In 1967, "homophobia" was coined as a term to describe irrationally negative attitudes towards homosexuals.61 In the United States, surveys reveal that homophobia is consistently harbored to a greater extent among Christians than other American groups.15 Most gay men and lesbian women have been harassed or threatened because of an open sexual identity regarding their sexual orientation. A sizeable minority have been assaulted.62,63 Some Christians have justified homophobia on biblical grounds believing the moral superiority of their own religious institutions. These attitudes energize the prejudice and bigotry further as their "Christian views" become entrenched in a moral imperative beyond review, debate or discussion.
Homophobic prejudice against homosexual people is different from other forms of prejudice because it not only isolates a homosexual person from general society, but it also tends to isolate that person from family, close friends and worship communities. Unlike other minority hallmarks, homosexual orientation is neither typically nor openly shared by other family members (although it is common for gay/lesbian siblings to be unaware of each other's sexual orientation due to the fear which motivates "closeting") while the heterosexuality of all family members is simply assumed. It is possible and common for a young gay man or lesbian woman to grow up passing for heterosexual in a setting in which all of his/her friends and family are heterosexual and homophobic! Typically, more than four years pass from the time gay/lesbian individuals recognize their own sexual orientation (usually by high school or college) until they disclose this to another person.64,65 And of course, due a number of complex factors, many gay men and lesbian women simply never reveal their sexual orientation even to family members.
Homophobia is at the root of disenfranchisement of many Adventist homosexuals from their worship community. Many struggle with issues of honesty, knowing that a candid disclosure of their sexual orientation may lead to disfellowship and/or isolation. Many gay/lesbian Adventists continue to face this dilemma on a daily basis as part of their spiritual journey. I recently invited a gay Adventist friend to attend a "liberal" Adventist church service. In the middle of the sermon, a passing reference to gay men in derisive terms surfaced. My friend, who had not attended an Adventist church service in several years, slouched in the pew as hot silent tears streamed down his face. It still hurts. I addressed the Adventist minister later about the matter meeting a response of indifference and puzzlement. This pastor could not "see" the problem even when pointed out to him. For those Adventist clergy, educators and members who can "see" the problem, I applaud such courage with gratitude and respect.
The Christian experience speaks to non-judgmental acceptance and inclusion, but the relationship of gays/lesbians to Adventism is often antithetical to principle. The stories of gay Adventists being removed from membership (disfellowshipped or purged), removed from church office, dismissed from professional appointments or humiliated by scandal or gossip are legion. Yet, many still persevere because they know that they are loved by the Savior even as their church considers them pariahs.
At this moment in American history, no discussion on homophobia would be complete without considering the murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21 year-old Episcopal college student at the University of Wyoming. In October of 1998, Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered, in part, because he was gay. This murder galvanized the nation with respect to the gay-bashing and violence many homosexuals routinely face.26,27 Sadly, since his death, only one new state has passed “hate crimes” legislation protecting the civil rights of gays and lesbians: Missouri.66 Twenty-two states now offer “hate crimes” protection for gays and lesbians.66 The volume of hate crimes directed against gays and lesbians continues to increase—and is grossly under-reported because of social stigma.
The murder of Matthew Shepard placed gay-bashing and anti-gay violence in stark relief. But the tragedy carried more than media attention and symbolic meaning. Matthew Shepard’s murder--with subsequent court trial and sentencing--hopefully marks a change in public opinion and legal mind set. In the former legal climate, those who murdered gays and lesbians, were rarely punished and even fewer went to prison (often for less than 2 years).67 Matthew Shepard’s murder--no more grizzly than other recent hate crimes (whether against gay or straight)--set a new precedent: those who murder gays and lesbians in the future may well consider prison time as a routine consequence for their crimes. It has been a very long time in coming. Furthermore, In 2003, the United State Supreme Court in the case of Lawrence versus Texas finally reversed previous legal decisions and decriminalized private consensual adult homosexual behavior.129
15. "Christians in this country (USA) appear to be more conflicted than Americans in general when it comes to gay sex and antigay job discrimination" (source: 1997 Christianity Online and 1996 Gallup Poll), in the Advocate, 1 April 1997, 25.
26. Beth Loffreda. Losing Matthew Shepard. New York: Columbia University Press. 2000.
27. Moises Kaufman. The Laramie Project. New York: Vintage Books. 2001.
61. GH Weinberg. Society and the Healthy Homosexual. New York: St. Martin's Press, cited by RC Friedman, JI Downey, in the New England Journal of Medicine 1994; 14: 923-930.
62. GM Herek, K Berrill, editors. "Violence against lesbians and gay men: issues for research, practice, and policy" in Journal of Interpersonal Violence 1990: 5 (3), cited by RC Friedman, JI Downey, in the New England Journal of Medicine 1994; 14: 923-930.
64. G Herdt, editor. Gay and Lesbian Youth. New York: Harrington Park Press, 1989, cited by RC Friedman, JI Downey, in the New England Journal of Medicine 1994; 14: 923-930.
65. "When gay or bisexual college students say they became aware of their sexual orientation" (Reuters source: Sex on Campus: The Naked Truth About the Real Sex Lives of College Students), in the Advocate, 24 June 1997, 16.
|Mise à jour le Vendredi, 14 Septembre 2012 20:49|