Sunday, May 25, 2008

Xeno or Homo? What does the 'phobia' part imply?

John Moore / Getty Image
I've just seen a man, Mustav Khan, on the verge of tears, who lost everything he has invested in his store. While there is undoubtedly an existing attitude targeting foreigners (pamphlets were handed out telling foreigners to leave or be driven out), personally I believe the focus on just 'xenophobia' is too narrow, and to do so is a great risk. Jordaan (tasked with delivering a 2010 World Cup) has announced that he doesn't expect the xenophobia to continue. What crystal ball are you looking into dude? Perhaps a look at the economic markets would be more rational.

But back to the title of this post. If you're homophobic, does that mean when you encounter a homosexual you can reasonably be expected to drive them out of your community, or at worst, beat them with concrete slabs and set them alight (as xenophobes have done recently)? Of course not. I feel the same license is being used with this word 'xenophobia', it's a name for something that is actually reinforcing the idea of it now that it has a name (and as such, a license). And when you use it with such liberty, more and more people begin to see themselves either as belonging to some group, or not belonging to one. Because conceivably, blacks can accuse every white person of being a 'foreigner', and all this because someone allowed the hysteria around xenophobia to be hijacked and essentially legitimised (even if based on an illegitimate psychology). That said, I am not sure if it isn't inevitable - people associating with people like themselves - when things fall apart.

While I am on the subject, I have a question for everyone out there (even me). If you go into a gym (or prison), and you you find yourself surrounded by an aroused population the same sex as you are (in plain language, you're going for a shower in a gym, and all the men around you are, and you're also a man), wouldn't that make the average person uncomfortable? Now, since my boss or employers might be reading this, and this would be a gem post to haul me over the coals over, I'm not going to go into too much detail on this topic, except to say, I think mild homophobia (discomfort, not hatred) is not uncommon, say in a gym situation where nudity comes with the territory, and let's face it, gays love gym locker rooms.

I sometimes feel fearful and uncomfortable in gym, for example when getting into the jacuzzi with another naked dude you've never met. When you're not doing that every day, when you do it it's kind've weird, but you know, it shouldn't be. But then, as I say, there is a preponderance of gay lads in the gym (certainly the gyms I go to), and so my perception is that it's not as though your average oke is unlikely to be gay. The other end of that spectrum of 'uncomfortable' feeling is discrimination and hatred, but the entire spectrum belongs to the term 'phobia'. Doesn't it?

Understanding 'PHOBIA'

Why are there phobias against homosexuals, and are they rational? Are they inherited through traditional (religious) beliefs, or is being a homosexual in point of fact, unhealthy,and sensible to...want to exercise moral control over (as Christians do)? Apologies for being so graphic: any person who masturbates has essentially had a same-sex (homosexual) experience. If you're a woman, and you've masturbated, then you've experienced stimulation by a woman (even if its you, in the absence of male gadgety - well, one assumes), and if you're a man, then the same applies (the hand replaces the vagina, not a great substitute, but sometimes you have to make do). Based on the above analogy, homophobia is somewhat misplaced. I think. I'm not sure. I'm just offering ideas into the ether.

Could you be gay if you had to?

To take the argument further, how come prison populations give themselves over so easily to homosexual living? This demonstrates - doesn't it - how easily our constructs can be altered in the name of necessity and in order to cope with extreme frustration. And the question is, whatever we think of homophobia (maybe we are or we aren't), what would we do in a same-sex prison, serving a life sentence?

In my own experience, at least where it extends to homosexuals, I believe there are 5 types:

1) Au Natural - the born and bred homosexual (these homosexuals are aware of their sexual orientation from the start, and I can hear the Christians howling in protest already)
2) The Rebel - the parents can have a strong affect in modelling the child's sexuality. For example an overbearing and aggressive mother can model a wimpish, cowardly son, but so can a father. The rebel might be a genuine homosexual, but might also be confusing the sexual desire with a simpler and more basic desire for 'acceptance' from a sector in a sexual category (perhaps seeking a particular parents permutated approval)
3) The Mixer Upper - this is where someone has so much sex (or so little) the boundary between the natural response becomes muddied, and somewhat 'unnatural'. As I say, these apparently 'bisexual types' may have either experienced an enormous amount of partners and so lost their appetite in a certain direction, or remained virgins so late in life that they become vulnerable to preying homosexuals.
4) The Liberated - these are intellectuals often, or hippies, who see sex as an expression of connectedness
5) It's Just A Job - where necessity is the mother of perversion

In all cases though, I'm pretty sure that one sex is always preferred over the other, for whatever reason. We may feel the same way about races, even if we'd like to believe otherwise. To the extent that we have a 'phobia' I believe we really need to get closer to understanding those we are obviously afraid to understand any better than we do. We may be influenced by these 'other' people, sure, but by cathecting with others fear may well be replaced by friendship, and discomfort fizzle into a warmer sense that begins to reflect a truer diversity running through more genuinely integrated communities.

It starts, see, with a mindset that is willing to try to learn more about others, and by implication, ourselves.


Steve Hayes said...

Logically, xenophobia and homophobia should be opposie. Xenophobia is fear and loathing of people who are different; homophobia is fear and loathing of people who are the same.

Nick said...

I'm not sure if it's so logical. Fear is at work in both cases, and if you're not gay, then it could be you're fearful of people with different sexual orientations/foreigners. That's not a case of opposites. The article is about what a 'phobia' is, and the extent that xenophobia is perhaps the wrong word to describe people killing one another because of differences in nationality. Ethic cleansing might be a better word. Or 'holocaust'.