Homophobia in School, the Workforce, Religion,
and Health in our Society
Brian A. Laura
Union County College
The history of homophobia, negative feelings and attitudes towards the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community is vast, just like the type of abuse that has/is perpetrated against them is. Forms of abuse can range from verbal to physical, bordering on the extreme on the occasion, with the victims of these violent acts often ending up hurt, scarred, or even dead. Homophobia is present in multiple areas of society, be it religion, school, the workforce, or the media, seemingly anywhere people of the community go, they encounter some form of undeserved, ill-treatment against them by someone, unintentional or not. Eventually, such treatment takes a toll on LGBT people, their physical or mental health may deteriorate because of the constant hardships they have to face in addition of being labeled a social outcast, a sinner, etc. They can be driven to consume alcohol, cigarettes, or substances in order to cope with all the problems theyre facing, to self-harm, and in the worst of cases, to commit suicide. A stop to homophobia can luckily be brought, however, by protesting against any homophobic treatment against them and advocate laws that benefit this oppressed group. Informing uneducated or misinformed individuals on the history of the community is also of great help.
Keywords: LGBT, homophobia, abuse, history, intolerance
Homophobia in School, the Workforce, Religion, and
Aspects of our Society
The LGBT population is one that has continuously been experiencing mistreatment for hundreds if not thousands of years. Despite laws being made and passed by some countries to put a stop to the negative attitudes and feelings toward these people (a.k.a. homophobia), the abuse persists. Forms of abuse arent just limited to physical attacks by anti-LGBT groups, they can come in various forms such as derogatory terms that insult the person on the basis of his/her sexuality, discrimination, emotional abuse, and sexual assault. In the worst of cases, an LGBT individual may end up physically or mentally crippled for the rest of his/her life or be killed because of his/her sexual stance. Among the most recent examples of homophobia, we have Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni who passed the Anti-Homosexuality Act in 2014 which punishes anyone displaying homosexual behavior with life in prison (Downie, 2014, p. 1). In the United States, 5 members of Trumps evangelical executive advisory signed a statement deeming homosexuality and transgenderism as immoral and that anybody who approved LGBT people could not be called a Christian (Tannehill, 2017). Homophobia isnt limited to nations one would label as belonging in the third-world category, it occurs in developed nations like the United States as well. Just like how homophobia has various faces when it comes to how and where in the world it is enacted, the aspects in modern society where it can be present can vary just as much.
Homophobia in Schools
Reports of bullying in schools isnt anything new, but students who identify as part of the LGBT community have a shockingly higher percentage of cases of bullying than their heterosexual peers, over twice the amount in some cases. In US and UK schools, the LGBT youth, namely those in 7th to 12th grade, have repeatedly reported hearing numerous homophobic terms used against them , but as mentioned previously, such behavior is not limited to just words as among those reports made by the victims have included physical attacks made by other students, property theft or damage at the school, rumors and lies made about them with the intent of harm on the basis of their sexual orientation, and cyber bullying (Tracey et al., 2015). The latter is one of the most dangerous forms of bullying today. It is a form of harassment perpetrated through social media, forums, etc. via readily available electronic devices such as smartphones or personal computers that have access to the internet. Because of the ubiquity of such modern gadgets plus the anonymity some websites offer, it becomes easy for the perpetrator to continue with the bullying unnoticed and for the harder for the victim to escape it. In South Africa, homosexual male students have reported hearing derogatory terms being used to refer to them in the isiZulu and Afrikaans language with meaning equivalent to the word faggot, lesbian African girls have also been victims to similar abuse, being told to stop being tomboys, or theyll infect the rest of the class with their behavior both groups have said they have heard such horrible terms when being referred so often from other classmates and teachers that it no longer bothers them, though boys experience it on a higher extent than girls (Msibi, 2012). While the aforementioned nations all have cases of LGBT students reporting various forms of abuse from both classmates and teachers, South Africa is arguably the worst of the three when it comes to its acceptance. African people may (and do) go to various extents when it comes to fixing these individuals, even going so far as to approve laws that make it legal to abuse them and place them in jail solely for their sexual orientation. Physical and Psychological torture is quite common against the innocent LGBT population in Africa, it can be as extreme as employing chemical castration or stoning them to death.
Homophobia in the Workplace
Abuse against LGBT community doesnt end in educational centers, it continues (and can carry on from or to) in the workforce. Theyre ridiculed, mocked, and even denied the benefits a worker would get, even if they have the same, or superior, skills that would qualify them for the position as much as heterosexual workers. Various studies have been done about homophobia in the workplace. A Particular New Mexico study has found that out of a thousand interviewed physicians, 110 of them would not refer their patients to an LGBT physician; a survey reported that 28 percent of those involved reported being uncomfortable addressing the needs of an LGBT patient (Eliason et al., 2011).
A 1994 study of LGBT physicians carried out by Schatz and OHanlon, surveyed members of the American Association of Physicians for Human Rights, an LGBT medical organization (now known as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association), of 1,311 members, 711 completed the given survey, with a higher index of male participants over female ones; key responses included that nearly all of their colleagues knew of their sexual orientation, refusal of job privileges, denial of promotion despite being classified, denial of referrals by their employers, harassment from professional colleagues, and feelings of exclusion (Eliason et al., 2011).
