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When someone claims the right to hold (and peddle) beliefs
that are homophobic, they must also take responsibility for the repercussions
In 2014, the International
Day Against Homophobia (IDAH) marks its 10th
anniversary. Over the past decade, much has changed regarding societal
attitudes towards homosexuality, mostly for the better. But festering
examples of bigotry and hatred still persist, like Russian Prime
Minister Vladimir Putin's current
The IDAH website says; "Homophobia is an insidious process
that channels its effects through subtle, usually transparent
ways." It's this subtlety and transparency that allows it to
flourish. How can you fight something when you can stare right through it?
In developed, western societies like Australia, most homophobia falls
within one of two categories – cultural or institutional.
Cultural homophobia is largely born out of ignorance. Negative ideas
and stereotypes about gays and lesbians are allowed to flourish in the
absence of the truth that will correct them. This kind of homophobia
is often held by ordinary people who simply don't know any better.
The antidote here is visibility. The more visible homosexuality
becomes, the more everyone else realises there's nothing to fear.
The other major form of homophobia is institutional. This is mostly
religious organisations like churches. It's much trickier to combat.
When broaching the subject of religious homophobia, people tend to
tiptoe around the issue, afraid of offending "The Church"
(whichever one it may be). They practically fall over themselves in
their eagerness to point out that religious beliefs should be respected.
But respect is a dual-carriageway. The demand for respect for beliefs
that are themselves disrespectful towards certain people only ends up
cancelling itself out.
It's also dangerous. This sense of entitlement creates the idea of
permission, where no permission rightfully exists. And this is what
lies beneath a lot of the institutionalised homophobia in our society.
Hatred is hatred. No matter how you try to dress it up.
In a free and supposedly democratic society, people surely have the
right to hold whatever beliefs they choose. But with rights come
responsibilities. And when someone claims the right to hold (and
peddle) beliefs that are homophobic, they must also take
responsibility for the repercussions.
This all may paint a gloomy picture. But the world is changing.
Everywhere you look now, there's evidence of a broad, slow-moving
rejection of homophobia in our society.
A good barometer of societal attitudes is how gays and lesbians are
depicted in movies and on TV. A promising pattern emerges when taking
a broad view. From complete invisibility in the 1950s, to some
visibility in the 60s and 70s (but only as serial killers, lonely
outcasts or limp-wristed fairies), to even more visibility in the 80s
and 90s as regular, even likable people (but with tragic endings such
as insanity, death or loneliness), to the mostly well-rounded people
in everyday situations we see on our screens today.
The other handy barometer of societal attitudes is the issue of same
sex marriage, surely the last frontier of homophobia. This issue has
cut right to the very heart of what marriage actually is. It's held a
mirror up to the institution, asking the question: is it about love or
gender? Those who say ‘love' generally support same sex marriage.
Those who say ‘gender' oppose it.
Since the world's first legal same sex marriage ceremony took place
in The Netherlands on 1 April 2001, many
other countries have followed suit, including some of
Australia's closest friends such as New Zealand and Britain. There are
now 17 nations with legal same sex marriage and many others with
various forms of civil partnerships. This is progress. But it still
leaves a lot of other countries in the dust. Including Australia.
Like a lot of mature and modern organisations, TAFE NSW has a proud
policy of acceptance, diversity and inclusion for everyone.
Because ultimately, the peddling of any kind of hatred diminishes all
of us and weakens us as a society.
The IDAH website puts it succinctly; "An International Day
Against Homophobia belongs to no one individual. It's about people
hoping for a prejudice-free world that can provide a place at the
table for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation."