03 December 2009

Are you homophobic?

I came across this quiz about "Are you homophobic?"

"Homophobic" is not a word I like very much, partly because I'm a language pedant, and believe it should mean "fear of the same", and therefore be partly the opposite of "xenophobic", which means fearing strangers.

Another reason that I don't like it is that it is often used as an insult or accusation -- it is used by bigots to accuse other people of bigotry.

But I accept that the way the word is generally used nowadays, it means to regard homosexuals with fear and loathing.

So I took the test, partly to see what the result would be, but also partly to see what the test would be. Some of these tests are themselves a manifestation of bigotry, as I mentioned above.

Here's the result:

You Are 18% Homophobic

You're open minded, tolerant, and accepting.

And you're not homophobic in the least :-)

Before reading any further, I suggest that you take the test -- first to see what the test thinks of you, and secondly to see what you think of the test.

I think that the test is fairly accurate, and measures "homophobia" as it is generally defined today, that is, the degree to which people regard homosexual people with fear and loathing.

So what do I mean when I say that the word "homophobic" is sometimes used by bigots to accuse other people of bigotry?

This is also related to being a language pedant, but it is about things that are rather more important than the etymology of "homophobic".

People sometimes ask "Is homosexuality a sin?"

And my answer is "No".

Homosexuality is a sexual orientation, as people say nowadays. Sexual orientation means what people find sexually attractive. People are homosexual if they find people of the same sex sexually attractive. From the point of view of Christian morality, finding people sexually attractive, whether they are of the same or the opposite sex, is not a sin. What is a sin is to allow that to develop into lust, and possibly sexual activity with another person. What is sinful is not homosexuality, but fornication and adultery.

And as a Christian, I believe that if I perform such acts, or even dwell on lustful thoughts, whether about people of the opposite sex or the same sex, those are sins that I must confess.

There are lots of people who fornicate or commit adultery, with people of the same sex or the opposite sex. Should I shun such people and avoid them socially? Should I refuse to work with such people because they are sinners? No, because I am a sinner too.

And why should we regard it as necessary to shun someone who commits adultery with someone of the same sex, but not those who commit adultery with someone of the opposite sex?

If I am to shun and avoid anyone for being a sinner, then I must first of all shun and avoid myself. Orthodox Christians pray frequently during Lent, "Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother."

We are not to engage in the relatively undemanding activity of confessing other people's sins. Nor are we to excuse our own sins as minor, and regard those of others as much more serious. Again, as Orthodox Christians we pray before receiving the holy communion, "I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the living God, who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first".

Jesus did not shun notorious sinners, and was criticised for failing to do so. He met socially with social outcasts like Zacchaeus, and if he, who was sinless, could do that, how can I, who am the first of sinners, refuse to do so on account of my supposed moral superiority?

One of the questions in the quiz concerned same-sex marriage. I believe that such a thing is ontologically impossible, but I won't go into that here. I've dealt with that in some detail in another blog post on the theology of Christian marriage.

But I will say that that concerns same-sex marriage, or homosexual marriage. People often talk loosely of "gay marriage", but that is not the same thing at all. There is nothing that I know to prevent gay people from marrying, and some have. It might even be possible for two gay people to marry each other. They might need to think about it carefully, and consider the difficulties that there might be in such a relationship. As a limerick puts it:

There was a young queer of Khartoum
who took a lesbian up to his room
they argued all night
over who had the right
to do what, and with what, and to whom.

But marriage is never plain sailing all the time, and even marriages when both parties are heterosexual often end in divorce.

Another question about words and meanings is raised by the term "gay lifestyle" which some people bandy about.

It's a strange term, because I doubt very much that there is such a thing as a "gay lifestyle" any more than there is such a thing as a "heterosexual lifestyle". Gay people can have as wide a variety of interests and engage in as wide a range of activities as heterosexual people. Some gay people are promiscious, and some are not, just as some heterosexual people are promiscuous and some are not. Some gay people are celibate and some are not, just as some heterosexual people are celibate and some are not.

There is, however, one exception to this.

There are gay subcultures, and among these subcultures, there is something that could be called a "gay lifestyle", but it is important to realise that only a small minority of gay people identify with such subcultures or participate in their activities.

