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Societal Homophobia, EDCI 886, Fall 2010


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This is my second social problem paper for Perspectival Philosophy: Social Reconstruction, where education is seen as the method and pathway for social reconstruction as advocated by Harold Rugg, George Counts, and Theodore Brameld, among others.

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Societal Homophobia, EDCI 886, Fall 2010

  1. 1. RUNNING HEAD: Societal Homophobia Homophobia in American Society (Global/national/local social paper #2) by Joelyn K. Foy Presented to Dr. Kay Ann Taylor In partial fulfillment of the requirements for EDCI 886, Perspectival Philosophy: Educational Reconstruction Kansas State University October 13, 2010
  2. 2. Societal homophobia 2 Introduction In this paper I comment upon the epidemic of suicide among gay teens in September of 2010. I propose a meaning to these suicides, and I visit some of the data on gender-variant behavior and gay bashing. Finally, I will look at the function of government to protect the status quo of property owners and tie that function into educational reconstruction. The Meaning of Suicide Suicide is telling the tribe that you aren’t willing to be a part of it, that you’ve had enough. Five members of the human tribe had enough in the month of September: Asher Brown, aged 13; Seth Walsh, aged 13; Billy Lucas, aged 15; Tyler Clementi, aged 18; and Raymond Chase, aged 19 (Goff, 2010; Melloy, 2010). In the summer, Justin Aaberg, 15, also committed suicide. In October, already two individuals have killed themselves: a young lesbian woman, Aiyisha Hassan, 20 (Najafi, 2001); and Zach Harrington, 19 (Knittle, 2010). I’m starting to agree with Catherine Lugg as she exposes the hidden message of self-extermination for queer youth when in “public school settings … all of their parents had demanded the schools do something—to no avail” (2010, p. 1). If we see bullying as rejecting a member of the tribe, and the elders refuse to act against “ill-treatment in public educational settings” (Lugg, 2010, p. 2), we have to ask ourselves: What is it that we hate so much about gay, lesbian, and transgender children? It isn’t that we just allow these children to destroy themselves, we even export our hatred to other countries (Foy, 2010). When Keli Goff poses “Why we shouldn’t blame the bullies for the recent string of LGBT suicides” (2010), I have to wonder what in the world is keeping teachers and administrators from preventing bullying in their school buildings. How can professional educators live with themselves in this “year of the dead queer” (Lugg, 2010, p. 2)?
  3. 3. Societal homophobia 3 Masculinity and Gender-Variant Behavior Michael Kimmel proposes that “gay bashing is about masculinity” (2010), and he wrote a book, Guyland (2008), where having interviewed approximately 400 high school students, he concludes that “male homosexuality … elicits what psychologists call ‘homosexual panic’ and a near-hysterical effort to circle the wagons and get rid of the perceived threat” (Kimmel, 2010, p. 2). Bullies roam the halls, targeting the most vulnerable or isolated, beating them up, destroying their homework, shoving them into lockers, dunking their heads in toilets or just relentlessly mocking them. It’s all done in public—on playgrounds, bathrooms, hallways, even in class. And the other kids either laugh and encourage it or scurry to the walls, hoping to remain invisible so that they won’t become the next target. For many, just being noticed for being ‘uncool’ or ‘weird’ is a great fear. (Kimmel, 2010, p. 2) Kimmel adds that “calling someone gay or a fag has become so universal that it’s become synonymous with dumb, stupid or wrong” (2010, p. 3). In Kimmel’s study he found that “a high school student in Des Moines hears an anti-gay comment every seven minutes, and teachers intervene only about 3 percent of the time” (2010, p. 3). At Tonganoxie High School, an 18- year-old former student was harassed and taunted starting in the seventh grade because “I was a different kid, you know, I wasn’t the alpha male. … I had different hair than everybody else; I wore earrings … I wasn’t a big time sports guy at school” (Kimmel, 2010, p. 3). Kimmel concludes that “gender non-conforming boys … need protection—not just from the bullies but from the teachers, parents, administrators and community members who look the other way, at best, or collude with it” (2010, p. 3). Keli Goff adds that if the N-word were used everyday “and after repeated cries for help” a student “finally took his own life, how quickly do you think
  4. 4. Societal homophobia 4 citizens of all races would take to the streets to protest?” (Goff, 2010, p. 2). Goff believes that “Al Sharpton and Co.” would “demand accountability from the school and elected officials under the threat of casting the kind of media spotlight that people like Don Imus have nightmares about” (Goff, 2010, p. 2). Nara Schoenberg reports that childhood gender behavior varies a lot, experts say, and there is a wide range of reasons a boy may want long hair (maybe he identifies with his favorite sports star) or a girl may refuse to wear dresses (perhaps they’re just not her style). (2010, p. 1) When gender-variant behavior persists beyond ages two to four, is pronounced or broad in scope, and continues over a lengthy period of time, parents may turn to health care professionals or psychologists for help. Ken Zucker (Gender Identity Service, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Toronto) cautions that “between 85 percent and 90 percent of the (young) kids that we’ve seen don’t grow up and want to become the opposite sex (Schoenberg, 2010, p. 2). However, Schoenberg adds that studies suggest that the majority of gender-variant boys will grow up to be gay men, with experts putting the figure at anywhere from 70 percent to 95 percent. (About a third of the gender-variant girls in a small study cited by Zucker later identified as lesbian or bisexual.) (Schoenberg, 2010, p. 2) Perhaps like the fictional Ben Goldrich, considered a “traitor to his class” (Bell, 1989, p. 136) for wanting to utilize his personal fortune to raise the economic level of African-Americans, gay boys are seen as traitors to their gender. Likewise, young lesbians who do not conform to the expected gender roles may threaten the “cult of true womanhood” (Welter, 1966). In addition, gay and lesbian couples transcend the one manone woman definition of marriage.
