Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Canary in a Coal Mine, or Why Gay Rights Matter

Why would a straight white male give two hoots about whether or not homosexuals are treated fairly?

I can only answer the question for my own case. I am white. I am straight. I also do not fit common notions of American male masculinity. I don't like watching sports. I never liked hunting and guns, not that my Father didn't try. I don't feel a need for large vehicles. I don't recall ever feeling empowered through the wielding of phallic-shaped objects or phallic substitutes. I am a stay at home dad. I like to cook. I am happily raising two lovely daughters. Left to my own devices I tend towards becoming a homebody.

Even if I am a heterosexual male, my sense of gender identity is hardly mainstream. And there's the problem. Homophobia and homophobic practices and beliefs serve primarily to extend uniformity and conformity. Their effectiveness rests on fear mongering: they propagate the fear that standing out and being different from locally held standard is unforgivable, disastrous, and morally reprehensible.

As a thought experiment, what would happen to me, a non-standard American male, if homophobic beliefs and practices were to succeed in eradicating homosexuality? They guardians and champions of conformity and mediocrity would need new outsiders, new exemplars of moral reprehensibility to condemn and persecute. And I fear that I would become one of their new outsiders and exemplars of moral reprehensibility.

So, why do I think that fair treatment of homosexuals is a good idea? I want that line of conformist persecution to be as far away from me as possible. If homosexuals are treated fairly, then the likelihood that I or persons who have non-standard gender identities will become the object the new outsiders undeserving of fair treatment becomes negligible.

The further away from me that line of unacceptable beliefs and practices is drawn, the better. The line drawn farther away means it is that much more unlikely that I will either suffer discrimination or even be forced out of simple prudence to concern myself with these things. Hence, the metaphor in the title of this entry: Canary in A Coal Mine.

I find it ironic that many of the same persons who decry homosexuality in the name of family values are the most concerned about the peer pressures that their children must suffer. The example these family-value types set for their children? Peer pressure and social conformity are perfectly acceptable IF dressed up in morality and concern for "the children."

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