Sunday, December 13, 2009

Religios Conservatives, Heterosexism and Heteronormativism

In the progressive blogosphere, I've seen many posts lately concerning US Evangelicals involvement in introducing an anti-gay law in Uganda, the pedophile abuse cases in the Catholic Church (and that church's response) and transphobic statements even in LGBT-supportive circles.  While these stories may seem unrelated, there are a couple of common threads: Religion, Heterosexism, and Heteronormativism.

Often when commenting on the hatred expressed in cases like this, the term "homophobia" is blamed.  However, that word is inaccurate.  "Homophobia", according to Wikipedia, is the
"irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals",or individuals perceived to be homosexual; it is also defined as "unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality", "fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men", as well as "behavior based on such a feeling".
Many times when conservatives are confronted with being homophobic, they retort "I'm not afraid of homosexuals.  I have many homosexual friends.  That doesn't mean I approve of what they do," or something similar. More accurate wording would be "Heterosexism" or "Heteronormativisim".  To paraphrase Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, heterosexism is the system of "laws, customs and beliefs that perpetuate prejudicial treatment" of non-heterosexuals, namely lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.  Heteronormativisim, likewise, is the system that perpetuates
a set of lifestyle norms which indicate or imply that (1) people fall into only one of two distinct and complementary sexes (male and female) with each having certain natural roles in life, and that (2) heterosexuality is the only normal sexual orientation, thus making sexual and marital relations appropriate only between members of the opposite sex. Consequently, a heteronormative view is one that promotes alignment of biological sex, gender identity, and gender roles to the gender binary
which encompasses lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals, among others.  Some of those others include working mothers, house-husbands, and polyamorous couples.  There are more examples but you get the idea.

Now that I've explained these terms, it's not hard to see just how it relates to the topic of this post.  One section that exhibits these attitudes, and has tried to encode them into the US' body of laws is the Religious Right.  Organizations like Phillys Schlafly's Eagle Forum, the Concerned "Women" of America (Women is in quotes because I have yet to see a female spokesperson for the group), Exodus international, NARTH and many others actively promote heterosexist and heteronormative views.  They are free to their opinions, but "the right to swing your fist ends at my nose."  When they start trying to directly influence legislation, here or elsewhere, then they've crossed the line.


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