We often believe that the widespread homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia which plague us is prevalent among all echelons of society, across religious lines and castes. But we often tend to make the erroneous assumption that this hate towards queer people significantly reduces or gets close to extinction as we move down generations.
The young, the change-makers, the accepting, far from the clutches of bigotry and hate – is an idealistic belief we all like to hold. Due to this, we often lean towards believing queerphobia as an affliction that only affects the old or the middle-aged, the people who possess one-dimensional views of love and sexuality, upon whom the concept of acceptance of the ones different, of the ones queer, is often lost.
Although we always forget – ignorance, hate, and bigotry are observed and learnt. We incorporate hate for the difference in our children from an early age, and thus, there exists queerphobia in staggering amounts in the youth of today. Queerphobia among young adults can exist in many forms – it can range from disgust, prejudice and discrimination to acts of violence and long-term, systemic abuse.
we often lean towards believing queerphobia as an affliction that only affects the old or the middle-aged.
I have observed that calling someone ‘gay’ as an insult is a common practice among teenagers. Teenage boys who do not conform to society’s expectations of ‘real’ manhood or masculinity are very often met with this insult. Any other undesirable characteristic or behaviour is met with this insult as well. Associating being gay with anything that we find undesirable, feminine, or ‘weird’, only adds to the queerphobia we are conditioned into having.
My adult friends often tell me that having a homosexual or bisexual roommate would be distressing to them. Most of them agree that they would make other living arrangements if confronted with such a situation. Upon being asked why the answers are usually the same. “What if they are into me? I am not like them”.
The misconception that someone who doesn’t identify as straight, and especially bisexual will be sexually interested in anyone they meet is a common one. Although the entire premise of this argument is baseless. Straight people make friends with other straight people all the time. There exists the chance that one of them might be into them, but a situation like this would never be confronted with discrimination, bias and discomfort.
This is also a common argument a lot of teenagers I have happened to come across have used to justify breaking friendships with people who have recently come out or avoiding association with anyone who identifies as queer. Teenagers, just like most other people, view being queer as vile. While they would simply express their lack of interest to a heterosexual person, their answer to the attraction of a queer person, or even the mere possibility of it is to be wary and stay away.
Another prominent issue dealing with queerphobia among teenagers is the constant of fetishizing of female bisexuality among teenage boys and young men. Female bisexuality is considered “fun, hot, appealing”. Teenagers often view bisexuality as a fetish or a fantasy that solely exists for their sake. When female bisexuality is expected to exist for the pleasure and fantasies of men, we take away from the fact that bisexuality is a sexual identity that is important to the personhood of all bisexual people.
There is also the common belief that people who identify as bisexual are more likely to cheat because if they can’t make up their mind about which gender identity they are attracted to, they probably cannot make up their mind about who they want to be with. Also, special mention to the asinine argument that bisexual people will come across more people they would like to cheat on and with.
Safe public and private spaces are the rights of queer people just as much as it is of straight people.
Queerphobia amongst teenagers isn’t limited to any particular form or type, it exists in different ways. Sometimes subtle, sometimes shockingly outwardly displayed. Sometimes they masquerade as jokes, sometimes as pseudo-scientific facts. Whatever the form, extent, or intent, queerphobia should have no place in today’s world, may it be among anyone or any group of people, but especially among the young.
Inherited or not, it’s still all our responsibilities to rid our selves of our prejudices and hate. Safe public and private spaces are the rights of queer people just as much as it is of straight people. None of us can absolve ourselves of the responsibility to allow queer people a safe, violence and discrimination-free space, and public and private existence.
The cycle of hate can be a vicious one that passes on from generation to generation, from interaction to interaction. But it is time we take responsibility to put an end to this. It is time we see that differences don’t deserve to be met with hate, violence, disdain, or disgust. It’s time we learn the lessons of acceptance and respect so that we can pass it along.
Featured Image Credit: Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya