***Trigger warning! Pictures depicting horrifying homophobic displays***
After watching this video, in which a 6-day-old baby is refused treatment by a doctor because of her same-sex parents, I wish I could say that I was shocked and outraged, that I had never heard of such a thing happening before. Of course I was outraged. I was also disappointed. But unfortunately I was not shocked. The horrible truth is that occurrences like these are commonplace, especially within the United States.
I suppose that that is a result of our colonial roots. When colonizers from Europe took over and invaded our land, the leaders were mostly heterosexual, white male citizens who, in the long run, supressed the natives and attempted to rid them of their cultural heritage (Alfred). These power structures are still in effect, meaning that straight, able-bodied white men are generally viewed as those with the most power (Aulette & Wittner).
The issue here, and in many cases similar to it, is that social constructions have become the norm. Bodies are no longer simply viewed as bodies; instead, they are assigned a gender, an ethnicity, and a sexuality. These assigned aspects are given different merits, each meaning something different and with preferences for each varying based on geographical location (Aulette & Wittner).
In theory, there is no such thing as sexuality. People are simply genderless bodies who are attracted to other genderless bodies. These bodies do not have ethnicities or races – they are simply human bodies. However, as gender, race and ethnicity are created and applied, sexuality then comes into play. In a heteronormative society such as ours, it is simply expected that everyone you meet is heterosexual– that is, only attracted to others of the opposite sex – unless told otherwise. This creates further problems, as any sexuality deviating from the norm is seen as problematic and unnatural.
In fact, the term homosexuality was coined as a way to categorize gay people as mentally unstable (Harek). This then brings us to problems surrounding medicalization.
Assumptions made by the general public are highly contingent on the information provided to them by doctors and other authority figures. Throughout the 20th century, doctors searched for a “cure” for those who identified as homosexual, implying that it is an illness. This was then reflected in the actions and attitudes of everyone else, who often bullied and at times outright rejected those who they perceived as gay (F.,J).
Even today, in a society in which homosexuality is supposedly accepted, teens are bullied for it, adults are mocked and rejected for it, and total harassment ensues. While this may not always be the case, it far too often is.
There are over 80 countries that have laws restricting same-sex relationships, some of which are even punishable by death (Dann, G.). For those of us in Western countries, it is easy look at these other countries and think “Man, that’s horrible. I’m glad that [insert country here] is not like that. I’m so glad we’re such an accepting society with little to no homophobia left”. Perhaps the country we live in does not have anti-gay laws punishable by death. But even Western countries are not completely accepting. Homophobia is still very real and very present. According to a survey taken in multiple European countries, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States, the US was one of three countries with the highest rate of people claiming that gay sex is wrong (Aulette and Wittner).
Harassment based on sexuality within both public and private domains can be very damaging – there are countless reports of kids committing suicide after being bullied by peers because of their sexuality, of kids being beaten by their parents because of the same reason, of people being harassed on the streets, of being beaten by strangers, of horrifying anti-gay protests, and even of people being murdered because of their sexuality. The threat of these occurrences is worse for a person of colour who is gay, or someone of any colour who is transsexual as well as gay.
Homophobia within all domains threatens the mental and physical well-being of all gay people, both in a mental and physical capacity, and threatens to impact their overall quality of life.
Another issue that leaves me enrages is when people act in a homophobic manner and say “It’s not personal, but…” But what? But yes, it absolutely is personal. Those homophobic words and actions have the potential to have a huge impact on the personal life of people all over the country.
Similarly, when people say “I’m not homophobic, but I don’t support equal rights.” Meaning I have absolutely nothing against you, and I don’t think you’re any less of a person than me, but oh wait yes I do. A statement that declares that someone should not be allowed to get married to another person of the same sex, or should not be able to raise kids because they are the same sex as their partner is absolutely homophobic, despite claims otherwise (Duffy, N.).
The following is an excellent video demonstrating how kids of same-sex parents feel about their family. I would like to see someone watch this video and say that there is something wrong with these kids because they were raised by same-sex parents, or that their needs weren’t being met, or some other horribly pompous remark that is absolutely irrelevant and false (Weber, B.).
Aside from the social implications mentioned above and the threat of violence, homophobia presents further complications when it threatens to leave people without a doctor. Whether it be a gay person, a gay couple, or the children of a gay couple, the risks are clear. It threatens the health of a patient while they are left to look for a doctor who is comfortable treating them.
The biggest issue is a lack of laws supporting gay citizens. Not only are they lacking, there have been multiple attempts to bring in further laws that are, in essence, anti-gay. They state a variety of things, from criminalizing gay relationships to stating that someone who is gay can be refused service from someone whose religion or personal beliefs condemn being gay (Ford Z.).
Further, those laws that do exist are mediocre at best, as can be demonstrated from 3:09 to 3:19 in the original video where it basically says that though in theory doctors cannot refrain from caring for a patient based on his or her sexual orientation, in practice they are able to do so if their personal, religious, or moral beliefs do not support it. That is to say, if a doctor completely supports gay rights they cannot refuse to care for a patient based on their sexuality (which, realistically, a person in this context would not do anyways because they support gay rights), but if that doctor does not support gay rights they are able to refuse because the patients sexuality is not compatible with their personal beliefs (Doctor).
In closing, there is clearly still a large amount of homophobia within Western countries, but especially within the United States. However, that is not to say that there is no acceptance. Huge strides are made as more and more states within the US gain equal marriage rights. Having discussed the bad, I would now like to leave you with a short video, though only 2 minutes in duration, is full of potential, full of hope, and that ultimately tells it as it is.
Alfred, T. (n.d.). Canadian Colonialism. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www3.nfb.ca/enclasse/doclens/visau/index.php?mode=theme&language=english&theme=30662&film=16933&excerpt=612357&submode=abou
Aulette, Judy Root, and Judith G. Wittner. Gendered Worlds. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2012. 18-120. Print.
Dann, G. (2014, January 1). Worldwide Homophobia: The Case of Sacred Sex and Trinity Western University. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/g-elijah-dann/homophobia-trinity-western-university_b_4770956.html
Doctor refuses treatment of same-sex couple’s baby. (2015, February 18). Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/story/28142401/doctor-refuses-treatment-of-same-sex-couples-baby
Duffy, N. (2014, January 1). Kellie Maloney: I’m not homophobic, but I don’t think same-sex couples should have children. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/08/15/kellie-maloney-im-not-homophobic-but-i-dont-think-same-sex-couples-should-have-children/
F., J. (2009, July 9). Culture, Medicine, and Body. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://culturemedicineandbody.blogspot.ca/2009/07/medicalization-of-homosexuality.html
Ford, Z. (2014, February 3). 9 States With Anti-Gay Laws That Aren’t That Different From Russia’s. Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2014/02/03/3241421/9-state-gay-propaganda-laws/
Harek, G. (n.d.). Facts About Homosexuality and Mental Health. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/faculty_sites/rainbow/html/facts_mental_health.htm
Weber, B. (2013, January 1). Retrieved March 17, 2015, from http://www.upworthy.com/some-kids-of-gay-parents-tell- us-their-secrets-and-theyre-adorable