Non-Homophobe Fears Homosexuality Will Hasten Decay of Civilization

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A practicing, believing Mormon I've collaborated with on a couple of projects has posted something on his blog about how, although he doesn't think he's a homophobe because he has been friends with gay people and recently drank decaf with a gay man in his own kitchen, still, he's upset about Brokeback Mountain because

there's something about homosexuality that always makes me think of the Roman empire crumbling and stuff like that. It seems to come to a head pretty late in a civilization's decline, By the time it becomes prominent, I think it's equivalent to the bruises you start to see on a piece of overripe fruit. It represents a new, deeper level of decay.

He acknowledges that there are probably

many individuals for whom homosexuality does not seem like a choice. But I think there are as many or more people for whom homosexuality is an option but not a foregone conclusion (in other words, they're in the middle of that 6-point spectrum used to rank homo vs. hetero). I haven't seen [Brokeback Mountain] yet, but I think depictions like this that get people thinking about homosexuality will cause many to go ahead and explore it, whereas they probably never would've if society kept a better cap on it.

He goes on to conclude that

deep down, I'm alarmed. I see more bruises forming on the fruit. I think we're in trouble. To mix in another metaphor, compared to the heterosexual sexual revolution of the '60s, I think the gay movement is like crack cocaine next to pot, in terms of potential to ruin people's lives and upset the right balance of things. (emphasis added.)

Before discussing this further, I want to say that I'm sure there are many individuals for whom homophobia does not seem like a choice. But I think there are as many or more people for whom homophobia is an option but not a foregone conclusion (in other words, they're in the middle of that 6-point spectrum used to rank homophobia vs. tolerance). Having spent 26 years as a practicing Mormon and seen Mormon homophobia in action up close, I think the post by this guy is a perfect example of how religious doctrine that justifies homophobia will cause many people to go ahead and explore it, whereas they probably never would've if society kept a better cap on it.

The author of the post I quote here, for instance, probably started out as a two or a three--more tolerant than not. But years of indoctrination into the Mormon church have helped him become an advocate of one of the most dangerous threats to all humanity: ignorant intolerance dressed in the guise of righteous religion.

Reading the post upset me profoundly, because this is someone I work with, and not only is his message homophobic and bigoted, his logic sucks: he feels justified in announcing his conviction that the gay movement is extreme in its "potential to ruin people's lives and upset the right balance of things"; he expresses openly his dire fears and grievous worries that acceptance of homosexuality will hasten some sort of dangerous, dreadful moral decay--but he rejects the label of homophobe! And this despite the fact that homophobia means "an irrational fear of homosexuality and homosexuals." Given that he proclaims his uh, righteous fears of homosexuality's threat to virtuous, upstanding society, given how overwrought, paranoid and hyperbolic his fears are (what the hell is he doing invoking the fall of the Roman empire? I thought that had to do with putting an emperor in charge of the government, and with the fact that the Goths sacked the capital.... Then there's the fact that the Greeks accepted homosexuality, and they are, after all, the basis for what we in the Western world call civilization), he seems to fit the definition of a homophobe to a rigid, straight H--OK, he's not a virulent, rampaging homophobe, just a mild, meandering one, looking for rotten fruit in the garden of life, blaming the rot on others--god forbid he consider the possibility that HE and his beliefs are responsible for such things.

How can he fail to see that he is a homophobe? Why is he willing to embrace thoroughly homophobic attitudes, but not the label that goes with them? (I do wonder why people are afraid of being labeled a bigot, but not of actually being one. I also wonder why they aren't afraid to reveal such thoroughly inadequate thinking, so that they end up seeming not only bigoted, but unable to follow clear reason.)

