Thursday, February 28, 2008

Racism and Heterosexism

Heterosexism versus Homophobia?

The United States Federal and State legislation attempts to change the Constitution represent more than the history of discrimination and oppression of gays in America. The legislative changes represent "racism" against a group of people who are nonheterosexual. Yes, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgendered, intersexed, and questioning people are in fact simply nonheterosexuals.

According to Stonewall, a nonprofit advocating for equality for nonheterosexuals states, "the term heterosexism was first used in the late 1960s to highlight the parallels between prejudice against lesbians, gay men and bisexuals, and other forms of prejudice — against women (sexism), people of different ethnic origin (racism), and against Jewish people (anti-Semitism)." The term heterosexism is taught in Women and Queer studies departments in most Universities but has not been used by the media to explain the social condition of nonheterosexuals today.

Dr. Gregory Herek, author of "Beyond Homophobia: Thinking About Sexual Prejudice and Stigma in the Twenty-First Century," an internationally recognized expert on sexual prejudice, describes heterosexism as such: it denies, denigrates, and stigmatizes any nonheterosexual behavior. He compares heterosexism to institutional racism and sexism, and states that it operates through a dual process of invisibility and attack. "Homosexuality usually remains culturally invisible; when people who engage in homosexual behavior or who are identified as homosexual become visible, they are subject to attack by society."

Heterosexism is a very difficult concept to understand because one's sexual orientation is not considered a race. According to Riki Wilchins, author of "Queer Theory, Gender Theory," race may be whatever the dominant culture says it needs to be. She describes race as a social construction that is manipulated at different times in history and is politically controlled by the dominant population.

There were countless legislative polices discriminating against African-Americans that mirror nonheterosexual legislation. The history of African-American discrimination in the institution of marriage and military service is comparable to nonheterosexuals today. There were many bans on African Americans marrying white people and a long history of segregation in the military.

According to Dr. Herek, examples of heterosexism, or racist, behavior include an attempt to change the Constitution of the United States to ban same sex marriage, and the military's "do not ask, do not tell" policy. Clearly these actions communicate the practice that nonheterosexuals are not equal due to their sexuality, not the color of the skin. There are those who will argue that nonheterosexuality is a "choice" or a sickness, therefore they cannot be considered a class of people who need legal protections. Also, many African-Americans and their leaders are angered when Gay Civil Rights leaders compare the movements. Many other minority groups who benefited from the African-American movement, never received outrage when their causes were compared. The anger and the discriminatory policies are a reflection of the dismantling of separation of church and state, which is the very foundation of the United States government.

Progressive media labels same-sex marriage opponents as homophobic. They are only half-correct. Homophobia describes one's personal anxiety or fear of nonheterosexuals. Years of society's complicity to homophobia and the conservative right's movement has led to broad societal legislation against nonheterosexuals. Therefore the term "heterosexism" more accurately explains societal legislation policies and provides an understanding when Gay Civil Rights leaders claim anti-gay legislation is discriminatory.

Martin Luther King said, "the most racist day in America was high noon on Sunday," simply because the Christian Right and others gather in church and preach racist rhetoric against the minority.

Lee Iacuzzi
"Not a Good Queer"
©2006I still rise, I will not apologize for anything!

Not a Good Queer NAGQ

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