When Homophobia and Racism Intersect
White and cis/straight superiority walk hand in hand
My boyfriend’s parents didn’t like me.
Oh, they didn’t know me. Never met me. In their minds, though, I was the reason their faired-haired boy fled rural Australia and turned into a pervert. The truth of course, is that he was born gay, that he had no more choice than any of us LGBTQ people have about our sexual orientation or gender identity.
Did you know that racism and homophobia are often intimately connected? They share common roots, sprouting from a dark place in human nature, from an instinctual fear of the Other. My boyfriend’s parents taught me all about that a long time ago.
They were homophobic and racist at the same time. Their story illustrates my point.
Jason came along after my long-time partner Lenny died. I don’t write about Jason much because we didn’t last. We split up after about five years, and I’m afraid the ending wasn’t peaceful.
Your father and I are donating it to a charity with instructions that it be used to educate a straight, non-Asian, non-Aboriginal Australian.
Neither was the beginning, honestly. We met at a party in Atlanta, drawn to one another like magnets — one of those couples. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other from the first moment we connected. Sex was a huge part of what brought us together and what kept us together.
Until it couldn’t. But that’s a story for another day.
Jason was a farm boy turned intellectual
His parents were fine with his fancy university education. They were even fine with his leaving Australia after he graduated, just for a while, to travel and explore.
They didn’t know he was gay. He never felt comfortable telling them. They were a particular species of rugged Australian farmers and ranchers with very conservative attitudes. He figured they wouldn’t take it well.
Came the day he had to let them know he wasn’t coming back. He’d met someone. He was “shacking up,” as we jokingly referred to our situation in those days before same-sex marriage was legal. He wrote them a long email, which I read over his shoulder before his trembling finger hit the <enter> key.
“It’s gonna be all right,” I reassured him. “You said all the right things. You’re their son. They love you. They’ll get over this hump.”
Never in my life have I been more wrong about something
His mother’s first response was mild. She seemed to be in denial, but she wasn’t through the roof or anything. Her rancor increased with each subsequent reply.
By the time her denial evaporated, fury flooded in to take its place. She lashed out at Jason and at me both. She didn’t raise him that way, she insisted. She brought him up to know right from wrong. She expected him to honor his parents and be a credit to them.
Things turned nasty fast
Jason was bereft. Even he had underestimated the ugliness of the response he’d get. His mother was furious. His father was stone silent.
Then came the night of the transpacific phone call. Internet voice apps were still rare and unreliable, so his mother called from a landline in her rural Australian kitchen to our kitchen in an apartment in Monreal’s fashionable Plateau district.
The charges must have been insane. Talking was hard because of a satellite relay that introduced a second’s delay in communication. Speed of light limitations.
Jason and his mom started shouting at each other after a few minutes. I heard every word she said. Neither of us will ever forget the last bit.
You can forget the rest of your education trust. Your father and I are donating it to a charity with instructions that it be used to educate a straight, non-Asian, non-Aboriginal Australian.
I don’t know if his parents ever found a charity to accept the terms of their donation, but Jason never saw another dime from the education trust they’d set up when he was an infant.
Racism and homophobia often walk hand in hand
I thought about Jason’s story when I read about a Republican political candidate in Texas who set up trust funds for his kids that they can’t tap unless they marry “straight, white Christians.”
GOP candidate will disinherit his kids if they don’t marry straight, white Christians
The Dallas News has withdrawn its endorsement of Vickers Cunningham for the Dallas County Commissioners Court after…
I’ve written before about how racism and homophobia intersect. I’ve brought up the fact that oppression of minorities is often systemic — a matter of corruption of power.
I’ve written about how religious institutions have often been the agents of power that justify discrimination. I’ve pointed out that the evangelical Christian forces that so often trumpet anti-LGBTQ sentiment today are descended from the very same churches that used to justify racism from the pulpit.
Religious Liberty and Religiously Based Homophobia
How religious exemptions threaten civil rights for all Americans
As a boy, I lived through the endings of religiously prescribed racial segregation.
I understand it intimately. My father was a Baptist minister who positioned himself in the lines of evangelical leaders who wished to overturn the old racist order. He’s still alive.
The bad old days of religious racism don’t lie in the distant past. They’re much more recent than many people realize. It’s human nature that we wish to forget things that make us uncomfortable. I’ll never forget being a boy, though, and listening to sermons in mainstream churches about how God intends the races to remain separate.
Apparently, neither will our homophobic, racist Republican candidate in Texas. He’s quite open about the roots of his bigotry. He makes no bones about racism and homophobia being rooted in his evangelical faith.
My point here, by the way, is not to brand evangelicals as theological racists. Despite this one egregious example, most evangelical Christian churches in the US have stopped justifying racism with scripture. Racism is rampant in the US, but one rarely hears it defended biblically any longer.
It’s time for churches to stop justifying homophobia theologically.
Fearing and vilifying groups of people who are different from us is a sad part of human nature. It’s a struggle. Accepting the Other as part of Us is actually what many religious faiths have worked to promote.
It’s time to stop treating minorities like shameful ‘Others’
I think Jesus had something to say about Samaritans, as a matter of fact. For him, they were Other, just as to Jason’s mother, gay people, Aboriginals, and Asians were Other. Jesus taught his followers to to treat Samaritans with love and kindness, didn’t he? Perhaps she needed a refresher course in his parables.
Jason’s mother saw whiteness and straightness as superior
When her son turned out to be gay, her world shattered, because he was no longer the “golden boy” who’d always been so head and shoulders above his peers. She no longer saw him as part of the elite that she belonged to.
And that that’s the heart of racism and homophobia. It’s the heart of transphobia, xenophobia, and misogyny too. That’s where they ALL intersect.