  5. 5. Societal homophobia 5 The Purpose of Government Since education in the United States is a function of government, I want to review the meaning of government. In the Chronicle of the Constitutional Contradiction Geneva Crenshaw asks Are you not concerned with the basic contradiction in your position: that you, who have gathered here in Philadelphia from each state in the confederacy, in fact represent and constitute major property holders? Do you not mind that your slogans of liberty and individual rights are basically guarantees that neither strong government nor the masses will be able to interfere with your property rights and those of your class? (Bell, 1989, p. 31) The purpose of government for the framers of the U.S. Constitution was to protect property, specifically the property of the wealthy major land holders. For the property owner in 1787, slaves were property, women were property, children were property, along with animals, buildings, hired hands, and wagons. What was owned generated income, and government was there to make sure the property was protected so that the income was protected. Landed gentlemen understood the rules of government. When individual framers were questioned, one said, “That’s the way the world is. We did not make the rules, we simply play by them, and you really have no alternative but to do the same. Please don’t take it personally” (Bell, 1989, p. 44). I often get the feeling that I was behind the door when the playbook of life was handed out. Many of the rules I am supposed to have learned as a Southern female don’t make sense to me, and I don’t accept that the world is one way or that everyone must play by one set of rules or that there are no alternatives. I align myself more closely with T. Mathai Thomas when he defines a social problem as “a behavior pattern regarded by a large part of a society as ‘being in
  6. 6. Societal homophobia 6 violation of one or more generally accepted or approved norms’” (Roberts & Bussler, 1997, p. 44). For me, gay bashing, bullying, and gay teen suicide fits into the category of social problem. Being homosexual goes against the control and protection by government of the female and the child. Being homosexual or transgender goes against the domination of the nuclear family. Loss of the nuclear family means loss of property tax and school tax income from not owning a home, not buying as many commodities, not organizing oneself toward the maintenance of White privilege. For Theodore Brameld, educational reconstruction is the path to solving social problems. Educational reconstructionists are committed to a view of educational change that reaches all minority groups, one that seeks to transform racist, sexist, classist, and homophobic attitudes everywhere. They want the schools and colleges to deal openly with, and to solve, the problems of corporate hegemony, poverty, inequality, suppression of human rights, war, and greed. (Brameld, 1965/2000, p. 10) Brameld also understood that teachers frequently support the status quo rather than challenging it. Ted Brameld called for teachers to become “radical” by devoting themselves to a greater purpose, “a peaceful world, united under the banner of international order” (Brameld, 1965/2000, p. 78). Part of Brameld’s vision included asking teachers, “What kind of future? Toward what is it that reconstruction directs human energies?” (Roberts & Bussler, 1997, p. 12) and students, “What kind of a society do we as young citizens want to build for tomorrow?” (p. 15).
  7. 7. Societal homophobia 7 Concluding Thoughts It is unconscionable that a nominally democratic country like the United States is allowing the current epidemic of gay suicides to disrupt American life so minimally. The persecutors of Tyler Clementi go unpunished, and there has been no “National Day of Mourning” like the one at Howard University for Aiyisha Hassan. Dead queers simply have no place on our national agenda. This is a crime against our common humanity.
  8. 8. Societal homophobia 8 References Bell, D. (1989). And we are not saved. Cambridge, MA: Basic Books. Brameld, T. (1965/2000). Education as power. San Francisco, CA: Caddo Gap Press. Foy, J. K. (2010, September 15). Global homophobia: The case of Uganda (Report). Presented to Dr. Ann Taylor in partial fulfillment of the requirements for EDCI 886, Perspectival Philosophy: Educational Reconstruction, Kansas State University. Goff, K. (2010, October 4). Why we shouldn’t blame the bullies for the recent string of LGBT suicides. The Huffington Post [online]. Retrieved from Kimmel, M. (2010, October 11). Gay bashing is about masculinity. Ms. Magazine Blog [online]. Retrieved from about-masculinity/ Kimmel, M. (2008). Guyland. New York, NY: Harper. Knittle, A. (2010, October 10). North grad took own life after week of ‘toxic’ comments. The Norman Transcript [online]. Retrieved from beat/x1477594493/-I-m-sure-he-took-it-personally Melloy, K. (2010, September 30). Rash of youth suicides spurs outrage, response. EDGE Boston [online]. Retrieved from Najafi, Y. (2010, October 9). Mourning at Howard. Metro Weekly [online]. Retrieved from
  9. 9. Societal homophobia 9 Roberts, S. & Bussler, D. (Eds.). (1997). Introducing educational reconstruction: The philosophy and practice of transforming society through education. San Francisco, CA: Caddo Gap Press. Schoenberg, N. (2010, August 17). When kids cross the gender divide. Chicago Tribune [online]. Retrieved from 0817-gender-issue-20100817_1_gender-variant-behavior-kids-cross-dresses Welter, B. (1966). The cult of true womanhood. Retrieved from k-