You want to talk about homophobia! That’s cool. So do I, especially if it means we don’t have to talk about circumcision, which really, honestly, wow. People, some perspective here. I was watching Delicatessen the other night you know, the surreal French horror-comedy about the landlordcumdeli owner who keeps his meat locker stocked the same way Mrs. Lovett got her mince for pies in Sweeney Todd, my all-time favorite piece of musical theater? So I was watching that, and as the evil proprietor advanced on Granny with his cleaver, I suddenly remembered that at least one of you had called me a butcher, of all things, over the circumcision issue. If I weren’t laughing so hard at the image of my husband, myself, and the sweet, rather distracted gray-bearded mohel in his greasy black hat advancing on our helpless babe with a gleaming cleaver, I might’ve been offended. Another reader suggested that we did it to appease a magical being in the sky. I will have you know, sir, that I don’t believe in an MBITS any more than you believe in my (and my partner’s) ability to make a good decision for our kid. We did it, more or less, for tradition’s sake and to help our son connect with his ancestry, and to keep him from being burdened with the only foreskin at Jew Camp when he gets there. And that’s enough of that. Here are some recent responses to the homophobia columns:
I believe homophobia is rooted in some baser instincts among animals as you said, we are wired to notice differences. We then perceive (or install) hierarchy as a self-esteem mechanism and even more primordially as a method of establishing some basis of feeling superiority as a potential mate. As animals we seek, by instinct, someone to feel we are superior to, so we can enhance our perception of our viability among competitors. The next step is to communicate that notion to potential mates and competitors. From that gesture we create culture in our tribes. Although today we love to believe that (for example) sending an e-mail to a writer proves our sophistication, it has not been that long since we were clubbing one another over the head for food.
Yeah, sorta, maybe. Although I’m convinced that human culture is founded on both our need and our capacity to tell us from them (what do you think circumcision was for, anyway? Isn’t it just a primal version of "shirts versus skins?") for both good and, increasingly, ill, there’s really nothing in it for a male animal who gets all puffed up and furious over the mere existence of another male who presents no threat. What a waste of energy. I’m not quite seeing homophobia as a mating strategy. But that was interesting, so thanks. Next we have:
My theory is that it is all about warfare does that sound crazy? Let me explain. Long ago, there were probably different peoples at war with each other. One of them needed to demonize the other in some way, as warring parties do. Perhaps one of the cultures was strictly heterosexual and the other not. Thus, the hetero rulers locked onto homosexuality as something to demonize. The winner of the war appears to have been the hetero side, which perhaps explains the heavy homophobia throughout history. A stronger war-related reason might be the necessity of military secrecy. Without the serious taboo, there would be spies literally sucking the military secrets out of people (pun intended). It may also have been a smart political tactic of the rulers. I am going to assume that people who think independently are more likely to deviate from sexual norms. Those independent thinkers are most likely the biggest threat to a controlling, ruling entity. What better way to isolate these troublemakers than with sexual taboos?
Not a chance in hell, but thanks for writing! Have you ever heard of Occam’s razor?
More seriously, there are dozens of theories attempting to explain homophobia (or, more accurately, heterosexism), most of which make more sense than the above but none of which will ever be definitive, because different people hate for different reasons and because some pervasive human beliefs are so old that they have been lost in prehistory. Basically, though, the answer’s going to be a mixture of societal discomfort with sexuality in general (heterosexual intercourse excepted, what with the carrying on of the species thing), sexism, and the need to keep categories neat and distinctions distinct. I don’t think it’s hard to understand where homophobia might come from. It’s why we can’t make it go back there that’s bothering me.
Andrea is home with the kids and going stir-crazy. Write her a letter! Ask her a question! Send her your tedious e-mail forwards! On second thought, don’t do that. Just ask her a question.