I also found the post profoundly ironic, because one of the projects I worked with him on was The Sugar Beet, a website of Mormon satire modeled on The Onion. And when I wrote for the Sugar Beet, I got in a little trouble for a piece I produced to assuage some of the grief and shame I felt when I learned that Aaron McKinney, one of Matthew Shepard's murderers, had grown up Mormon and received officially sanctioned visits from representatives of the Mormon church up until his conviction--at which time the visits ceased and he got excommunicated, because you can't be a convicted felon and a practicing Mormon, any more than you can be an uncloseted homosexual and a practicing Mormon.

I've had people tell me--make that, I've had Mormons tells me--in all seriousness, that homosexuality is a sin akin to murder--and the treatment McKinney received pretty much demonstrates that, at least in the view of the Mormon church, that's true.

And omigod, it's not attitudes like that that will cause the end of civilization! It's not bigotry and greed and vicious illegal wars and wanton devastation of the environment that will destroy the United States--no, it's the fact that there are people in this country who think it's OK to choose a same-sex relationship.

Good god, that is so FUCKED UP.

I'll post the story from the Sugar Beet tomorrow.

16 Comments

Amen!

The Mormon Church has a rich history of sexism, racism and homophobia. There was a time when society balked at the idea of letting women vote, or letting black people sit wherever they want on the bus. Gay rights is just the next big thing- and that doesn't signify the decay of civilization... it signifies that we are inching ever closer to becoming a civilized society.

No one should live in fear of the world around them. The "Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin" doctrine is atrocious and seems un-Christian to me. I believe that it is impossible to LOVE me and HATE the way I express my love. That is indeed so FUCKED UP.

Amen, sister, Amen!

Sorry, rant mode. But yeah, I think that this nonsense about homosexuality bringing the decline of civilization is really vile, too. And stupid. There is this notion common to lots of both relatively sophisticated and highly unsophisticated conservatives that civilization embodies the highest values of collective life and must be defended against change. In another idiom, there are people like Samuel Huntington or Victor Hanson who fear the influx and establishment of migrant Mexican American communities because they believe that the culture of Latinos will pollute the successful Anglo-Saxon Protestant values that made America great (and, I hasten to point out, contributed to one of the worst holocausts ever in the near extermination of the Native Americans and stole one third of Mexico’s territory, where most Mexican migrants now move to, in the wars of Westward expansion). They are in bed with the Minutemen, who seem just to hate Mexicans. So also with homophobes: I don’t really buy the scale of tolerance idea: if (arguing counterfactually) homosexuals really were causing the decline of civilization as our highest values, then wouldn’t we want to cheer when civilization is defended by the tire iron wielding psychopaths who beat Jack to death in "Brokeback Mountain"? Or when the coyotes who abandon young Mexican women in the Arizona desert defend civilization by making migration all the more risky?

Or maybe the question is: what are the values we really think we are defending when we concern ourselves with the private lives of other people? I’m a heterosexual but the only reason I have for saying that is to remark on how unremarkable my own sex life would be for strangers. Why would they care? So why do they care about the sex lives of homosexuals? There may be a partial reason for this: the root of the word ‘civilization’ or ‘civilize’ is ‘civil’: another word for public. Although we don’t intend the word this way in ordinary speech – and in any case, the word ‘civilization’ has a very contradictory and peculiar history, see Raymond Williams’ Keywords – part of what we say when we utter ‘civilize’ is the idea of making a public sphere where the best values of the culture can be cultivated and imparted upon the members of the society. So when homosexuals take political stands, like demanding not to get beat up for being in love or demanding that they not be denied the same civil rights and benefits that are given to other citizens, in some sense they do make their private lives public. Still, in what way does this threaten core values? It in fact strengthens democracy; for better or worse gays are now among the last defenders of the institution of marriage; and the public debate on these issues relies on deeper understandings among people, which only strengthens the social bonds.

I think there are two possible conclusions. One is that in fact, it is homophobia that is the threat to civilization, along with racism and nativism and sexism. The highest values of Western civilization all address the reasons that hating other people, and denying them recognition, is an abuse of their humanity. The other is that maybe it’s time to push this White culture – progenitor of gay bashing, racism and sit-coms – over the cliff; to rescue the bruised fruit from the hand of the rotting corpse that has been trying to crush it.

