to continue to look at the impact homophobia has on our society as a whole.

I firmly believe that the more we work for LGBT equality in every area of life, the less impact homophobia has on everyone.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating:

Last year, I attended a fundraiser for GroundSpark Productions, an educational documentary film company that produced the groundbreaking 1999 film It’s Elementary, and the sequel It’s Still Elementary, re-interviewing the original participants.

One of the film clips shown that day was from a new film called Straightlaced, that’s being shown around the country right now. (Here’s a list of screenings.)

This trailer features a powerful segment about Latino boys shopping for clothes. The kids didn’t choose their clothes based on their personal taste preference, instead they intentionally chose clothes that were baggy, that hid the outlines of their bodies, and were in somber colors. Why? Because they didn’t want to look gay or be perceived as gay. The realization that societal homophobia was driving the actions of a group of straight teens was a powerful eye-opener about how hate and prejudice affect everyone, not just the targeted group.

Everytime a straight person changes their behavior in some way – a man doesn’t hug a grieving friend, a woman denies the opportunity for a close, intimate friendship, a boy worries about being taunted for taking a dance class, or a girl changes her major to something less “masculine” – they’re affected by homophobia.

Please check out GroundSpark’s work here and read more about these films and how you can bring copies to a school or community near you. I think the work they’re doing is really important.

While I appreciate the idea of focusing on LGBT issues, we need to continue working toward making them non-issues. That’s when society as a whole will benefit.

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4 responses to “Why Homophobia Hurts Straight People Too

  1. I’d like to see this movie!

    • The movie is showing all over the country in special previews (check the link in the story for a showing near you). Other GroundSpark movies are now available on DVD on their website. Some are more appropriate for grammar school kids, some for middle and high school. I’ve thought about ordering some of the movies and have a “parent education” night at my place, where parents could see the movie and then hopefully have a showing for their kids. One of the greatest things people can do is order sets of movies from GroundSpark and gift them to schools’ resource libraries… the sales benefit the film company’s work and the movies will continue to educate students for years. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!

  2. I almost forgot about this day. Oddly enough, I learned about it from a heterosexual young man who was trying to make a mockery of it a couple years ago. It is great to see it’s impact continues to grow and is still being felt nationwide. Thanks for sharing this…

  3. I would address the point you make in the title of this post more forcefully, as a cis hetero man.

    Queer-phobia cuts off a person’s ability to form meaningful relationships with same-sex friends. Where exactly is the line – the objective line in the perceptions of others, as opposed to the one you feel in your heart – between nonsexual intimacy and teh gay? And then, if you invite in gender determinism, isn’t one of the droning themes that men and women are somehow essentially different? So now you can’t form genuine intimate relationships with the opposite sex either, because they’re on Venus or Mars or something.

    Plus, even for cis-hetero-types, secretly deep down homophobia makes you hate yourself because what you feel inside doesn’t quite fit either planet precisely; you end up just feeling Sad and Alone on Saturn, or something. People have that gay experience in high school or college, which is an important exploration in coming to terms with your heterosexuality (imo), but homophobia keeps those experiences from happening, and pushes them down deep when they do, often transforming them into a bashing sentiment.

    Gender politics are damn important to me, not because I’m trying to be a better liberal. This shit is real, and it hits everyone – cis or no, queer or no – very hard in several of the most important parts of the self.

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