Free Speech and Homophobia 

I often think to myself, “ gay people want acceptance from the straight community way too much. Who gives a shit if they never accept us? I sure as hell don’t.” And while this is good for my self-confidence, it might not be so good for lived reality.

Unfortunately, people’s lives are often in danger because of homophobic and queerantagonist words and actions. It’s not easy for us to reject and simply laugh off people who say we’re “worse than animals” or whatever (especially when those people hold positions of authority).
Violence against LGBTI persons is still a thing that happens, whether you want to admit it or not. The only thing that might make it onto a news bulletin is the murder of a lesbian woman in the township, but rest assured, those are far from the only instances of homophobia in our society.

Does it then follow that we need acceptance from those who are heterosexual? Not necessarily. A person can believe that I’m a sinner because of my love for another man. A person can think that my sexual orientation makes me somehow subhuman. A person can hold the opinion that my partner and I are inherently unworthy of marriage. It doesn’t change the fact that homophobia is not only problematic, but downright immoral. 
On the personal level, I don’t care for the isolated opinion of one person -or even many people- to decide my sexual orientation, or the ways in which I choose (or don’t) to express it. In as long as our fundamental human rights are being respected and honoured, I can afford my apathy.

What I refer to, here, are those who take homophobic attitudes and provide them as justification for violence against us. Whether its repressed homosexuality or pure fear masquerading as hatred, there is evidence that points to homophobic attitudes and behaviours reaching highs after a “respected member of the community” says something remotely queerantagonist. It’s not “God”. It’s people using their platforms to circulate hateful words, and those hateful words naturally leading to hateful actions. This is the apathy I simply cannot afford to hold: the apathy that deems freedom of speech as being more important than actual people’s lives.

“Free speech” isn’t a free pass to exhibit bigotry and hatred, be it racism, sexism or homophobia. My self-confidence can deal with a little knock towards truth: that until we live in an utopian society where unpopular speech won’t lead to unwarranted violence, we must watch our words. Not for political correctness’ sake, but for the sake of respecting basic human rights.

M

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