Dear Princess ‘Ishka,
Have you ever heard that “the greatest homophobes are closeted gays”? Yes, me too. This is often shouted on social media as a progressive statement, both from lgbt people as from non-lgbt. It is declared with a great confidence and greater support, even if it is unclear to what extent it targets homophobes and to what extent it targets gays in the closet.
In this letter I will attempt to show that this statement is not only arbitrary and ill-grounded, but also that it hides a slithering superstition, with an often underestimated homophobic flavor.
To be a “great homophobe”, I take it, is to be known for public homophobic utterances and jokes, for open opposition to extension of rights to lgbt couples, and to laws to protect lgbt citizens from homophobic attacks, either physical or verbal.
Many people, it seems, think that being a repressed gay makes you homophobic in virtue of your “internalized homophobia”, namely the hate toward yourself for being gay. Moreover, this internalized homophobia, which non-gays don’t feel, would cause externalization of “greater homophobia”.
When anti-lgbt politicians and public figures get caught in homosexual sex scandals, this ‘theory’ is applied to stigmatize at once their sexual repression and homophobia. But why is sexual repression to be stigmatized? Isn’t it an effect of homophobia, rather than its cause?
It will be replied: no one is attacking sexual repression, it is just that homophobia and sexual repression together make greater homophobia. Look at what a masterpiece of nonsense we have come up with!
Homophobia makes a person sexually repressed and, because of this repression, the person is even more homophobic. This would mean that the person is not at all to blame for his homophobia! If sexual repression (and not a person’s will) makes it the case that a gay guy is more homophobic, he is just a greater victim, rather than a greater homophobe. The only thing to blame remains the social phenomenon of homophobia, not the specific homophobia of those closeted people!
Our initial statement falls into a tautology about the devastating effects of homophobia on the psychological and sexual integrity of a gay person, and it most probably blames the wrong thing, that is sexual repression rather than homophobia. And if it were to blame homophobia, it doesn’t blame the “right kind” of homophobia: it targets that of an individual, when it is the whole society’s, which stands at the root of the evil.
A couple of years ago I met a gay guy, who makes a perfect “case study” (call him G). He enjoys economical and emotional stability, he has a wonderful boyfriend, but no one knows he is gay at his workplace. G told me, rather proudly, that he was used to mock one of his subordinates for his effeminate manners.
Although the boldness of G to come out as a proud homophobe among gays in a gay bar must be appreciated, I couldn’t negate him the thrill of a homicidal look.
Is G a greater homophobe than homophobes because he still is in the closet? Is his sexual repression a good explanation of his behavior? What if, instead, being a “straight-acting” man in a position of power, he behaves precisely like a very average homophobic straight guy the way it is expected of him in his workplace environment?
This is the point: you don’t need sexual repression to explain homophobia. All you need is to analyze the social phenomenon of homophobia and see that, even those who should be expected to feel affinity to the oppressed because of a common “natural condition”, forget one of the most fundamental requirements of morality: respect.
G is just as disrespectful toward his subordinate as any non-gay homophobe. He is not worse, or greater in his homophobia. On the other hand, his sexual repression or internalized homophobia doesn’t justify his revolting behavior in any way.
What can we conclude about “the greatest homophobes” then? First of all, that people who think we can single out anything like that, have a very poor understanding of homophobia, which is a much wider spread way of thinking and behaving, subtler and more terrible than what the inconsistent utterances of anti-lgbt politicians make us think. Second, that they do stigmatize sexual repression, which is a form of blaming the victims. But there is something more.
If you blame a victim for precisely what oppresses her, you are making a favor to the oppressor. You are complicit in homophobia, because you ascribe it to the wrong entity and implicitly make non-gay homophobes somewhat look less guilty.
True freedom of identity, sexuality and womanhood can be achieved only by destroying a monster which has assumed many names over time, but can sometimes be recognized for its means: witch hunt.