More than 35 years have passed since the American Psychiatric Association depathologized homosexuality… Nearly 13 years since the death of Matthew Shepard… 10 years since The Netherlands became the first country to grant same-sex marriages… One year since Ricky Martin came out from the closet… Not even one year since the suicide spree among American gay teens that provoked a massive scream: “It gets better!”
Apparently, history demonstrates that the international fight against homophobia is a work in progress, an ongoing cultural evolution, very far from being over… In the paragraph above I didn’t even mention facts related to the situation of LGBT people in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but by making a simple Google search we can find a rather sad panorama. Still, these world regions are also beginning to experience the awakening of the cultural evolution against homophobia and towards the acceptance of homosexuality.
This revolution has been prompted by the support of leading scientific organizations, politicians, artists, media, and of course, by “pink money.” In fact, this last factor can be considered of the utmost importance in the development of the gay cause. Nowadays, not only does a powerful gay-bar industry exist, but also a multi-billionaire gay-friendly industry that encompasses fashion, TV shows, movies, hotels, books and magazines, restaurants, technological brands, etc. It didn’t take too much time before some intelligent marketing executives discovered that gay people also work, and that they can also earn great amounts of money. Gays as individuals are important for the market, but also as couples, as many of them can be classified as DINKs (Double income, no kids). What else can be better than a couple that through a combined income has accessibility to luxury goods and services with enough time to enjoy them?!
However, economy has not only worked towards the acceptance of homosexuality, but it has also shaped many aspects of what we consider to be today’s gay identity, and, as I have observed in the Mexican context, it has influenced the public aspects of this identity in LGBT people pertaining to the upper/middle-upper classes and to the middle/working classes.
Unfortunately, this last group of LGBT individuals can be more vulnerable to institutional homophobia and to violence in public spaces (upper/middle-upper classes tend to have better resources to protect themselves), and may suffer from a dual discrimination: one of purely homophobic nature that comes from heterosexual people and one of classist nature (that can mask real homophobia) coming from their own “peers” of superior economic power. “Pink homophobia” is the result of a modern and sophisticated interconnection between economy and the public expression of homosexuality, it is exercised among gays and it links both homophobia and classism. While gays of higher economic status are considered “elegant” and “discreet,” gays of lower economic status may be viewed as “faggots,” more effeminate, and “obvious” (as having the “weakness” of publicly displaying their homosexuality). In Mexico, such economically-based homophobic violence can become evident simply by visiting an “exclusive” gay bar…
This phenomena alone is reason enough to understand that, in order to positively transform the situation of all LGBT individuals, it is essential for every gay person to remember that what really initiated the sexual diversity movement was the opposition to an asphyxiating system that through multiple types of violence managed (and still manages) to block the social development and well-being of the ones who differ from the “norm” in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity. The Stonewall riots are the historic symbol of this opposition, and their true honoring implies to avoid the reproduction of any form of discrimination within the LGBT community itself.
Thus, the fight against homophobia demands a social responsibility not only from heterosexual individuals, but from every non-heterosexual person as well. If the gay community becomes an heir of segregation, what is the congruent basis behind its demands for the political reforms needed to nullify homophobia?
One of these reforms still missing in most countries is the full institutionalization of sexuality education. Sexuality does not remain limited to eroticism, it is a far-reaching concept covering gender, reproduction and emotional bonding. Therefore, sexuality also covers sexual orientation, and in a pedagogical sphere, the understanding and acceptance of sexual diversity.
As homophobia is a deeply culturally ingrained mechanism of power, the only way to revert it is by re-education, and LGBT people can’t exclude themselves from this process.
Let us not forget that in the LGBT community some individuals are most vulnerable, and let us not forget that we live in an era that demands greater sensibility to prevent them from suffering more social damage, as violence is becoming more subtle, even within groups that paradoxically have a long history of vulnerability (as we have seen).
May 17th 2011 marks the 21st Anniversary of the elimination of homosexuality as a mental illness from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization (WHO). Nevertheless, no sexual orientation frees a person from exercising social hate, so regardless of what you consider yourself to be (sexually speaking), procure constant consideration for others.