The diligent reader will note that in the title to this post, I put the word homophobia in quotation marks. Simply put, I don’t like the word. I understand that it means an aversion to homosexuality and gay people, but as a lover of words, I also know that it is derived from Greek words meaning same (“homo”) and phobia (“fear”) so it really means fear of sameness whereas I believe that most people described as “homophobic” are really afraid — or incapable — of understanding, appreciating and/or accepting difference.
That said, I find that more often than not, many of those who bandy about the term “homophobia” seem to use it to explain any attitude towards gay people — or gay cultural products — with which they do not agree. They seem to think that the only reason someone may not agree with their opinion on such issues is because of an animosity towards homosexuality, because that individual is, as they put it, homophobic, or, as others (including yours truly) might say, anti-gay.
A case in point is the attitude some people have to the failure of the movie, Brokeback Mountain to win an Oscar last year. In its latest issue, the Advocate published two letters of readers upset that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences invited Ellen de Generes (who happens to be a lesbian) to host the Oscars because of its anti-gay attitudes. Reader L. Martin believes “last year’s snub of Brokeback Mountain came down to homophobia.” David Perry was even more harsh describing last year’s Oscars as a “gay-bashing fest.”
If the Oscars were such a “gay-bashing” fest last year, then Brokeback wouldn’t have garnered eight nominations, taking home three statuettes, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. The issue at last year’s Oscars was not so much that Brokeback failed to win Best Picture, but that Crash did. It seemed the Academy voters wanted to congratulate themselves for their social consciousness by honoring a film which dealt with “difficult” issues of ethnic difference. I also happened to think that it was a pretty good flick.
Last year, many gay people (and not only gay people) hoped that Brokeback would win Best Picture. Too many attributed its failure to anti-gay attitudes at the Academy. I don’t know why it is that people see anti-gay attitudes in so many decisions which run counter to our expectations.
Just because I don’t much care for Rose O’Donnell doesn’t mean I dislike lesbians. I just don’t appreciate the attitudes (and opinions) of that individual who happens to be a lesbian. By the same token, Academy voters who preferred Crash to Brokeback didn’t (necessarily) prefer the prefer the former to the latter because they were uncomfortable with the latter film’s gay theme, but likely because they thought the former was a better film. I can certainly understand that assessment.
To be sure, there are many people in our society who still harbor anti-gay attitudes. But, such animus is not as widespread as it once was — or as many imagine it to be. It’s time we accept that someone’s (or some group’s) attitude toward certain gay-themed cultural products or toward certain gay individuals don’t necessarily indicate such an animus, but rather their own individual (or collective) value judgments.
But, I still wonder what certain people so readily jump to the conclusion that such judgments must necessarily mean that such people are “homophobic.”
– B. Daniel Blatt (GayPatriotWest@aol.com)