|CAMPUS AND CULTURE
Homophobia alive and well in society
Coming out difficult at Western
Homophobia alive and well in society
By Jowita Bydlowska
It's the new millennium. We are the new generation, open-minded and free of discrimination. Everywhere we turn, we see career-oriented women, men with baby carriages, racial differences being celebrated, gay men or women holding hands...gay men or women what?!
James Miller, founder and director of the Pride library at Western, explained the prejudice against sexuality has only recently been addressed. The term homophobia not only defines fear, but also serves as a term for hatred of homosexuals, similar to sexism and antisemitism, he said.
Miller elaborated, saying the term homophobia has its origins in sexism which is a gender discrimination. Homophobia, in turn, is a discrimination based on one's sexuality.
Earlier homophobia described a psychological condition, an internalized homophobia in gays and lesbians. In the eighties it changed to become more of a social phenomenon due to antagonizing from the government, churches and other institutions, said Dennis Hudecki, professor of philosophy at Brescia and King's Colleges.
Negative attitudes toward homosexuality often originate from two presumptions, Hudecki said. Firstly, homosexuality is percieved by some as unnatural and secondly, homosexuality it is forbidden in the Bible.
Father Michael Bechard, a Roman Catholic chaplain at Western, said every denomination of the Church has its own interpretation of what the Bible says about homosexuality. Depending on the interpretation, homosexuality may or may not be accepted.
Miller said religion plays a large part in the London community not accepting homosexuals. "Primary impulses of homophobia locally, are [from] religious teachings and taboos lesbians and gays are transgressors; prejudices of institutional and educational systems have excluded existence of gays and lesbians.
"Only recently this has been changing, many more lesbians and gays are out," Miller added. However, he said the Church still tends to believe homosexuals are sinners and must be punished.
In the City of London, Miller said he feels there is a combination of government, the Church and educational systems which celebrate heterosexuality and silence homosexuality. He used examples of the Project Guardian Scandal and the London Pride Parade controversy in 1998.
What is wrong with the argument declaring homosexuality bad? Hudecki said the Bible mentions homosexuality as a communal prohibition it is forbidden culturally. This does not explain how love between persons of the same sex is indicated as a sin. "It is not all that clear that the Bible is condemning homosexuality."
There are three general views that are generated through interpretations of the Bible, said Susan Brown, assistant professor of religious studies at King's College.
Graphic by Jowita Bydlowska
The first view centres around a fundamentalist perspective that homosexuality is wrong and those who are homosexual are sinners. The second group realizes people do not choose to be homosexual, but this group encourages homosexuals to be celibate. The third group accepts homosexuals and realizes sex is important to all human beings, regardless of one's sexuality.
According to Roman Catholic beliefs, sexuality has two purposes: To bring a married couple closer together and to pass on the gift of life. Since homosexuality cannot create children, this lifestyle is not promoted. "We accept homosexual people but not their lifestyle," Bechard said.
The prevalent misconception is people choose to be homosexual. In reality, the majority of homosexuals discover their sexuality, not choose it, Hudecki said.
Misconceptions damage young people in many ways as gay, lesbian and bisexual youths often live with the knowledge that people are afraid of them, said Debbie Lee, a Safe City Project coordinator at the Homosexual and Lesbian organization (HALO).
"They may feel isolated; some experience internalized homophobia and loss of self value which prompts them to engage in high-risk behaviors. They suffer from suicidal thoughts, alcohol and drug addictions, high risk sexual activities."
A Safe City Project survey on homosexual youths was conducted in London, Lee said. The survey, which concluded in September, interviewed 62 young people (15 to 22-years-old) who were thought to be, or have confirmed their sexual orientation as homosexual.
Lee explained the study revealed some disturbing facts about violence faced by gays and lesbians. Some of the most shocking statistics were that three out of four homosexual youths were beaten up at home, three out of four were harmed at school and one out of four were not safe on the street, because of their sexual orientation.
Based on the results, the project has made some recommendations to the City to actively promote the safety of these youths. These include educational training, campaigning and the creation of a hate-crimes officer.