There was a time when homosexual activity was illegal in South Africa, as it was in many other countries. And in those days there was a gay subculture, which had the rather romantic aura of a persecuted minority. It had its own argot, and even the word "gay" was not known to people outside the subculture, probably not even to homosexual people outside the subculture. What drew them together was not just the fact of being gay but the fact of being persecuted, and they had that in common with the communist and liberal and black nationalist subcultures of those days.

Some (not all) members of the gay subcultures were actvists, and they wanted the laws against homosexual activity repealed. And under our democratic constitution those laws have been repealed, and it is illegal to discriminate against people on the grounds of sexual orientation, though I'm not sure that that provision of the constitution is as fully observed as it might be, nevertheless, it is there and can be appealed to.

One of the main arguments for the repeal of the laws against homosexual activity was that the law should not concern itself with what was done by consenting adults in the privacy of their bedrooms, and eventually those laws were repealed, as they have been in many other countries.

But some "gay activists" went further.

There was an Anglican bishop of Johannesburg, Timothy Bavin, who after some years left and became Bishop of Portsmouth. He was unmarried, and a group of gay activists decided that he was gay, and began a campaign of actively persecuting him and demanding that he "come out".

I have no idea whether he was gay or not, but from what I do know of him, he believed that he was called by God to celibacy, and he was abused by a group of "gay activists" who were little more than fascist bullies.

And it seems to be somewhat dishonest to say on the one hand that one's sexual orientation is one's own business and that what one does in one's own bedroom is not the concern of the law and anyone else, and then to go flaunting one's sexual orientation in "gay pride" parades, and demand that other people flaunt theirs by "coming out", and persecuting them if they do not. There is homophobic bigotry, and there is gay activist bigotry, but the so-called "gay lifestyle" is characteristic of only a small minority of gay people. It is the bigots and fascist bullies, on both sides, who make the most noise.


This post has been linked to the Synchroblog for October 2010: Same-sex marriage synchroblog | Khanya. Click on the link to see the other posts in the synchroblog.


Chris Hall said...

Agree with you on the pedantic side of this word. Unfortunately it's entered common use so the horse has bolted as they say.

I've also started seeing the word 'heterophobic' being bandied about recently. What next one wonders.

Anyways, 23% for me. Do I get a gold star or need to be re-educated?

Iosue Andreas Sartorius said...

I scored 26%, and was informed of the following:

"You don't want to be homophobic, and you're usually not.

"You have a few stereotypes about gay people - and they'll eventually be broken."

I answered "not sure" a lot because it is unclear what they mean by the word "gay." Someone with SSA or someone practicing the lifestyle?

Magotty Man said...

The Ochlophobist ran a very good post on these issues this week, called "On recent admonitions" - read it at http://www.ochlophobist.blogspot.com/

Yewtree said...

I am 0% homophobic (in real life and according to the quiz). No surprises there.

I think you have stated the Orthodox position very well in your post, Steve.

I do not think that sexual activity or thoughts are sinful - but I do think that regarding someone else as a sex object is wrong (i.e. ogling their body without respect for their humanity and personhood).

My problem with the Orthodox position on this in general is that there is no provision for LGBT people to have physical relationships without being regarded as sinful and therefore denied communion.

I know that the meaning of adelphopoeia is disputed, but if it was actually a form of gay marriage, then there is a rite of the Orthodox Church available for blessing same-sex unions.

The meaning of marriage was changed by divorce, feminism and contraception - so making it available for same-sex unions is merely another change of the same sort.

sakeneko said...

Nicely written, Steve. :-) I (very much) mostly agree, not surprising since we're both Orthodox Christians and have some other things in common as well.

In my case, the major difference is that I'm largely indifferent to how the law defines "marriage" and what is possible under civil law. IMHO that horse bolted in my own country (the United States) after the adoption of our constitution and Bill of Rights. By strictly separating church and state, we left the state with few grounds to define marriage or exclude any union from that definition. The state rightly considers itself to have an interest in seeing to the welfare of children, seeing to the welfare of adults who become incapable of making decisions for themselves, and making and enforcing orderly rules of inheritance.

Any other state interference in marriage is highly questionable under the U.S. constitution. It has simply taken us a couple of centuries to realize the fact.

The Church, on the other hand, does have both the right and responsibility to define marriage in much different terms. (So does any other group or community that the person belongs to.) By any meaningful Christian standard that doesn't ignore the Fathers and Tradition completely, a union of two people of the same gender isn't a marriage. No attempt by the state to define marriage in that manner changes this.

