Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Are you homophobic or moral?

I write this article for anyone who opposes same-sex marriage. For a long time, I have believed that these people can be divided into two groups. Some of us oppose same-sex marriage but support gay rights in housing and employment, and and we try to be understanding and respectful of those with non-traditional sexual orientations and lifestyles. Others among us are truly prejudiced against anyone who is a self-described homosexual, attaching harmful stereotypes to them and treating them as inferiors.

There is also some evidence that we can have implicit prejudices. Consciously, we may believe that God wants us to treat everyone as equals, but without thinking about it, we may still treat people differently based on their ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. In 2009, the FBI documented well over a thousand hate crimes against homosexuals. (Hate crimes based on religion happen at about the same rate.)

To figure out which group you're in, I would like to propose a litmus test for you: how did you feel when J. K. Rowling announced that Dumbledore was gay? How did it make you feel to think that the wisest, most widely admired character in the Harry Potter series was attracted to his own gender? Did you feel uncomfortable? Angry? Frightened?

If so, I invite you to think on this: there is no indication that Dumbledore ever acted on this attraction in a sexual way. Ms. Rowling never suggested that he felt lust when he looked at other men, just attraction. In fact, the only time she says he fell in love with someone, the other man didn't return the feeling, and it was probably the single most damaging relationship of Dumbledore's entire life. It appears that he never found love and died alone. Rowling's announcement is a far cry from an endorsement of same-sex marriage; however, it is certainly a proclamation that people can be good and great regardless of their sexual orientation.

I have a confession to make: when I first heard that Dumbledore was gay, I felt uncomfortable. I wasn't angry, and I didn't suddenly despise Dumbledore, but I didn't really know what to make of it. Now, years later, after reading about the actual experiences of several gay people, I don't feel that way any more. I feel sad for Dumbledore, and I admire his courage throughout a challenging life.

If you still feel angry about Dumbledore's orientation--an orientation he never really acted on--I suggest you get to know a gay person. It's a good way to change your assumptions, to remove implicit prejudices. Different people deal with homosexual orientation in many ways. One of the most insightful stories I have read is that of Josh Weed; I'd suggest it to anyone trying to reconcile their religious beliefs with the reality that many people are attracted to the same gender, by no choice of their own. It's the choices they make that matter.

NOTE: I apologize for using the word "homophobic;" it's a silly term, as homophobia doesn't usually refer to a fear or phobia at all, and it's often used as a pejorative term, an unanswerable insult, like comparing someone to Hitler. I use it here because homophobia is the most commonly used term to describe prejudice or ill feelings towards those who are attracted the same gender, regardless of whether or not they act on their attraction.

No comments: