Gender-Based Homophobia: Where Are You on the Scale?

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Two weeks ago, a friend and I came across Larry King’s special episode on the latest wave of gay suicides in the United States. Five boys ended their lives; they were bullied for being gay.

When I found out (and a bit too late) about this issue, I was in shock. For someone to reach a state where they wanted to die, it must have been really hard for them to be gay – and where? In the United States. I was surprised; it’s not like anything the media tries to show us. Somehow, the suicides made me wonder why so many funders are looking for projects in the Middle East to “raise awareness,” “build capacity,” and “empower” when they could use all of these funds in their own countries.

On my way home, all I could think about was the power dynamics scale that another friend had drawn for me when she explained why minorities needed to fight for their rights:

Have you looked at the scale closely? Now let’s agree on a few things. If you have a hard time connecting with what I am about to say, then try looking closer at how race, gender, class, and sexuality get played out in your own surroundings.

If you’re on the upper side of the scale, then you have a lot of privileges in life. A white, rich, and educated straight man has more privileges than a black, poor, and uneducated woman. Most likely, a gay rich man has more privileges than a poor gay man. Of course, the power balance constantly shifts. You should always make sure to go up and not down the scale – because god forbids, if you do go down, you are losing power points and you are a closer and closer to being a minority that’s discriminated against.

Why would an effeminate gay man be considered to be passive in bed and is more likely to be discriminated against? Well, for answers, you can refer to the scale: In the back of their heads, people associate the gay man’s feminine side with that of women. Because the stereotype entails that women are passive, gentle, feminine, my dear gay man, by expressing some femininity, you will be going down the scale.

Why would a butch lesbian, who wears “men’s” clothes and who doesn’t pluck her eyebrows deal with more discrimination than a femme lesbian that wears gendered and more fashionable “women’s” clothes? Here, it is a bit different because if a lesbian’s gender expression is “masculine” then she is going up the scale, which is fine. She would be considered stronger, ekht rjel* as they would say in Lebanon. Nevertheless, if her gender expression is in any way threatening to the man’s role in society (or in bed) then she is stepping on a red line. And of course, a femme lesbian is more acceptable when it comes to that because she is still representing typical normative gender stereotypes.

And now ask yourself this question: Do I want to be a queer feminist activist? Do I want to work on breaking down these gender stereotypes that are major reasons behind homophobia and transphobia?

If you still think that homophobia is not gender-based, then give it some more thought. Think about the arguments that people always give us: You are trying to end humanity. If women and men choose not to marry each other, the world population would decrease. Imagine if we actually broke down these gender-based discriminations. Imagine if people wouldn’t actually be threatened by women in high places. Imagine if people were okay with a woman doing “a man’s job” and of a man doing “a woman’s job.”

When our societies get to a point where all of these scenarios are okay – when our very own patriarchal society is okay with butch women and effeminate men, do you think that any of us would be bullied for being gay? Do you think that gay men would have to deal with slurs like “pussy” or “fluffy?” We are not

We are not bullied by homophobes. We are bullied by a patriarchal society that doesn’t want to bend because of its fear of losing power over minorities.

Two years ago, when my father woke my brother up and kicked him outside of the house, it wasn’t because he was sleeping with men. It was because he is not a man enough. When a friend of the family asked my father why, his answer was that he walks like a girl, nothing will come out of him in life. When that friend asked him about me, his proud answer was “ekht rjel!* She can handle her own responsibilities!”

*Ekht Rjel – The literal translation is “men’s sister” – it is usually used to denote women who are strong and have a rather manly gender expression.

- Contributed by Abdo

abdo al raQissa

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