‘Heterophobia’: When Does Freedom Of Speech Become Hate Mongering?

17/05/2013 at 1:04 pm (Current Affairs, Gay) (, , , )

Following a brief, but in-depth, conversation with @joetele I was inspired to write this post. In fact, this is mostly my e-mailed response to him, but edited and embellished upon.

The discussion was about a homophobic twitter account. In fact, I had two such accounts in mind, one being something called ‘Straight Pride UK’. I’m still not sure if Straight Pride is a parody account or not. I was mulling over the arguments of free speech, and we were discussing when that becomes hatespeech, and the motives behind it.

Of course I believe in free speech. If someone has something to say about how they feel – whether in jest or just being true to their outlook – they should be able to voice it. Because of the same freedoms I can call it out as bollocks if I wish.

In this case, however, it raises the question of hate speech or free speech. This account in particular is so completely aggressive and anti-equal rights and anti-equal marriage, it might actually become incitement to more physical and aggressive attacks. But that would be for a court to decide, and I’m getting ahead of myself.
That said, what I find most frustrating about any person that devotes so much time and vehemence to one particular target does imply a desirability to that target.

Here’s an example.
I hate gameshows. My reaction to one is often as follows:

“Urgh, I don’t like this.”
*switches off TV or turns over*
Problem solved.

If, however, I said I didn’t like it and wanted it banned, while desperately watching every edition to find a reason to ban it, this is attraction and obsession.

While this is perhaps a glib comparison, it helps to highlight that I genuinely feel that most (if not all) men and women who take the time to rally against a perceived notion that homosexuality have a fascination with it. I think aggressive homophobia, which I tend to think of more as ‘persuasionist’, is built upon an inner self-loathing from building upon the notion that a person cannot be themselves. This in turn manifests itself outward, despising those living the lives that a homophobic person feels they cannot possible have.

For homophobic people, I wonder if there is the idea that all gay people do is party all the time and criticise straight people’s dress sense. It’s almost as if we are having too much fun and now we want our cake and eat it. Bigotry is often the result of a feeling that society is failing some quarters and it becomes necessary to find an identifiable enemy. It’s no accident that the growing popularity for UKIP and the BNP has risen in the wake of an economic crisis, mirroring exactly what happened in pre-war Germany.

I’m not sure how it should be handled. Vehement homophobia is nauseating. Should we ignore it? It would mean less exposure to the individual in a small way, but it’d be like allowing damaging roots to grow under your house. Or do we rail against it at every opportunity, running the risk of building on the controversy and adding to its publicity?

I’m not sure I have the smarts to solve that one.
However, I can see the difference between free speech and hatemongering. Look at the Westboro Baptist Church, if you can hold your food down. They have made it their business to blame equality for gay people for every terrible thing that has happened to America. That’s not free speech, that’s demonising a whole sector of people in a perplexing and ludicrous way. Unfortunatley, this ludicrousness tramples upon things like the very basic values – picketing funerals for example – that they claim to uphold.

Hate speech leads to violence. We know it does. It creates bloodlust based on misinformation, ignorance and fear that rolls around in the minds of those who feel so isolated and dejected there’s nowhere for these ideas to go. It’s a thunderstorm trapped in a valley.

How I see freedom of speech is to accept that there other perspectives. I may not agree with them. I may think they’re just plain wrong. I have the choice to engage to discuss and argue. I may choose to not even spend the time of day responding. I don’t necessarily think the other party is ‘out to get me’.

We all have our biases. There is a massive difference in trying to do things to improve the world around us and holding up a nebulous, all encompassing villain. In this case ‘the gays‘. It’s laughable to think that there should be a need for ‘Straight Pride’. My argument is that just don’t hear of gangs of gay men or women beating up straight people. Sadly the reverse is all too prevalent.

I can’t say there’s no such thing has heterophobia. Have seen or heard of an incidence when there’s been a violence with such a condition as the cause? I genuinely cannot say I have.

With all this supposition and waffle on my part I can say this, if there is a Gay Agenda, it’s simply to be seen as equal members of the society we contribute to. We are your educators, your healers, your armed servicemen and women, your firefighters, your police. Like you, we are the cogs that make the country’s machine work. We contribute. We pay in. We are not an inferior community.

Gay people are not tearing about society. It is homophobia and transphobia, racism and xenophobia, misogyny and violence against the disabled that are our new Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

We must watch out for them.


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