As long as both Church and State recognize that each has to respect certain boundaries and not try to control what the other does within its own domain, this will work fine. The Church does not have the right to enforce its views outside of its own members and community; it can at most expel someone from that community.

The State, on the other hand, has no right to tell the Church to whom it can give the sacrament of Holy Matrimony or whom it may consider married. :/ Not surprisingly, I am more concerned at this stage of history in my own country that the State might overstep its proper sphere of influence and enforce a certain view of theology on the Church than that the Church would attempt to enforce a certain view on the State and non-members via the legal system.

I'm not sure how that view would apply in States that have official churches or legal systems that not only attempt to enforce a specific private morality, but do so in full accord with their constitutions.

Al Green said...

Just for the sake of finding the survey's faults, I answered all questions "not sure." I came up 60 percent leaning toward homophobia. Kinda funny.

CherryPie said...

A very interesting post, I agree with you about the bullies.

My score was:

You Are 17% Homophobic
You're open minded, tolerant, and accepting.
And you're not homophobic in the least :-)

Steve Hayes said...

Concerning marriage and the State, I've written more here: Notes from underground: The State should get out of the marriage business

sakeneko said...

Don't know how I missed that post, Steve; I've been reading your blogs for years. Maybe it was because I was planning my wedding at the time. ;-)

That sounds like an excellent plan for the government/State to deal with the whole question of what constitutes a marriage. Get entirely out of the business of defining marriage, and simply deal with those parts of marriage that *are* of legitimate interest to the government. That amounts to kinship recognition, responsibility for children, and inheritance.

We're *slowly* moving in that direction in the United States, which is unfortunately too big a ship of state to change direction quickly. :/ However, I believe in all 50 U.S. states at present parenthood is recognized the same regardless of the marital status of the parents. Civil union laws are springing up all over the place that grant almost all the civil rights and responsibilities of marriage. Sometimes civil unions are available to any couple; sometimes just to those couples who cannot marry. (Effectively, gay couples.)

We don't recognize partnerships that involve more than two people. Polygamy is explicitly illegal in all 50 states, and is something of a hot potato issue in the United States because of the uniquely American phenomenon of Mormonism. (I won't get into that further here, but wouldn't mind discussing it in a more appropriate place.) IMHO the logic of our own constitution and bill of rights requires us to quit discriminating against polygamy, though, as long as it is practiced between consenting adults. I think that the laws against it will fall, either because of a Supreme Court decision or simply as people realize this.

Which leaves the question of marriage as a sacramental union back where it belongs -- with the Church and the community. Since I never considered the State's opinion on the matter as meaningful except for practical issues, and cherish the sacrament, that would suit me fine. :-)

Steve Hayes said...


Most Orthodox Christians here, at least the ones I've spoken to about it, seem to take that line -- that the state could register social and domestic partnerships for purposes of inheritance, next of kin for hospital visiting etc, and prevention of fraud, but that it should not try to determine what marriage is, and leave that up to civil society.

Labi Siffre said...

". . . and then to go flaunting one's sexual orientation in ‘gay pride’ parades". Flaunting???

I scored zero; but I knew I was Homosexual/Gay when I was four years of age; though I knew nothing of sex nor the words people use to describe sexualities.

I was never sexually abused, never sexually attracted to women, as a child dreamed (in bed asleep at night) of having a loving relationship with my particular same-sex archetype then stopped dreaming and had a lot of loving sex. I have loved and lived with my (since Dec 2005) legal UK same-sex civil partner for 45 years. We are not opera lovers, he was army, I played rugby and punched a few people and neither of us have any desire to wear frocks.

Heterosexuals “flaunting” their sexuality are evident almost everywhere almost all the time. Do you not watch TV, see adverts in which women have orgasms over chocolate, yoghurt and ice cream and men never eat anything that involves sucking. Do you not visit streets or summer parks, view opposite-sex couples holding hands and (shame on their “flaunting”) kissing! in public! sometimes tongue kissing!!? Flaunting indeed; and the simulated copulation in some heterosexual dancing, especially by those black people . . . shocking!

The outing strategy you refer to was about the hypocrisy of closet homosexuals supporting homophobic (I prefer heterosexist) bigotry, laws, condemnations more often based on religious so called “belief” (in a desperate effort to find some rational basis for discrimination on grounds of sexuality); religious “belief” which is in reality a claimed certainty of the existence and wishes of a God who, in unguarded Christian moments was, in my childhood, admitted to be unknowable; after which we were told everything about HIM almost down to his shoe size. The notion of an omnipotent, omniscient entity that has needs and is responsible neither for its choices nor its actions, is absurd to the point of insult.

