The modern trifecta of discrimination – Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia – will never go away. As long as people remain unique from each other, their differences will engender these behaviours regardless of logic or understanding.
Ask someone why they think women should get paid less, and they’ll give a non-reason: most likely, an anecdote about lack of strength or high emotion, based on in most cases singular experiences with women that have somehow been engraved into their consciousness as universal truths.
Ask someone why they dislike Asians, and they’ll again give non-reasons: something about stealing jobs, communist spies, or being sexually inept, again based on singular experiences or just simple stereotypes passed on through a culture of ignorance.
However, ask someone why they hate gays, nine out of ten times they’ll give a distinctly different reason – that they read it in a book, that this particular book says, “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
Unless they are hardcore fans of Mein Kampf or 50 Shades of Grey, people do not usually quote books when justifying their hatred toward Jews or women. Homophobia is therefore unique in that its core proponent is an integral part of western society.
But what is really going on when someone says, “I hate gays?”
Time for a thought experiment. For our purposes, the name of the homophobic person shall be Sam:
Imagine yourself asking Sam, “So, why do you hate gays?” With full confidence, he shall make a quote from a book he has or pretends to have read. Either that or he will give a non-reason. The non-reason will be easy to sort out – as long as Sam is willing to listen – but the quote will be an irrefutable bastion, for it wears the guise of truth.
Now, rephrase the question.
Imagine yourself asking Sam, “Can you tell me in your own words why you hate gays?” Now, there are several ways to answer this question. In order to get at the root of this problem, let us ignore the “real” response – that Sam will be offended that his belief is being questioned and ends the conversation. That aside, there is really only one way that Sam can offer a response without again resorting to non-reasons and anecdotes: “Well, I hate gays because God said [paraphrasing a quote] and I believe in God.”
Now, imagine yourself asking Sam: “But what do you believe?” Confused, Sam will say: “I just told you, I believe in God, and the book contains the words of God.”
The implication of this statement is, of course, that whatever God had decreed gays to be, Sam believes in it – God decreed gays to be abominations, therefore Sam hates them.
There is an important distinction to be made here. By definition, an abomination is a thing that causes disgust or loathing. Typically, a thing causes disgust and loathing by being repulsive on an instinctual level, whether through physical appearance (such as a deformity), mental implication (such as a psychopath) or conceptual wrongness (such as incest).
But consider this: a visually impaired person will not find a deformed person repulsive, a mental health professional will not find a psychopath repulsive, and people who do not understand the implications of incest will not find it repulsive. These respective parties will not find their respective cases to be abominations, even though they are widely accepted as such. (These are, of course, generalizations)
It is all a matter of perception.
There is no such thing that can cause universal disgust and loathing, for each of us perceives things differently, with different perspectives. Perspectives, by definition, can change in a million ways – through gaining experience, for example, or aging, or simply making a decision to change.
In other words, nothing is inherently an abomination; the beholder chooses whether something is an abomination or not.
For someone who has always had the same perspective – such as Sam – it would be difficult to convince them that homosexuality is anything but an abomination. His mind cannot be changed until his perspective is changed – through engagement with the gay community, through the everyday information he receives on the topic of homosexuality, through all the subtle encounters he make when navigating through life.
And especially through the decisions he would make after these experiences.
This is what those TV buzzwords like “changing social stigma” really mean – changing the perspective of the beholder so that what were once abominations cease to engender disgust and loathing.
This process will be difficult, sometimes impossible. It’ll be like trying to convince you that the guy with severe body odour isn’t all that bad, or that the guy who voted for Trump isn’t really a raging rampaging discrimination machine…or that the guy named Sam who is shouting slogans in the anti-gay rallies could actually change his mind.
These are the abominations on the opposite side of homophobia, and they are just as difficult to overcome.
When Sam says “I believe in God”, what he really means is “I believe in my belief of God.” Deities are eternal, and those lines will never be removed from those books…but people are not forever.
People can change.