Episodes of arguably obvious and subtle forms of structural homophobic or heterosexist discrimination. THE LARAMIE PROJECT RESEARCH
Definitions• Homophobia - an extreme and irrational aversion to homosexuality and homosexual people.• Heterosexism - discrimination or prejudice against homosexuals on the assumption that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation.
What is Heterosexism? Heterosexismmore broadly denotes the "system of ideological thought that makes heterosexuality the sole norm to follow for sexual practices".As a bias favoring heterosexuals and heterosexuality, heterosexism has been described as being "encoded into and characteristic of the major social, cultural, and economic institutions of our society" and stems from the essentialist cultural notion that maleness- masculinity and femaleness-femininity are complementary.
Heterosexism explored… Researcher, author, and psychology professor Gregory M. Herek states that “Heterosexism operates through a dual process of invisibility and attack. He says “Using the term heterosexism highlights the parallels between antigay sentiment and other forms of prejudice, such as racism, antisemitism, and sexism. In interviews with perpetrators of anti-gay violence, forensic psychologist Karen Franklin points out that “heterosexism is not just a personal value system, rather it is a tool in the maintenance of gender dichotomy.” She continues by saying that “assaults on homosexuals and other individuals who deviate from sex role norms are viewed as a learned form of social control of deviance rather than a defensive response to personal threat.”
Craig Rodwell• Craig Rodwell is supposed to have coined the term Heterosexism when 1971 he wrote : After a few years of this kind of liberated existence such people become oblivious and completely unseeing of straight prejudice and - to coin a phrase - the hetero-sexism surrounding them virtually 24 hours a day
Examples or Episodes of Heterosexism There are numerous stories and examples of so called heterosexist discrimination, both subtle and more explicit.Here are a few from different cultures and time periods.
‘Save Our Children’ Campaign1977 Florida Save Our Children, Inc. was a political coalition formed in 1977 in Miami, Florida, U.S. to overturn a recently legislated county ordinance that banned discrimination in areas of housing, employment, and public accommodation based on sexual orientation. The coalition was publicly headed by celebrity singer Anita Bryant, who claimed the ordinance discriminated against her right to teach her children biblical morality. “All America and all the world will hear what the people have said, and with Gods continued help, we will prevail in our fight to repeal similar laws throughout the nation which attempt to legitimize a life style that is both perverse and dangerous”. —Anita Bryant Bryant claimed never to have heard of Alfred Kinseys study that estimated one out of five males had had some sexual contact with another male; or any information about homosexual behavior in animals.
No same-sex dates at prom1979 – Rhode Island please• In 1980 a gay high school junior at Cumberland High School named Aaron Fricke asked principal Richard Lynch asked Lynch for permission to bring a same-sex date to a school dance.• Lynch said that "the adverse effect among [Frickes] classmates, other students, the School and the Town of Cumberland, which is certain to follow approval of such a request for overt homosexual interaction (male or female) at a class function" was sufficient ground for rejecting the request.• A preliminary injunction allowed him to attend the dance with his boyfriend.• On May 31, 1980, the press reports "Amid heavy security, homosexual student Aaron Fricke showed up at the senior prom with a male companion. Both wore tuxedos." Lynch addressed the senior class earlier in the day and promised to respond to any harassment of the couple with "very stern measures." The school provided six rather than the customary two police officers for security. Some students taunted the couple when they danced together.
1993 - 2001 D.A.D.T ‘Don’t Ask. Don’t Tell’ A classic example is the attitudes that contributed and stemmed from an official US policy stating that anyone who “demonstrated a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts” was prohibited from serving in the armed forces. Their reasoning for this was that “their presence would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that are the essence of military capability". This act also prohibited any potential homosexual or bisexual person from disclosing any homosexual desires, practices or relationships while serving. From the Revolutionary War (1780 approx) until 2011, homosexual tendencies were grounds for discharge from the American military.
The policy was introduced as acompromise measure in 1993 byPresident Bill Clinton who campaignedin 1992 on the promise to allow allcitizens to serve in the militaryregardless of sexual orientation.Comdr. Crag Quigley. Navy spokesman,expressed the opposition of many inthe military at the time when he said,"Homosexuals are notoriouslypromiscuous" and that in sharedshower situations, heterosexualswould have an "uncomfortable feelingof someone watching”Left - Dignity and Respect, the U.S.Armys 2001 training guide on thehomosexual conduct policy, gaveofficial guidelines on what can beconsidered credible information ofsomeones homosexuality.
Postcards From Buster2005 - USA In January 2005 Margaret Spellings, United States Secretary of Education, criticized the show for exploring same-sex marriage. Episode #133, "Sugartime!", which features Buster visiting Hinesburg, Vermont to learn about the production of maple sugar, includes Buster meeting several children who have lesbian parents. In the episode, the word lesbian or homosexual is never said, and the episode — like all Postcards episodes — has no sexual content. Buster meets the children and comments, "Boy, thats a lot of moms!"; one girl mentions her "mom and stepmom," adding that she loves her stepmother very much, and no other comments are made about the couple. Spellings demanded that PBS return all federal funding that had been used in the production of the episode, claiming that "many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in this episode." PBS decided not to distribute this episode, but some member stations across the country chose to air the episode.
2012 Gay Marriage ? Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Im a massive supporter of marriage and I dont want gay people to be excluded from a great institution. But let me be absolutely 100% clear: if there is any church or any synagogue or any mosque that doesnt want to have a gay marriage it will not, absolutely must not, be forced to hold it.Mr Clegg said: "Its very important to remember that in our plans were not going to force any church or any religious denomination to hold same-sex marriage ceremonies if they dont want to
ParallelsIt has been argued that the concept of heterosexism is similar to theconcept of racism in that both ideas promote privilege for dominantgroups within a given society. For example borrowing from the racialconcept of white privilege, the concept of heterosexual privilege hasbeen applied to benefits of (presumed) heterosexuality within societythat heterosexuals take for granted.Conservative leaders such as Rev. Irene Monroe comment thatthose who suggest or state "gay is the new black" exploit blackpeoples suffering and experiences to legitimate their own.Nonetheless, a study at the British Psychological Society shows thatheterosexist prejudice is more pervasive than racism.
Good old Gregory… In a study, Heck found that there was a gender difference between heterosexual attitudes toward lesbians and gay men. Specifically, the study reveals that heterosexual individuals all seem to have some heterosexist tendency, however, heterosexual maleshave a greater tendency than heterosexual females to exhibit negative attitudes towards non-heterosexual individuals (this includes gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals). Anothernotable finding of Hereks study was that heterosexual males showed a greater tendencyto demonstrate hostility towards gay men rather than lesbians. Other factors that Herek acknowledges to contribute to heterosexism include individual differences, religiosity, conforming to social norms, right-wing authoritarianism, customs and beliefs regarding cultural tradition, and personal experience with non-heterosexual individuals. Other research revealed that higher levels of education, or having more years of education, is related to less homophobic tendencies. This is perhaps due in part because in collegesettings students are more exposed to people with different backgrounds as well as new ways of thinking.
Reflection Does institutionalized heterosexism cause internalized homophobia and become the key source of tragedies such as that of Matthew Shepherd?Yolanda Dreyer, professor of practical theology at University ofPretoria, has claimed, “Heterosexism leads to prejudice,discrimination, harassment, and violence. It is driven by fear andhatred.”Forensic psychologist Karen Franklin says ‘The potential of beingOstracized as homosexual regardless of actual sexual attractions andbehaviors, puts pressure on all people to conform to a narrowstandard of appropriate gender behavior, thereby maintaining andreinforcing our societys hierarchical gender structure”
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