In the struggle to end state sanctioned discrimination on grounds of sexuality, as in the fight against apartheid and most, perhaps all struggles for human rights, there has been collateral damage (a craven way of describing injured or killed non-combatants). I haven’t outed anyone but as one of millions of minor financial contributors to the ANC during the anti-apartheid struggle, I share responsibility for and regret any collateral damage in that cause.

All systems are open to ill-controlled passions and abuse and everyone says these abuses are regrettable, lessons have been learned and we are all moving forward (in a circle, over a cliff, into the path of a downtown express?) forward moving ain’t per se the same as improving.

I confess I would prefer G Pride events to feature more gravitas and less bare flesh, thus presenting less of a gift to heterosexual wilful ignorance and stereotyping. However, my staid approach aside, my skepticism about our progress against heterosexism/homophobia is not allayed by Gay Pride displays of defiance against still thriving global discrimination on grounds of sexuality being described as “flaunting”. You were doing OK till you got to the flaunting bit. However, I take into account your test score assessing you as being 18% homophobic.

[I'm Tweetable]

sakeneko said...

"". . . and then to go flaunting one's sexual orientation in ‘gay pride’ parades". Flaunting???"

Labi Siffre, where did you quote that from? I didn't find the word "flaunting" anywhere in the article or the comments here.

Labi Siffre said...

Sake, It's the last para of the article. Here in full:

"And it seems to be somewhat dishonest to say on the one hand that one's sexual orientation is one's own business and that what one does in one's own bedroom is not the concern of the law and anyone else, and then to go flaunting one's sexual orientation in "gay pride" parades, and demand that other people flaunt theirs by "coming out", and persecuting them if they do not. There is homophobic bigotry, and there is gay activist bigotry, but the so-called "gay lifestyle" is characteristic of only a small minority of gay people. It is the bigots and fascist bullies, on both sides, who make the most noise. "

Jarred said...

Coming in late, but I wanted to say this.

Labi Siffre: I completely understand where you're coming from. I've had to deal with people who had a double standard when it came to gay people "flaunting" versus what it's okay for heterosexual people to do.

However, so far, Steve has not demonstrated he's such a person. And while I've never actually talked to him about what behaviors he specifically considered "flaunting" and how he feels about heterosexuals who engage in those same behaviors, I will note that in every conversation I've had with him, he's demonstrated a commitment to consistency when applying his views. As such, I'd personally recommend giving him the benefit of the doubt until he demonstrates that he doesn't deserve it.

Steve Hayes said...


Concerning "flaunting", I think the meaning is fairly obvious. And what I was referring to was the double standard of complaining about people being concerned about what other people do in their bedrooms, and then displaying it on the street. And yes, some heterosexual people also flaunt their sexuality, and advertisers and others do it for money.

But let's move from the bedroom to the dining room to find an illustrative example. Your sexual orientation concerns what you find sexually attractive. People differ in what they find sexually attractive.

In the same way people differ in what they find gastronomically attractive. I happen to like bacon and ham. I don't eat them at the moment, because we;re on the Nativity Fast, but come Christmas day, and I'll be breaking the fast with bacon and eggs. And underneath all the hoopla, that's where Easter eggs originated, from breaking the fast.

So I eat bacon and ham. But I recognise that some people don't, and believe that it is wrong to eat bacon and ham. I have the right to eat bacon and ham in the privacy of my dining room, or in a restaurant. And I don't regard it as flaunting my gastronomical orientation if I eat bacon and ham in a restaurant where other people might keep kosher or halaal.

But if I were to participate in a pork pride parade, with a procession of floats going through the streeats, decorated with slaughtered pigs, and went past the mosques on Friday and the synogogues on Saturday, that would be flaunting.

I hope that helps to clarify what I mean by "flaunting", and why I regard it as a double standard when people complain about others being concerned about what is done privately in the bedroom, and then flaunt that in the streets in an "in your face" manner.

Ploni Almoni said...

That's a good illustration of what should be considered "flaunting", but I should point out that Jews do not consider it "wrong" for non-Jews to eat bacon. Keeping kosher is a law that applies to Jews only, as part of our additional responsibilities as a "kingdom of priests" (Leviticus)


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