By: Jamil Khan & Melusi Simelane
Twitter is the meeting place of many minds, each looking for something different. Some come to educate and engage in debate from a genuinely constructive place, while others revel in spewing hate. For many minorities, Twitter threads can be a triggering place. No topic is off-limits.
Conversations on the timeline about the LGBTIQ+ sparked by cis-heterosexual people under the guise of curiosity often move towards the: “I don’t have a problem with them, but I don’t accept their lifestyle” trope. These sentiments bring some issues to light; approval and agency. Approval – the idea that alternative sexualitiesneed to be approved by the dominant paradigm. This often infringes on the right of LGBTIQ+ people to practice their agency in expressing themselves. Agency – one of the most fundamental human liberties to dictate one’s own life choices. It deserves to be respected.
Many heterosexualpeople feel that as the barometer of what is morally acceptable the LGBTIQ+need cis-heterosexual approval over how they conduct their lives. LGBTIQ+ lives challenge the idea that cis-heterosexuality is the standard and the litmus test.That only they are the true purveyors of virtue and morality. Heteronormativity is shaped by gender hierarchies that sanction the use of authority in many ways that LGBTIQ+ lives defy. Although LGBTIQ+ relations remain tainted by heteronormativity, gender hierarchy is often disrupted in same-sex relations.
Homophobia has very little to do with LGBTIQ+ people and is much more about cis-heterosexual people and the need for control that binaries demand of their subscribers.Heterosexual relationships, historically, were defined by unequal power relations endorsed by, among other institutions, the church. Not much has changed in terms of ideology although some have challenged convention.
As the head of the household, the man traditionally holds a disproportionate amount of decision-making power in terms of distribution of material resources. Socially, this role also entitles him to a level of importance to which a woman, in the role of wife,must be in service. Men must love and cherish, while women must honour and obey. These configurations of power to which heterosexual relationships adhere, highlight the consistent presence of pre-set rules and roles. The rules are located in historical traditions of gender relations which permeate all spheres of society. When looking at the gender relations, and subsequently unequal power dynamics, one can see how the heterosexual mind finds it hard to imagine life outside of it.
If we were to view the LGBTIQ+ community through heterosexual eyes, it becomes easy to see that homophobia, biphobia or transphobia may be a neurotic anxiety around the loss of control. The existence of an entire way of life that does not abide by the rules society has deemed to be common sense for centuries, invalidates entire belief systems that serve to further gender inequality. The unspoken rules that keep men and women in their “rightful” places are soothing to many. Soothing and familiar.
An important determinant of gender inequality is patriarchy. Writer bell hooks defines patriarchy as a: “Political-social system that insists that men are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence”.
Within this framework, gay men, as an example are not deemed real men. The social order created by gay men in society and within their partnerships upends heterosexualfamiliarity. It also proves that there is another way. That the structures that exist are being constantly maintained brings the normative into question andshifts the gaze inward. When looking at how much energy goes into controlling and maintaining gender relations, the idea of a “straight agenda” seems more plausible than that of the oft vilified “gay agenda”. In light of the above,the neurotic nature of phobias towards the LGBTIQ+ community is placed squarely in the heterosexual imagination.
One may ask, if women are the ones oppressed within and by the gender binary, why then doheterosexual women also display homophobia, biphobia and transphobia? Again,bell hooks gives us something to think about when she says that patriarchy has no gender. Patriarchal violence, is enacted to reinforce a dominator role in which an authority figure is considered ruler over those without power and given the right to rule with subjugation, submission and subordination. At the heart of patriarchy is the lust for power, which is a major motivator of women pledging allegiance to patriarchy and fulfilling its mandate.
According to hooks,we must illuminate the role women play in perpetuating and sustaining patriarchal culture and the lust for power in order to recognise patriarchy asa system that women and men support equally, despite that men receive more benefits from it. For this reason, power lies in maintaining gendered social relations and threats towards those relations are met with hostility in the form of queer-phobia. It would also seem that allegiance to patriarchy requires that any violence be directed towards the “weak”. If this seems difficult to fathom, we are reminded that patriarchy promotes insanity – a place where the most heinous of actions seem just.
To put things into perspective, Terrence Real says: “Psychological patriarchy is the dynamic between those qualities deemed “masculine” and “feminine” in which half of our human traits are exalted while the other half is devalued. Both men and women participate in this tortured value system.”
It must be stated very clearly that phobias towards the LGBTIQ+ community can be fatal, and so this article serves in no way to imply that it has nothing to do with them.What is does however hope to engage, is that idea that the fears that inspire such violence do not reside within the bodies of any LGBTIQ+ person. It is a response to a grave frustration of being locked into system that has dispossessed its subscribers of the ability to imagine something different. The gender binary keeps people in bondage and limits possibilities for creative expression. It traps people into a cycle of violence that slowly but surely destroys agency.
Homophobia is not about LGBTIQ+ people. It is about the anxiety that heterosexual people have regarding the control and ownership of each other, according to pre-set power dynamics. Sooner or later it will destroy all its disciples. There is another way, we just have to recognise it.