Aw, do I really have to comment after Spike & Saviour Onassis? I'm just going to seem silly now. But here goes...

Great post! I love your homophobe scale because not only is it funny, I think it's true. We all have prejudice, but to what degree? And to what degree do we let it affect our actions?

As for Brokeback inciting homosexuality, I do think the film threatens to create an open dialogue about what already IS - shocking!!! And, well, we all know what happened to Bush after he watched it:

http://www.unconfirmedsources.com/nucleus/media/3/20051210-brokebackmountain.jpg

See ;)

Holly, It sounds like your friend says he isn't homophobic because he does not want to be homophobic. It sounds as if he knows it's a bad thing to be a homophobe and the only way this fairly intelligent person can justify it is to say he's following orders - "God's Orders". I hope he's having a hard time with his conscience over this - and let's help him with this by reminding him - as another comment does - that the Mormon Church has an apalling record on women's rights and racism as well as homophobia. It was not until 1979 that the Mormon Church granted Black members the same rights and privilidges as white ones. 1979!

I learned from the Feminist movement that "The Personal IS Political" and many of the gay people I know have been motivated by this idea to claim their rights - not just to be 'tolerated' by society, but to be accepted by our families, our communities, our countries, as equals. Speaking personally, I can say it's one thing to fight for these rights politically, but another entirely to claim them from your Mormon family and "priesthood leaders". Right up to her death, my mother was never able to reconcile my homosexuality with her beliefs as a Mormon. She knew, and admitted many times, that I was a good person. But she wastold repeatedly at church - that essentially what I did was evil... In the old days, before 'love the sinner, hate the sin', I was simply evil. I agree with SO's comment that this is a ridiculous and pernicious policy. But reading about your friend's comments, it seems this policy was designed with him in mind - the Mormons look like they are taking a softer line - they don't want to be seen as homophobes, either. They know it's bad PR - and if there's one thing they are pretty good at, it's PR. But don't be deceived. In this regard, as well as in regard to race and gender equality, the Mormon Church is a great big bad wolf trying to squeeze into wolves' clothing.

I was ex-communicated, at age 25, by the Mormon Church for being a practicing homosexual. I had served an honourable mission for the church, I was perfect leadership material, indeed, a paragon of virtue in my local congregation, a pretty perfect Mormon boy in every other respect (Holly can back this up - more or less!). Why throw me out? What is it about loving a person of one's own gender that throws god's plans awry or signals the end of civilisation? I have yet to hear a convincing argument for either, from the Church or from your colleague, Holly.

I have not yet seen Brokeback Mountain, either (I live in Europe and we get everything much later than you do in the US) but I have read some things about it. I thought the whole premise of the film was that at least one of these guys cannot come to terms with his own sexuality and it is that that brings about tragedy in other people's lives - as well as his own. That's hardly a cool ad for 'choosing' to become a homosexual. You are right, your friend has flawed thinking and definitely flunked history class.

Finally (for now at least) I'm now wondering if when I do eventually get to see Brokeback Mountain I will want to explore my local Western shop and buy myself a stetson and some snakeskin boots? Probably not, as we keep a pretty good cap on that kind of thing here in Europe...

I regret that my comment section doesn't allow hyperlinks--so you'll just have to cut and paste the web address Frankengirl provided if you want to see it. But trust me, it's worth the effort. Thanks, FG.

Matt, I love the idea of your primary reaction to this movie being one of needing to dress like a cowboy.... It's pretty rich.

For Christmas Wayne gave me this great EP by this great band, Semi Precious Weapons. One of their songs is "Too Pretty to Be a Cowboy," the chorus of which goes

I am too pretty to be a cowboy
I am much too tall to be a barmaid
Clearly not an Indian
But I will find a way to make you mine again.

OK, you've got to do more cutting-and-pasting, but you can check the band out here:

http://www.justintranter.com/

It's worth checking out.

OK, OK, I'm homophobic about homosexuality itself, yes. However, I'm not homophobic about individual homosexuals (unless they come on to me personally). But I am probably homophobic if they get into groups of about three or larger, especially in the comments section of my blog. (By the way, I love the idea of a tolerance vs. homophobic scale; I bet you could develop that into some kind of nationally publishable piece.)

Quote from Matt: "That's hardly a cool ad for 'choosing' to become a homosexual."

Yes! This is not a film where lovers ride off into the sunset! This is a tragedy where hate crimes perpetuate a society of fear, repression and duplicity. One thing I'm so sick of hearing right now is conservatives telling me that this film is only receiving accolades in Hollywood because it's a gay movie! Well, there's a big debate on NYC radio as to whether this is "gay" movie and what defines a "gay" movie.

Also, Hollywood didn't exactly help Ang Lee along the way. This was a relatively low-budget film because no one expected it to make any money.

In the end, it's scary and tragic to me that any Christian (or human being, for that matter) can come away from this movie worried more about homosexuality than about hate crimes in America.

Chris:

How can you tell the sexuality orientation of the people who commented on your blog? There are anonymous commenters there who don't mention a thing about their sexuality, and you've also got fellow homophobes cheering you on. And even if a couple of the commenters are indeed gay, how does the fact that these people come across a blog with such bigoted comments and feel entitled to comment on it, constitute "getting into groups of about three or larger" on the comment section of your bog? Can you really identify three or more homosexuals who are commenting on your blog, and do you really think they're working in a group?

Finally, why would any gay person come on to you?

Shame on you, Chris.

I just keep piddling on your rug, don't I.

The crack about gays in my comment section was just a joke. But for the record, I know there were at least three. They either IDed themselves as gay in the comment, here on your blog, or in an e-mail to me. But really, it was just a tossed-off joke. Secretly I'm flattered to get the attention.

When I ventured into alternative culture from age 17-19, I had several gay people come on to me. But I guess I've lost my girlish figure since then and stopped moving in circles where lots of gay people are on the make. Now the worst I could fear is that I could qualify as one of those hairy, bearded "bear" fetishes I accidentally read about just the other day in my web surfing (I can't remember what I was really trying to look up).

Another thing that colors my outlook is that a very close relative died of AIDS picked up through Utah County rest stop cruising, and he had no defense to make of the lifestyle (for him, it was the dark half of a double life). Even down here in Happy Valley, you have to be careful not to make eye contact with lone wolves in the mall.

Nothing anyone has said has changed my opinion that homosexuality is an unhealthy vice that has the potential to help bring down our society. However, I feel bad for the people who just really want to do it, so many of whom end up down on sexual skid row, figuratively speaking. I'm sorry that it infiltrates some people's identities so complexly and thoroughly, and it really bothers me that there are apparently not any good solutions or alternatives for so many, but that doesn't change my belief that at heart it's a deception. It just ain't an eternally viable option.

Did you see my New Yorker cartoon caption entry that I posted last night on my blog, the one with the pregnant man?

Chris writes:

"Another thing that colors my outlook is that a very close relative died of AIDS picked up through Utah County rest stop cruising, and he had no defense to make of the lifestyle (for him, it was the dark half of a double life)."

Yeah. Having heard, read and seen plenty of accounts of the shame involved in being both gay and Mormon, I've no doubt that for this relative of yours, being gay was indeed the dark half of a double life.

And perhaps it's the shame heaped on gay people by homophobic people and institutions--particularly by people they love and institutions they belong to--that makes homosexuality function as "an unhealthy vice," rather than anything inherent in same-sex relationships.

Nothing has changed my opinion that bigotry based on something like race, gender or sexual orientation is a moral, ethical, intellectual and spiritual failing that threatens both individuals and humanity.

