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January 1, 2003

The Causes and Effects of Homophobia: You Can Make A Difference

by Steven Cozza

Homophobia is the fear and hatred of homosexuality, homosexuals and of people perceived to be homosexual. Homophobia exists everywhere and anyone can be homophobic: a priest, family member, doctor, teacher, friend, relative, Boy Scouts of America, celebrity, and even the President of the United States of America can be homophobic. No matter how much we want to ignore it, homophobia exists and it is affecting everyone, not just homosexuals. There are unique contributing factors
that attribute to why people become homophobic even though it is difficult for me to understand, why human beings would choose to be so deliberately hateful towards a group of people.

Mental Health professionals feel that some men feel they need to be homophobic in order to prove their heterosexuality and masculinity to others. These people are seen bashing and hassling others they think are gay or lesbian as a way of showing they aren't gay themselves. Studies have shown that people with homophobic attitudes, often have same sex attractions themselves. People who start to notice that they are homosexual may go into denial and start to make homophobic remarks in order to hide their own sexual orientation. Homophobia affects some gay people and causes them to be in denial about their own sexuality or
forces them to mask their homosexuality for the fear of other homophobic people finding out they are homosexual. It is tragic to know that some people feel they have to deny their sexual orientation. The effects of hearing homophobic remarks and hatred towards homosexuals causes them to not like who they are and hide it by sometimes trying to live a heterosexual lifestyle.

Certain groups in our society are influenced more than others into becoming homophobic. People who grow up with a religious background, (particularly religious fundamentalists and Mormons ), tend to be more bias towards homosexuals. Salt Lake City, Utah is one of the most homophobic places on this planet and that is because of the Mormon influence there. You cannot be openly homosexual and be in the Mormon Church. If they find out that you are gay, they will excommunicate you from their church and community. Many religious people not only fear and hate homosexuals, but they have intolerance to homosexuals. These people strongly believe that the Bible claims that being homosexual is a sin. It seems as though persons who grow up in areas with greater tolerance, tend to have positive attitudes towards homosexuals. If you are raised in an open-minded family, you will most likely be open-minded yourself and not homophobic. Youth tend to believe the same way their parents do, so if your parents are homophobic, most likely you will have the same values.

Studies show that people with more education are less likely to be homophobic. Ignorance is what breed's homophobia. People that are uneducated believe every homosexual stereotype out there, causing them to be homophobic. Some uneducated homophobic people believe that homosexuals are the ones who created HIV or that all homosexuals are child molesters; that it is a choice to be homosexual or gay people are feminine and all lesbians are masculine. If homophobic people were to just take the time to actually meet and get to know who homosexuals really are, they would learn that they are people just like everyone
else. Many Americans were racist towards African Americans until other Americans protested and educated others. If people were to simply educate themselves there would be much less homophobia.

The AIDS pandemic was a crisis that contributed to more people being homophobic. Those living with AIDS during the AIDS pandemic, faced homophobia by being discriminated against. In America AIDS hit the homosexual community first. This caused homophobia to develop and those living with AIDS were rejected. Gay men were blamed for "causing" AIDS. Gay men, prior to AIDS, were mostly a hidden community. As a result to the AIDS pandemic many more people became homophobic, some gay men with AIDS were even murdered, family's that had children with HIV were run out of town and their homes were burned. The AIDS pandemic was definitely another reason why people became so homophobic. But there is
also a flip side to AIDS and homophobia. As people who were not gay began to take care of those gays who had AIDS they began to see that gay men are just like anyone else. So while the first reaction to AIDS was to stir up hatred and homophobia as the pandemic continued and people began to know gay men as people the homophobia began to decrease in our society. So while AIDS brought out the worse in us as a people it also brought out the best in us as a people.

The effects of homophobia on society can be deadly. Homophobia is a sheer killer and can cause lots of destruction towards homosexuals. Society's homophobic views of homosexuality leave many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth feeling confused, ashamed, guilty, afraid and alone putting them at a greater risk for suicide, drugs and alcohol abuse, homelessness, and sexually transmitted diseases. Gay, Lesbian, bisexual and transgender teens are two to three times more likely to attempt
suicide than heterosexual youth because of homophobia. The leading cause of death for gay youth is suicide, which can be attributed to our homophobic, intolerant society. If a youth is kicked out of his or her home for being homosexual, many resort to suicide. Every time a homosexual hears a homophobic hate word, like faggot, they come that much closer to killing themselves. The Boy Scouts of America's policy discriminating against gays only encourages hatred towards gays and tells them that what they are is wrong. It is homophobia that causes homosexuals to commit suicide, not being gay. Homophobia escalates into hatred towards homosexual people.

Homosexuals are the most frequent victims of hate crimes in the United States. One such hate crime was against Matthew Shepherd who was a college student in Wyoming and was beaten to death by two young men because he was gay. Both of those boys were very homophobic and were both parts of homophobic organizations. One of the killers was an Eagle Scout and the other was a Mormon. Not to blame these organizations for Matthew Shepherd's death, but since they teach hatred by discriminating against homosexuals they definitely contributed. It all comes down to your surroundings. I cannot blame some people for being homophobic because of where they live and learn from. I was very fortunate to have two very open-minded parents who taught me that everyone was created for a reason and that we should all be treated equally no matter what our differences are. They taught me we as a people are like a rainbow, with many colors. It is that diversity that we should cherish.

No matter what the reasons are for people being homophobic, ignorance can only be an excuse for so long. Someday, I hope for the sake of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, that everyone will be loving and accepting of all the people in the rainbow. But that will never happen unless you speak out. Make a difference for human rights. We only have a short time on this earth to make a difference to help make the world a better place. Don't wait any longer. You can help make the rainbow become a reality in all of our lives.

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