In the past, society has been responsible in inculcating, indoctrinating and impressing on the minds of people that there are only two kinds of gender, either male or female. But in our modern setting, society has learned to adapt to the non-conformists in their midst in regards to this classification. But there are those who by virtue of their fear or upbringing, has raised the specter of violence against these individuals for no other reason than satiating their fear and hatred of gays and lesbians in this society.
Can the incidence of violence against gays and lesbians be stopped? Should heterosexual society have justifications in their fear, or hate, of the “queer” people? In the article of Valerie Jennes and Kimberly Richman, Anti-Gay Violence and its Discontents (2002), there are recent crimes that seem to suggest just that. In a most heinous display of homophobia in the United States, one homosexual man from Wyoming, Matthew Shepard, was brutally killed by two assailants, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson (Diane Richardson and Steven Seidman p. 403).
In the course of the investigation, it was discovered that the victim allegedly made advances on the suspect which provoked the suspect to go into a murderous fit. Counsel for the defendants argued that the incident was triggered by the homophobic tendencies of the suspect (Richardson and Seidman 403). After the Shepard case, Billy Jack Gaither was murdered by friends of McKinney and Russell. Again, the reason cited in the investigations was homophobia. Gaither was hit repeatedly with an axe handle, and then set on fire using a pile of tires as kindling.
All of the cases were done by reason of the fear of homosexuals and the alleged sexual advances made by the victims on the suspects (Richardson and Seidman 403). Cases like these only display one fact. It must be understood that this incidents present a throwback to the old ideas that there are only male and female roles to be filled in the society, and anything else is deviant. But in this day and age, many of those roles are adequately fulfilled in by the non-conformists in the society, those who aver that it is their choice or give weight to the biological factors that make them as such.
Most of the LGBT sector is afraid of revealing themselves and being true to their identity because of the ridicule and the shame that they would be made to endure (Riki Wilchins 265). In any society, there is always the event that what that society fears the most, it learns to hate it, not because of anything that the object of that fear has, but in the mere fact that the object gives them the thought that this object found its way into that society. This seems to be the main driver of the hate against gays and lesbians. It is thios hate that drives them to commit crimes against homossexuals.
In her article Coming Out, Professor Paula Rodriguez Rust explains the term as recognizing that an individual has feelings of attraction towards a member of their own sex, embrace a bisexual outlook, and be able to share that identity with others (Paula Rust 227). This must be done to be recognized as such since the society has been inculcated with the notion that all are heterosexual. Since this is the operative assumption, then all parents would expect that their children are heterosexual and conduct themselves in a heterosexual manner.
If one were to replace this resident societal identity with another so-called “deviant” one, these individuals run the risk of being ostracized rather than accepted (Rust 227). A revealed homosexual, once he does so, will find that their relationships in the heterosexual society will be vastly different than the one held in that society. It means a change in the attitudes and disposition members of that society will accord that person, gay or lesbian. Relationships with the members of that society, especially close ones such as friends or family, will dramatically alter for the worse.
One will experience the impoverishment of closeness of these relationships, since their behavior or identity runs against the grain of that society (Rust 227). One of the subjects Wilchins interviewed intimated about the shame that he felt every time that his mother would ask him to hold her bag in the shop (Wilchins 265). His partner said that he used to skip classes every time they would play baseball in the gym because of the comments about the feminine way that he threw the ball (Wilchins 265).
It is evident from the reaction of these two individuals that the society they are in now still has to allow integration of their sector into the mainstream of the modern-day society. The modern society that the United States boasts of is still quite archaic in their beliefs, at least in this context. Through history has been replete with incidents of violent acts that focus on the gay and lesbian sector, it was only recently that the government have begun to accumulate the data on the different aspects of the crime of “gay bashing” (Richardson and Seidman 405).
Before this time, verifiable information on the statistics of gay and lesbian violence was very hard to come by. It was not until the later 80’s that scientific research work on the compilation of data regarding the causes and manifestations of the crimes against homosexuals that is vital in the work to address this issue has recently been accumulated. In the United States, there have been incessant calls for the authorities to look into and monitor incidents of crimes of bias, especially those affecting the gay and lesbian part of society (Richardson and Seidman 405).
Heterosexism: Racism in a new light As the African Americans in the early history of the United States were subjected to racist initiatives, gays and lesbians were not spared from the ostracization of the society (Gregory Herek, PhD). Since the advent of the gay movement in the middle of the 1900’s, many people have reprehended these individuals as sick, profligate and outright felonious. This line of thinking was given form by psychologist George Weinberg, coining the term homophobia (Herek).
