OUT in Bloomingon
A few weeks ago an article crossed our desktop that referenced the term 'negrophobia' (negro = black, phobia = fear, hence fear of blacks) in the context of a discussion about the roots of racism.
Now this was a term that we hadn't thought about since Sociology 101 in college years ago but nevertheless reminded us of the study of how propaganda based upon economic self interest can create an atmosphere of racism and discrimination through fear.
Although it may seem silly and irrelevant in this day and age to think that someone would fear another based upon skin color, the fact is that such fears do still exist and are serious impediments to intercultural and intracultural harmony on both national and international levels.
A phobia created around or directed toward a group of individuals not only prevents them from fully participating in their society, but because they are singled out as 'inferior" or "unworthy," group members internalize society's definition and eventually believe themselves to be unworthy and inferior.
Creating a fear of "others" is a technique that is currently and has been used historically in nearly all conflicts, as evidenced in anti-Jewish propaganda by the Nazis, anti-black propaganda during and after slavery and other civil conflicts, such as the Hutus vs the Tutsis, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and many others.
Of course, these conflicts each have their own issues of religious difference, territorial interest, economic gain and sometimes just personal conquest. However, the motivators always use fear or phobia to stimulate one group to fight or kill another group. Some aspect of inferiority is suggested to justify that the target group is unworthy of equality or sharing in the community wealth and prosperity.
Now you might be asking yourself just what are they blathering about, and what does this have to do with a lesbian/gay culture column? We reply, simply, everything.
For many years the LGBT population has met with various degrees of discrimination, ostracism and contempt. However, the intensity of this discrimination has been magnified under our current federal administration, which, along with the evangelical Christian right, cultivates the fervor of homophobia (yes, phobia = fear, homo = those who love or are attracted to members of the same sex).
And one does wonder, if it weren't for those religious followers and their single issue of homophobia, whether this administration would have been "elected"!
But let's turn our attention to homophobia and its negative arguments that define us as pedophiles or perverts.
How do we address the fear that others have of us? Because we absolutely must address that fear if we are ever going to eliminate our "dangerous" image and heal the shame and hurt that we feel as a result of the hatred directed toward us.
We must begin with our own internalized homophobia and project our belief in ourselves upon others. Can we truly convince others of our right to marriage, or our right to be birth or adoptive parents, or that we are worthy of all the other rights that the heterosexual community has, if we are afraid to stand up and be recognized?
If we do stand up, do we cower, or do we stand with honor and self respect? Do we speak up loudly, or with a bit of chagrin? Do we demand to be heard, or do we ask timidly? Do we demand to be heard and taken seriously by our local, state and federal legislators or do we "ask" them to listen and beg for inclusion?
Civility notwithstanding, we must be personally convinced of our own self worth to convince others. We must make ourselves visible and credible. If we cower or hide we only convince others that maybe we have some shameful reason for hiding.
Simply, we must internalize the belief that we are responsible citizens of the United States and worthy of those rights and privileges afforded to every other citizen of this country. We must then gather our dignity and strength of purpose to demand what is ours by birthright.
African Americans stood up with pride, suffered pain and anguish, and some sacrificed their lives, but they were victorious in winning full emancipation and their civil rights. It was not an easy struggle, but they endured.
Is there still racism or black or "negro" phobia? Yes. But things are better than they once were.
The LGBT community, which is representative of all races and ethnicities from all religious, economic and cultural backgrounds, must do no less. It may not be easy to acknowledge our own internalized homophobia, but it begins with reaching out and getting involved, whether on social, political or spiritual levels.
Join a group, speak out, stand up and be proud. And don't let others speak for you.
Helen Harrell can be reached at .