Friday, 24 September 2010

Independent: 'Disagreeing' with homosexuality is like disagreeing with rain

23.9.10 by Bernard Muscat; Malta Gay Rights Movement; Mosta

In his letter Homophobia? (TMIS, 19 September) Paul Vincenti argues that the word homophobia is an inappropriate one in that "[disagreement] with homosexuality" may not necessarily translate into feelings of fear when in the company of gay people. He is correct to identify the word 'phobia' and its connections to irrational and often instinctive fear or apprehension. However, the word homophobia has increasingly been adopted as one that not only denotes fear from homosexual individuals, but also includes the range of negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality, and people identified as or perceived to be gay. I do however agree that some people's and some institutions' deep and divisive anti-gay rhetoric deserves worse terminology than one that allows them the convenience of hiding behind the fear, anxiety or uneasiness implied by the word 'phobia'. What is ambiguous in Mr Vincenti's letter is that he mentions that people could "disagree" with homosexuality, as if this were an arbitrary concept which people could casually choose to agree or disagree with. As the UK politician Francis Maude so aptly put it, disagreeing with homosexuality is just about as pointless as disagreeing with rain. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have been around since time immemorial and will continue to be there for as long as people continue to reproduce. With Mr Vincenti's same arguments, one may as well choose to "disagree" with the existence of black people, left-handed people, women, ethnic and religious minorities, among others. Moreover, while disagreeing with Mr Vincenti's friend's assertion that all men are homosexual without knowing so, one can however extrapolate an important concept from this unfortunate sweeping statement. A small number of misguided people still consider and assume everyone to be essentially heterosexual – what is called heteronormativity – and conclude that gay people are just flawed heterosexuals. The Malta Gay Rights Movement actively challenges heteronormativity with its reminder that homosexuality, heterosexuality and bisexuality are all equally valid sexual orientations, and that neither one is an incomplete version of the other. Heteronormativity can be witnessed in practice by the drafting of policies or legislation that consciously ignore the presence of LGBT people in society. The erroneous assumption is that by catering for the heterosexual population (admittedly the majority), every citizen is duly protected – whereas this is clearly not the case.

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