Other studies reported that LGBT individuals were afraid of revealing their sexual orientation from fear of facing discrimination, sometimes passing as heterosexuals in order to avoid it; when interviewing consumers of healthcare, 12 percent said that they would refuse to see an LGBT family physician, with half saying they would do so because they perceived them as incompetent, others stating that they would change provider if they found out he/she was openly LGBT, such responses were more common with older individuals than with younger ones (Eliason et al., 2011). Such harassment and ill-treatment are also present in jobs that dont require as much as skill as the one previously discussed. Whether it be a position as a cashier at a supermarket chain, at an electronics store, or even charity work where people are supposed to be in together for one cause, chances are that homophobia might be present in one way or another, intentional or not.
Homophobia and Religion
Prejudice against members of the LGBT community often had/has a religious basis, especially in countries where a significant portion of the population is fervently religious, like Ireland, Saudi Arabia, and numerous African Countries. People who reported high levels of religiosity, religious commitment, frequent participation in religious activities, or stronger integration into a religious institution (churches, mosques, synagogues. etc.) tend to have higher levels of prejudice against LGBT individuals in addition of being less inclined to help these persons (Sowe et al., 2017). Residing in a more religious region (like the aforementioned countries in this section) generally predicts greater disapproval of the LGBT individuals, their community, and their rights. The examples of attacks perpetrated by religious individuals or groups against LGBT people are numerous, with the most recent case being the Orlando Nightclub Attack in 2016 which claimed dozens of victims and was perpetrated by Omar Mateen, who proclaimed to be a member of the religious extremist terrorist ISIS (Alvarez, Perez-Pe?a, 2016). It seems very hypocritical for people and groups who preach loving your neighbor, peace, and love to be treating these people in such a horrible manner.
Health Consequences of Homophobia for the LGBT Community
Dealing with so many forms of homophobic attitudes in seemingly everywhere they go can eventually take a toll on the victims health. Cases are pretty common where the individual comes out to his/her family and friends about his/her sexuality only to be rejected by them (Better Health Channel, 2018). Such a response can lead to these people to go and compulsively consume cigarettes and alcohol as a way to cope with the problems he/she is facing which lead to numerous health problems like emphysema, anemia, or even cancer. A recent report concluded that smoking rates are higher in the LGBT community, particularly among bisexual men and women (McGill, 2014). Health conditions they may acquire as a result from frequently dealing with homophobia are not limited to just physical conditions, such negative attitudes towards the LGBT individual can also take a toll on his/her mental health. Homophobic harassment was often found to be a predictor in increases of depressive symptoms in LGBT youth (Hatchel et al., 2018). As a result, LGBT people are likely to commit self-harm, or in the worse of cases, suicide (Better Health Channel, 2018).
Homophobia in Other Aspects of Society
Mentioned earlier, homophobia is a multifaceted issue that is present pretty much everywhere we go, including the major forms of media today. TV has its share of moments where characters who face the subject of homosexuality often have a hostile stance on it. It doesnt help when TV often portrays gay and lesbian characters as one-time guest stars, whispered tragedies, and silly sidekicks (Peters, 2016). In these shows, these characters often display stereotypical characteristics and behaviors that are wrongly associated with gay men and women which as a result give them a bad image (e.g. Mr. Garrison from South Park). The internet is also a place where homophobic attitudes are quite common, with people in social media and online forums often insulting each other with strongly offensive terms such as faggot to express disagreement, when interacting with a LGBT person, or when they intentionally want to instigate a response among unsuspecting users with controversial comments (homophobic comments in this case), or trolling. Homophobic behavior can also be accompanied by racially-motivated harassment, with reports of homosexual males from ethnic/racial minority being treated rudely because of their background, with a significant percentage of the victims being immigrants (Rafael et al., 2001).
Solutions to End Homophobic Attitudes
Luckily, it is possible to, or the very least reduce these harmful behaviors and feelings. Joining a protest to end laws that discriminate the LGBT population is one way to contributed to reduce homophobia, an example of such law being The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which refused to give recognition to same-sex couples on the ground that marriage should be between a man and a woman, a law that stopped being defended by the Obama Administration because it was unconstitutionally discriminatory, and ultimately axed just a few years back, and advocate for laws in favor of the LGBT people (Nicodemo, 2012). Another and quite possibly one of the most effective ways to put a stop to homophobia is educating oneself and others about just how badly the community has been treated throughout human history. For example, from 1958 to 1980, numerous Cuban gay men experienced ill-treatment in the form of little job availability, imprisonment, and being labeled as a social outcast (Majied, 2015). Such information can give people a perspective of the unjust treatment LGBT community has endured and may cause homophobic individuals or groups to put themselves and their shoes and reflect on their own perspective.
It is evident that negative sentiments and attitudes towards those belonging to the LGBT community arent anything new. Hatred, and acts based on that emotion as an extension, towards something as harmless as a different sexual orientation goes to show that human society still has a long way to go in order call to become tolerant. Many anti-LGBT individuals and groups either dont seem, or want to understand that being a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender individual isnt wrong in any way shape or form. It isnt something that needs to be fixed, what needs to be changed are their views on the community, to see that LGBT people are students, workers, religious devotees, children, family members, politicians, etc., theyre just like you and me, and that its absolutely fine.
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