For the record: only one person who commented on your blog has, at this point, also commented on mine.

And yeah, every time you make some awful homophobic statement and "piddle on my rug," I'm going to be grossed out and appalled. I'm not going to tell you it's OK to be a bigot and a homophobe, although I appreciate that I've at least gotten you to own up to the fact that you are.

re: the cartoon on your blog: Yeah, I saw it. Did you see the posts on my blog, about the gay Mormon man who got married because he wanted to have a family? To find it, look in the index under "Mormonism" or "Queerness." Or have you seen this great movie, "Brokeback Mountain, about these two gay men who marry straight women and have families, with horrible, horrible results all around? It's really good--I highly recommend it.

When someone puts so much energy into attacking homosexuality, I believe they don't want to face and deal with heterosexual vices. Do you know how many women are the victim of domestic violence at the hands of heterosexual men? As a matter of mere percentages here (more heterosexuals than homosexuals), wouldn't a good Christian be far more concerned about non-consensual sex among heterosexuals (than consensual sex among adults). Or are such matters "private" when it comes to men beating and raping women?

So when someone talks about homosexuality bringing down society, I really have to laugh! Because they're only talking about Men. Half of society. So I say, bring it down, Baby! Bring down the society of white-hetero-male supremacy!

*end rant*

Frankengirl writes:

"So when someone talks about homosexuality bringing down society, I really have to laugh! Because they're only talking about Men. Half of society. So I say, bring it down, Baby! Bring down the society of white-hetero-male supremacy!"

I've been thinking exactly the same thing. I admit there are aspects of civilization as it is that we can't get rid of soon enough, and I also admit I am actively working to end white-hetero-male supremacy as well.

So I guess these guys are right to be scared. I just hope we can do justice to their fear, and make things even worse than they imagined, with a society that extends equal rights to people who aren't white, aren't straight and aren't male.

Good god, won't it be a nightmare!

Questions for Chris:

Where exactly is "sexual skid row" and what goes on there?

What's the big deal about homosexuality infiltrating people's identities so thoroughly? Hasn't heterosexuality thoroughly infiltrated your identity?

I was going to respond to Chris' "dark half" comment, but then Holly said much of what I wanted to say (and more). Society sets up an environment in which homosexual relationships are marginalized and condemned, and then highlights these same traits as proof of the inherent wrongness of homosexuality? Seems like circular reasoning to me. And if we focused on the worst cases of heterosexual relationships (murder is a, if not *the*, leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S.), we'd probably be condemning those, too.

The most obvious thing occurred to me recently. A non-practicing gay man has more rights and privileges in the Mormon Church then a hetero woman. How’s that for irony.

Hey, Cherie, thanks for stopping by. I don't know that I agree that a non-practicing gay man has more RIGHTS in the church than a hetero woman, but I think he has more SIGNIFICANCE, since if he's somehow "rehabilitated," he can once again weild the priesthood.

I said something similar in an earlier post, "A Happy Marriage with a Good Man," found here: http://holly.mclo.net/archives/2005/09/a_happy_marriag.html
(Again, I apologize for the fact that links don't work in my comment section--the code doesn't read properly, so you'll have to cut and paste.)

Anyway, I write that

"I don't want to minimize or ignore the cruel and vicious ways in which the church victimizes gay men, on whom there is intense pressure to marry and father children. But I also don't want to minimize or ignore the cruel and vicious ways in which the men who uphold and benefit from patriarchy--and as long as men wield the priesthood in the Mormon church they do benefit from patriarchy, even when they're gay--victimize women, not only politically but personally, inside the arena of relationships and sex."

Which, of course, is one of the things "Brokeback Mountain" deals with--quite thoughtfully, intelligently and compassionately, and one of the things I pointed out to Chris in my comments on his blog.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on January 25, 2006 12:16 AM.

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