Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Homophobia- A humanist treatise

Stereotypes and ideas of normativity permeate our lives. We bring them into existence and are subsequently entrapped by them. One of the most visceral fears of mankind is fear of the unknown, the idea that the unknown is an alien mutation with an alien morphology. And a fundamental unawareness that the putatively incongruous always resided subterraneously, unnoticed and unconsidered. From a psychological perspective the mind is a vast repository of unconscious forces that defy explication . The unconscious is not merely of an individual nature the tapping of which would uncover the nebulous mysteries of the flesh. It is also collective in nature and a repertoire of social, cultural , a priori realities are embedded within it. Now a locke would suggest that the mind , by dint of association, apprehends the world, initially as sensations. My own view is that of this communal notion of mankind which is our given birthright containing within itself contradictory equivocations. And some are acknowledged as functional necessities of survival while others are repressed for fear of censure or disdain.

Such a view would suggest that a pre existent, albeit suppressed nature of the 'other' is inevitable. The more assiduously it is repressed within the unconscious, the more indefatigable its conscious repudiation would be. And the fissures or cracks within these layers of mind can induce willed ignorance or precipitate greater self examination. What, most often, is condemned, is many a times, a repression of that self same propensity in the self. And while not all homophobes are latent gays certainly their fear of homosexuality is visceral and primordially unsettling, to their notions of identity, rooted as they are in a manichean schism. The dichotomy is itself a construction and a defense mechanism. And while its constituents have been rendered threadbare by psychoanalysis their need is perhaps understated. We need these mechanisms to cope and a utopian world where the unconscious would be visible is unthinkable because as new realities emerge, newer forms of containment are promulgated.

One of the techniques of rendering the inadmissible 'other' permissible is its naturalization which seemingly assimilational redoubles difference. As political changes metamorphose gay lives the popular consciousness assumes a tolerant, condescending attitude suggestive of patronizing. And this in itself is an intricate psychological mechanism which diffuses the incendiarism of homosexuality by a show of tolerance and acceptance, themselves suspect words, redolent of superiority. Its ok to be a gay is not far off from, you're gay, how cool is that. And fashionability is a reductio ad absurdum of a mode of being and a way of life. Threats of reprisal and retribution lurk beneath, intimating the underlying impugning.

Which is not to deny the fact of change. Change there is and welcome too. A polymorphous society would embrace difference but the word difference is highly suggestive implying an anomalousness. When the 'norm' is in itself suspect efforts to sanctify it, affirm its sacerdotal quality can only intensify and augment otherness making co existence a possibility.From a humanistic perspective co existence is a misnomer, emblematizing different forms which are hierarchized and prioritized. Under a vast, undifferentiated humanity wholesomeness is the fundamental reality, a holism that acknowledges no distinctions. Assimilation is a problematic word too as it reinforces the ineffable centrality of a 'norm' where otherness is amalgamated.

But these are linguistic ratiocinations. Gays are speaking up and coming out and becoming comfortable where they are. Forms of homophobia are harmless largely because they lodge in the unconscious and rarely, if ever,emerge as everyone is too busy leading their lives to bother about two men. It is when leaders and religious groups and political parties intervene that an arena of warfare comes into being. These representatives of mass culture, however apocryphal, possess the ability to sway public opinions.

As thinking individuals we all need to interrogate the barrage of mis/information hurled at us, test them against our own liberal beliefs and constantly probe our minds to acknowledge the sheer irrationality of the positions we take and crystallize them into ideology. The unconscious is an untraversable sea and always will be but as layers are unfurling newer realities, always existent are arising and these are a testing ground both of the dubious nature of what we misconstrue as ubiquitous and the fact that in a protean, kinetic world, it is lateral  contiguities that exist, not linear, chronology.


  1. hmm so is it a non issue now - i dont think - your view is urban - in the rural world and in many places it is still very much contentious

  2. Ampat sir, the debate on homophobia is in itself an urban phenomenon. I agree that a corresponding rural reality gets erased but it is in cities that the polemics of homosexuality become imbued with an importunate immediacy. Delhi, London, New york are sires both of power and subversion. Thank you.

  3. As someone who has an anxiety disorder I can tell you fear is a strong and powerful myth, maybe the most virulent that we have ever known. Fear a myth? Yes, I think so. By myth I don't mean something "make-believe", I mean a system of beliefs (well maybe I don't know what I mean, but for me myths are complex and undeniable facts in our lives.)So as I was saying fear is a powerful myth we follow from our childhoods up into our adulthoods. When have we ever stopped being afraid? We inherit our parents and societies fears, so genetically and socially we enter fear and are immersed in it rituals and functions. If we blame others it's often because the myth of fear doesn't allow us to disperse our anxieties, fear wants us in its clutches, lashing out impotently. Blaming someone else is ideal for fear, it creates an impression of a stress-releasing mechanism which in turn gives some intellectual justification for mistreating others. Make no doubt about it, our society actively discourages braveness and courage. We are forced to be afraid. Of course it's easier to control frightened people than those who are resolute and resisting. Anyways maybe what I am trying to say is that without removing the powerful myth of fear from our lives, we will still blame the other, homosexual or anyone one else we may make a scapegoat.

    1. Excellently stated Gary. Myth can also be, in a twisted way, a way of life, a mode of being. That its both self created and societally constructed should be acknowledged. thank you.

  4. Hmmm, stereotypes and prejudices have ingrained our society for too long. Humans somehow follow the rules of a jungle, the fittest, the one who follows the herd and the majority tries to rule, sad, but true!It is time we humanise!