Even though the United States is one of the largest melting pot societies blending a variety of viewpoints, ideas, and notions for what is socially acceptable, some aspects of human life which do not infringe upon the freedoms of others carry negative stigmas. In a truly free country, people should be allowed to act as they wish so long as these actions do not infringe upon the freedoms of others. Homosexuality is such an action, and like racism, sexism, religion, and any other way of human life that is prone to prejudice and discrimination, homosexuality carries a negative stigma due to social norms and cultural influence.
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Religions of many kinds seem to actually play an active role in this, while religions are sometimes persecuted for their beliefs many religions believe that only a man-women relationship is sacred and thus homosexual relations are evil. The combination of religious ideologies and other social powers that give homosexuality a negative association and connation is impeding the progress of it becoming as socially acceptable as anything else in the United States.
The manner in which this prejudice takes place is similar to that of racism and sexism, and George Yancey of the University of Northern Texas approaches this directly in his article “Is homophobia the same as racism/sexism?” Ultimately this article is well written and makes a number of excellent points with regards to homosexuality, however the article actually requests that people make a distinction between homophobia and racism, which I only find acceptable on some levels.
Yancey makes many commendable points in his article. The best point he makes with regards to the causes of homosexuality is that it is purely genetic. This he says is highly unlikely to the point of it being impossible because, if entirely genetic, homosexuality would soon be eliminated by breeding simply because the people have heterosexual sex would be in all likelihood not homosexual and thus the widespread genetics of homosexuality would either never get far or ultimately be reduced to very small levels.
Another possibility is that these genetics making homosexuals gay are simply mutations, however if this was true than again the genes would not be passed on, and the only way this would be possible is if the mutations of genetics are very common. No scientific study supports this while genetic mutation studies are often easily located with science, suggesting this explanation is also highly unlikely. While the number of homosexuals is apparently rather high considering these circumstances, breeding or mutational genetics are not likely the case. Clearly, some other factors must be at work besides genetics.
This conclusion is taken to another level as Yancey argues that since homosexuality is not actually a genetic issue, or at least not only a genetic issue, choice or environmental factors must be at work. If choice or environmental factors are at work, Yancey argues, than racism and sexism are different on the fundamental level that the targets of racism and sexism are not that way by choice. Because of this, Yancey insists, people should make a clear mental distinction between racism and homophobia. I think this misses the point entirely.
While homophobia often implies the fear of gays rather than the hatred of them (though sometimes this is actually considered to be encompassed within the word) this is the only fundamental difference, and it does not change the lack of awareness or compassion towards someone who is different.
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There is no reason for someone to be literally frightened by a homosexual, and the vast majority of cases of homophobia are generally known to be a lack of acceptance due to stubbornness, not fear. In any case, Yancey’s asking for a differentiation to be made because of choice is ultimately meaningless in any broad perspective as the bottom line is there is still the same fundamental lack of acceptance and the same levels of prejudice. While choice may a difference in the motivation for some people, on the whole this is irrelevant. The same general principle that people should be treating with regards to their character, while allowing others to act freely so long as they do not infringe upon the freedoms of others, is still clearly violated.
Yancey also makes reference to another apparently popular theory he does not agree with. He references a classmate who way gay stating her justification for gays was that they were instinctively combating the problems of overpopulation. While Yancey rejects this theory, as would be intuitive, it shows a lack of seriousness that he even brought this theory into his article as a professor as this is clearly not a convincing theory despite any popularity it may have.
Overall, Yancey provides some strong views while revealing the nature of homophobia on many levels that is relevant in American society. Yancey also recognizes the religious intolerance of homosexuals through one of his personal experiences at a local church, where it was admitted that members of the church treated homosexuals as if their sin was not only evil but the worst of all. Yancey reported some progress in this church’s mentality while also reporting his own tolerance, which hopefully aid in the spreading awareness and acceptance on this issue.
It is writers like Yancey, though not as professional, scientific, and open minded as someone and his position arguable should be, that cater to spreading a mentality that is more evolved than the stigmas currently present in religious groups and culture, on average.
Yancey, G. (2001). Is Homophobia The Same as Racism/Sexism? Christian Ethics Today: Journal of Christian Ethics, Issue 40 Volume 8 No. 3.