Saturday, July 25, 2009

Open Forum: The Homophobic Side Effect - Queer Paranoia

Homophobia is heavily prevalent in society, in small towns and big cities alike, it is hard to escape the intolerance, and prejudice that surrounds the often taboo topic of queer sexuality. Whether one is closeted, struggling to come out, or out and proud, homophobia does take a toll on all of our lives.

Ever fear sharing your sex life with your physician for fear of judgment even when it could amount to risking your own health? Do you hesitate to put photos of your families on your desk at work fearing someone will come across them and know your secret? How about standing on a line to buy a gay book or magazine, ever keep an eye over your shoulder afraid to bump into the wrong person? These and countless more examples are real and vivid fears in the daily lives of many queers.

These feelings can be described as 'butterflies in the stomach' or anxiety that comes as a result of societal homophobia. Do you suffer from anxiety based on your queer identity? Do you take heat and suffer from misunderstanding for being an ally? How do you deal with the homophobic side effect that is queer paranoia?


Michael Parisi said...

Why did someone decide that "queer" was okay. I do not, and will never, think that "queer" is okay to use by anyone. It's as bad as, if not worse than, "nigger".

The funny thing is that if this post is moderated, y'all will chuckle about my discomfort with "queer" but cringe when you read "nigger", and almost not approve this post. When did our own derogatory word become okay?

Yes, I have paranoia about being gay...which will not be made any better by degrading myself!

therealpatrick said...

I understand Michael's discomfort with the word "queer," but I think it is misplaced. Every word in every language known to man has different meanings when used in different contexts. Even "the n-word" is sometimes deemed by some people as appropriate in some contexts.

If Michael reacts negatively to this word, I am sympathetic to this reaction. I, however, embrace "queer" as a term of self-liberation. I am a proud queer and I will continue to describe myself as such.

At the end of the day we must remember that words only have power over us to the extent that we give those words power. We must also be aware that any society which bans words is only a few steps away from banning books. I don't think that is a road we ever want to go down.

Anonymous said...

Like T.R. up there, I end up with a little extra anxiety thanks to my location: Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family. I usually take a lot of care in selecting doctors, but even still there's only one I've mentioned being a lesbian in discussions.

In one wonderfully awkward experience, my partner and I were stuck on a full plane next to a fellow who was very carefully reading "The Limbaugh Letter."

As far as the "queer" debate goes, word reclamation isn't anything new. It's a fairly normal thing for any labeled group to do.
Exhibit 1. Bitch Magazine, Exhibit 2. Queers United. Overall, neither is offensive in it's reclaiming of a word.

Anonymous said...

I live in Birmingham, AL, and am constantly uncomfortable about the things people say and do to me and my friends when we're not within our protective sphere. There are so many things that people who even consider themselves liberal that are related to LGBT rights, gay marriage or what it is to be non-heterosexual, and they don't realise they're being offensive or discriminatory. Even people that would be allies aren't educated about the disadvantages that LGBT teenagers, adults, and families face.

People just look at us and know that there is something different about us, and if we interact for more than a few moments, and talk about things that interest us or what our values are, or what we think about Birmingham, and Obama and all that, we get a twangy "You're not from around here, are you?" and can tell when people start to consider us "the other."

There are real consequences to being out personally and professionally in the South, which is why it makes it so great when people are open, and aren't afraid, and don't stop being themselves. But that doesn't mean it is always safe. We are often hypervigilant, and stay in close-knit groups...

Valerie said...

I also live in Birmingham AL and I came out when I was 16. I know it is not an easy thing to come out, but it is FAR more difficult to try to stay closeted. The more people in the south come out, the easier it is going to be for everyone. Yes, there may be consequences professionally or socially, but it is worth it and a person has to be willing to accept the consequences. What is more important being honest about who you are and your life or taking a chance that your boss is homophobic?

I've come out at a large corporation to a conservative christian boss and had ZERO problems. My extended family is extremely conservative and they welcome my partner to all the christmas parties and thanksgiving festivities. I was SCARED to death to come out to them, but they were all just fine with it. To the previous commenter, take a chance and you may be surprised at the acceptance you receive.

Saskplanner said...

I sometimes have butterflies but I push back my own every all the time. If I go into a store and want to buy something, I will say something like 'I need to get my boyfriend's approval on that' or something similar even though I don't have one. It's about being visible, making people aware there are lots of us, and taking our place at the table.

Saskplanner said...

and if I was on the plane beside someone reading the Limbaugh Letter, I would have pulled out my copy of 'Frontiers' or the 'Desert Guide' or whatever gay stuff I had one me. Or kissed the man I was with. OR talk in a loud voice about the latest White Party and the 20, 000 men at it. Make HIM uncomfortable... What's HE going to do?

Saskplanner said...

Why are WE always on the defensive? Scared my family won't accept me? Scared my Christian Conservative boss might flip. Scared the guy on the plane reading the Limbaugh Letter might have a problem with me?

Take your life back.

NorCal Gary said...

The term "homophobia" is overused and used mostly incorrectly.

The correct term should be "heterosexist" in most cases.

The concept of heterosexism is similar to the concept of racism in that both ideas promote privilege for dominant groups within a given society.

Just as racism against non-white people places white people as superior to non-whites, heterosexism places heterosexual people or relationships as superior to non-heterosexual ones.

NorCal Gary said...

Persoanlly I choose to own the words queer, fag, homo etc.

I am proud to be queer because if I refer to myself as that, people who try to hurt me with that word are only giving me a compliment.

A gay friend of mine and I were walking down the sidewalk leaving a grocery store minding our own business.

A group of 3 black teenagers passed us going the opposite direction. As they passed us by one of them called us "fucking queers".

Both of us without a thought turned around and said "Yes we are and thanks for noticing". Then we both of us broke up laughing because we had echoed each other without planning to.

The look on those 3 faces I would have paid a million dollars to have a picture of.

Margaret said...

I've only recently come out and was surprised but grateful when my new doctor asked if I was sexually active with "men, women, or both" and I was able to say "both" without feeling uncomfortable. I am lucky enough to live in a very liberal neighborhood in a liberal city and usually feel safe and accepted. The worst has been coming out to my mom - she's always seemed accepting of others but turns out she's a NIMBY and has forbidden me from coming out to my 15 year old brother. I wasn't nervous at all about telling her so her rejection was that much worse.

Connor said...

I agree with SacGary's comment about taking back your life. When people try to demean me by saying "fag," "queer," etc,. I say thanks for noticing or my personal favorite, "and?" It usually stops the "hate."

Joni said...

My mother is often yelling at me for my use of words such as "gay" in regular conversation. I've told her more than once: words are words, people are people. When my mother says someone may be offended, it's because she believes that there is something to be ashamed of. I don't. If you're offended by the word "queer", which is afterall just a word, are you comfortable with being one?

Sabertooth Screaming Lemur said...

Joni, I too would be offended by your use of "gay" if you mean what I think (i.e., "oh, that show is so gay"). I don't have a problem referring to myself as a queer, or a gay male friend as a fag (if he's ok with that), but using that word to mean something bad that has nothing to do with actually being homosexual is really offensive.
if you're just referring to a person (i.e., "ellen is a gay icon") and your mother has a fit, then yeah that's weird and you can ignore the previous sentence, lol.

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