Monday, April 18, 2005

I've never liked the term “homophobia.” The gay community has sometimes used it to cry wolf, it seems. But one instance in which it’s indisputably accurate is the U.S. Military’s failed “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, which has wrecked the careers of 10,000 honorable men and women, cost taxpayers upwards of $200 million, and made America decidedly less secure in this age of terror. Now that it’s being given a second look, a new round of fear-mongering by a minority of vocal proponents of a gay ban has begun.

A majority of Americans, including those in the military, believe it’s time to put “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to rest, and allow gay servicemen and women to serve without intimidation. Despite what the cowards on Capitol Hill say, this is not a liberal versus conservative issue. Like much of the current political debate, it’s between a few rabid hypocrites, panderers, and bigots and, well, the rest of us.

Those in favor of the ban have little factual data to back up their apocalyptic claims, only some hysterical notions about gay sexuality. A prime example: Lieutenant Colonel Robert McGinnis, an oft-quoted, virulent opponent of gays in the military, and a textbook homophobe, bizarrely obsessed with gay sexuality. If there is a scenario where hot man-on-man action could possibly take place, he has imagined it in great detail, and then labeled it a threat. Methinks the Colonel doth protest too much.

McGinnis is embarrassing proof that homophobia is really less about the sexuality of others than it is about the homophobe’s. Sigmund Freud coined the term to describe heterosexuals’ “vigorous counter-attitudes” toward homosexuality, usually based on their own homosexual feelings. Freud’s hypothesis has been tested scientifically, by Dr. Henry Adams of the University of Georgia for one, who found that, indeed, self-professed homophobes are much more likely to be aroused by male homosexual erotic stimuli than their more or less indifferent hetero counterparts.

Homophobes are always at the center of their sex scenarios, of course, being looked at, longed for and lusted after constantly by other men. It must be wonderful. The problem is it’s all in their heads. Their fantasies of being the object of male desire assume, erroneously as it turns out, that gay men are all appetite and no taste. Gay desire is no more or less indiscriminate than straight desire. Gays, like straights, can engage with others nonsexually, and behave professionally on the job.

It can be embarrassing, when self-professed heterosexuals become obsessed with their fantasy version of the glorious hypersexual world of gays. Oh, would that it were even a fraction as glamorous as they imagine it to be. Alas, it’s not all that different from the straight life. The question really is, does protecting a tiny minority of insecure homophobes with wild fantasies about what might happen if they drop the soap in the barracks shower merit the repression of respectable men and women who are minding their own business and doing their jobs?

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