Weinberg (1969) used this term to quantify the fear of heterosexuals coming into close contact with homosexuals. His term was first printed in 1969, coming out in Weinberg’s Society and the Healthy Homosexual in 1972 (Herek). So what is a homophobe (University of Florida)? In brief, a homophobe can be defined as a person with an intense hatred or dread of homosexuals. Heterosexism is the idea that a heterosexual is superior to a homosexual, and that homosexual relationships are not as legal or accepted as heterosexual ones.
Heterosexism as a concept came about the same time as racism and sexism (Herek). As an ideology, the term came to define the actions of individuals to asperse, besmirch, and isolate any form of homosexual conduct or actions (Herek). In Wichin’s article, it was said that the gender issue is like some form of “closet” that gay and lesbians must be willing to come out of (Wilchins 266). This, according to Wilchin, is the area that is targeted by heterosexuals.
As stated earlier, society has been impressed by a constant deluge of the need to conform to the genders and sexual types in the modern society. Male children are taught to talk, walk, and act like some Hollywood action star. If the actions of the children are in the least way feminine, they will be subjected to violence and debasement (Wilchins 266). They learn to abhor anything remotely connected to their feminine side, so that when they finally come up to one, they are more than willing to terminate that threat (Wilchins 266).
This indifference and marginalized treatment of the gay and lesbian sector may be attributed to the invasive nature heterosexism has been influencing the dominant society. This can clarify the hidden nature that the gay and lesbian sector has been “operating” in the society. Again the dictates society declares that the practice of heterosexual activities and conduct is widely accepted and tolerated, and the practice of homosexual conduct is severely chastised and discouraged (Florida).
If people who are known or are open in their practice of their identities are discovered, they are open to violent acts that seem to be perpetrated by the dictates of the society (Herek). In a 1987 report released by the United States Department of Justice on the statistics of bias crimes, it was found out that a majority of the targets of these crimes were minority group members, such as African Americans, Hispanics, Jews, Asians and gays and lesbians. It also noted that gays and lesbians were the most frequent victims of bias crimes.
In other private-sponsored studies, crimes against homosexuals that were provoked or bought upon by homophobia and heterosexism topped the reasons for the commission of the crime (Richardson and Seidman 403). It seems that the main issue, however, in the issue of gays and lesbians in society is not that they operate, so to speak, in a different norm and manner. Rather, the issue is trying to create a niche in a heterosexual dominated society (Wilchins 267).
Wilchins argues that the movement for the recognition for the rights of women ultimately bore enactment in laws for the benefit, in the same way that gay rights efforts ultimately gave rise to recognition of that sector’s rights. If the gender issue is to discussed intelligently and objectively, then the gender rights movement must be bought out rather than hidden from the public agenda (Wilchins 267). For something to be discussed, what is needed is educated discussion, rather than making attempts at terminating the percieved threat.
Can the violence against LGBT’s be stopped? Again, we must go back to the freedom we speak of. It is recognized that many in the LGBT sector have risen up through the obstacles that this “modern” society has set up along their way and emerged triumphant, yet are still looked down upon, and in many instances, with hate permeating through the opposition. It is this hate that laws and statutes, however good they may be, cannot control, the choice of people to hate, to think ill of the gays and lesbians, and to concoct and perform violence against gays and lesbians.
All that can be done is to make laws that are far more retributive against people who perform these acts. Federal and local governments should take the initiative in making laws or amending current statutes to give more protection for the gays and lesbians in the society. Unless modern society provides that niche by which the gays and lesbians can integrate themselves into the mainstream of society, it can be said that violence against gays and lesbians and others like them are likely to be a major problem.
It is in the act of “modern” society to accept its diversity, not only in identity, but also in gender and preferences that it can be called a truly modern society.
Works Cited Equality Maryland. “Hate Crimes Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk”. <http://www. equalitymaryland. org/pr_2005/pr2005. 04. 09. htm> Garnets, Linda and Kimmel, Douglas C. “Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Experiences: Chapter 9: Finding a Sexual Identity and Community, by Paula Rust”. New York City: Columbia University Press (2003). Works Cited
Herek, Gregory M. “ Definitions: Sexual prejudice, homophobia, and heterosexism”. <http://psychology. ucdavis. edu/rainbow/HTML/prej_defn. html> Richardson, Diane and Seidman, Steven . “Handbook of Gay and Lesbian Studies: Valerie Jennes and Kimberly D. Richman”. California: Sage Publications (2002). Wilchins, Riki Anne. “Time for Gender Rights”. GLQ: A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies Volume 10, Number 2 (2004). pp. 265-267. University of Florida. “What is heterosexism”? <http://grove. ufl. edu/~ggsa/files/bboard/heterosexism. pdf. >
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