When I’m Queen of the Universe, I will issue a decree making incorrect use of language a criminal offence. It goes without saying that erroneous use of the terms
homophobia and bigot will carry the largest penalties.
We’ve done the homophobia one countless times, but just to recap for those hard of understanding, homophobia is defined by the OED as “an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people”.
Whilst I am undoubtedly guilty of what Mark Simpson would term the fetishisation of marriage, that doesn’t stem from any aversion, let alone of an extreme or irrational nature. It’s fascinating that in order to qualify as a bona fide homophobe, one’s aversion must be “extreme or irrational”. Common or garden “homosexual sex is a bit ick” wouldn’t seem to cut it according to the OED. I don’t think that there is anything inherently “homophobic” about being averse to sexual acts between same gendered partners. Several friends with same sex attraction have confessed to me that the idea of sex with a differently gendered person revolts or turns them off, the concept being utterly unthinkable. It’s not an irrational feeling in their eyes, it’s simply “the way they are” therefore it is entirely logical that people may well be repelled by the idea of same gendered sex in a similar vein, without necessarily being “homophobic”.
As I’ve said right since the inception of this blog, homophobia or homophobic is simply a perjorative smear, designed to discredit and close down any sensible debate. Much easier to infer that someone is an unpleasant or unsavoury character who should not be given any credence rather than engage directly with the issue. The word has been used so often that it’s now meaningless.
I’ve deliberately avoided discussing the gay marriage issue in theological terms for a few reasons. Firstly, most Christian readers don’t need them explained and secondly, given that for some inexplicable reason I seem to have picked up quite a large following of non-Christians, I don’t think that the Church (Roman Catholic or Anglican) has the monopoly on marriage. I’ve wanted to steer away from the whole “well Christians can have their version and we can have ours” line.
The point is this. Marriage is a public institution that transcends and pre-dates Church and State, neither of whom have the monopoly on it or the power to change it. As marriage is a public institution, proposals that could negatively affect or harm it should be given the same kind of objective analysis as any other issue of public policy. It’s not simply a matter of “fairness” or “forcing religious dogma down people’s throats”. This is why I’ve discussed the issue in broad terms, redefining marriage will have a huge impact upon society.
I was therefore disappointed to note the following comment directed at me on Facebook. “For G-d’s sake, people aren’t still losing sleep about gay marriage are they? Stop rattling your beads in my face. Your backward views should be kept to yourself”. It goes without saying that it garnered several “likes”, no doubt validating the author’s sense of worth and popularity amongst her peers.
I am often accused of homophobia, and “hiding behind the dictionary definition” of the word if I can be bothered to refute it. Apparently it’s quite “lame”. To me the dictionary is important as it defines the common consensus and meaning of a word. Otherwise we all become like Humpty Dumpty and language loses its potency as has indeed happened with homophobia. What is lame is giving someone a perjorative label based on an incorrect and lazy character assumption, or a generalisation. You don’t want gay marriage, it must be because you either hate gays, you are stupid and most definitely because you are religious.
As invective goes it wasn’t particularly powerful, but there are slightly sinister undertones of “anyone who disagrees with me is irrational and stupid and has no right to speak, they must be silent”. I enjoyed the wild imaginings, at no stage were beads rattled in anyone’s faces – bead rattling seems to be becoming quite a common conceit. I can’t say it bothers me really, although I don’t so much rattle the beads, it’s more of a thoughtful fingering, a rolling between one’s thumb and forefinger, but I suspect the subtleties of the rosary are of little interest and not as evocative of the image of a fervent believer in the throes of religious ecstasy feverishly thrusting a rosary into someone’s face.
The delicious irony is that as Cranmer’s Law testifies, people who believe themselves to be of a liberal or permissive bent, love to bandy the word bigot about, when clearly they have absolutely no idea what it means.
“an obstinate belief in the superiority of one’s own opinions and a prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others”.
Well most of us tend to have some sort of belief that our moral code is the right one, even if that moral code leans towards relativism.
A prejudiced intolerance of the opinions of others? How would that be manifested? Presumably by telling others that they should keep their opinions to themselves? Or calling other’s opinions nasty and stupid? Of course those sentiments may be thought to be justified, but the irony is that by telling someone that they should either shut up, or are a “nasty stupid bigot”, betrays a bigotry all of its very own.
All human beings are bigots but some bigotry is better than others.
4 thoughts on “Beads and bigots”
Nobody ever believes that they are bigots but they easily believe that others with whom they disagree are bigots. In a talk I gave once I compared the word bigot to an irregular verb as follows
1 have principles
You are prejudiced
He is a bigot
Shouting bigot is simply a way of refusing to engage with a different opinion to your own which is why so many groups are resorting to it now since it removes them from the moral need to engage in debate
Sorry to hear about the comment you received on Facebook. That sort of thing doesn’t get us anywhere
I would agree with you that it is mistaken to interpret a principled moral opposition to homosexual acts or same-sex marriage as being homophobic. There are deeply-rooted reasons why Christians like you hold these views about sex and relationships. However, I have to tell you that in my experience, the attitudes and behaviour of a lot of Christians, including Catholic, veers far into the territory of homophobia. It’s everywhere, especially on the internet. And in some other countries the situation is a hundred times worse.
The charge of homophobia is sometimes misused, but that does not mean it does not exist. In attacking the concept of homophobia, is there a risk of coming across as though you do not care about genuine discrimination against or mistreatment of gays and lesbians?
Thank you for commenting 🙂
I abhor unjust discrimination of whatever kind, I am relieved that sexuality does not disbar anyone from sharing equal rights under the law, but perhaps we may differ in our definitions of those rights?
The BBC did clearly change the story as at time of posting it was couched in terms of a Catholic attack on gay rights.
In terms of homophobia, I believe it has become an overused term and lost some impact, which does not help gay activists. I don’t doubt that it does exist, but I tend to find that those who like to yell it from every rooftop, tend to be those with their own issues.
I believe the gay marriage debate is interesting from a sociological point of view. It seems that gay couples, once so radical, seek conservatism and to be establishment which whilst understandable, seems to run contrary to much of gay sub-culture. There is an inherent paradox…
I’ll add that some homosexual men (and many more straight or bisexual or bi curious) men are ‘repulsed’ by homosexual sex in a way.
Sometimes people are most attracted to that which scares/confuses/repulses them. I think that’s a good definition of the word ‘perverse’.