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RMIT Orientation Carnivale - Homophobia

Homophobia on campus

Unfortunately last year the issue of homophobia on university campuses was highlighted by the recent gay-bashing and murder of Matthew Shepherd, a student at the University of Wyoming. The only provocation for the killing was the fact that Matthew was openly gay. However, such incidences of violence against queer students are not isolated to the United States, as more than one student was bashed at RMIT last year for the same reasons.

Homophobia or lesbiphobia is basically any form of discrimination, harassment or abuse against a person on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity.

The first thing is that all people have the right to be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transsexual, A-Sexual, Cross Dressing, Aphrodite, Queer or anything else they choose to be. Any discrimination or harassment on the basis of these identities is wrong, whether it be someone screaming the word "dyke" at a lesbian in class or a transgender womyn being abused on the street. The simple fact is that what the perpetrator/s are doing is homophonic The reason homophobia is wrong is the same reason racism or sexism are wrong; because someone is treating a person differently or badly because of a particular attribute.

Where does homophobia come from?

Well to put it bluntly, homophobia comes from the ideal of the nuclear family and society in general. People are taught through a process of socialisation that being queer is wrong or abnormal. From the moment you are born, you are taught that to be normal you are supposed to get married to someone of the opposite sex, have children and then they are supposed to do the same thing.

Take a look at some of our childhood institutions, such as Barbie and Ken. They are the embodiment of Anglo-Saxon heterosexuality. We never see a Barbie and Bonnie or Ken and Kurt. Even on television today you very rarely see same sex couples, yet in almost every program there is the male-female couple who bare it all to give us the two second skin shot. You never see two males kissing in a Levi's commercial or the womyn in the diet coke advertisement swooning over other womyn.

Basically, we are taught that heterosexuality or male to female relationships are normal, and in our society if we stray from this to be someone else we are punished either by society at large or the government. Discrimination against queer people is at epidemic proportions within our governments. An example of this is the new Common Youth Allowance system, which doesn't recognise same-sex couples for independent de-facto status. Another example is how those who are in same-sex relationships are prevented by law from getting married and in Tasmania having male to male sex is illegal and is punishable by imprisonment.

Why does the Government reinforce homophobia?

The way in which our government fails to treat queer people as equal to straight people is opression. They rely on the traditional family unit to regulate sexual expression and constrain sexuality, forcing people to conform to the social constructs of "normality". These are based on heterosexual assumptions of fixed gender and sexuality, effectively allowing the government to circumscribe people's identities and sexual preference.

To understand the motives of our heterosexual dictatorship, we must understand the way in which our society works. We live in a society where capital and class are important, whereby people are divided in to classes based on their ability to access capital. This is where a dominant Ruling Class control the majority of capital (money or resources) in the world. In order to maintain and increase the amount of capital they own, they need a Working Class to carry out tasks and produce the capital for them. The Working Class are the workers of world; most people. We are the slave labor of the Ruling Class who are paid low wages, living just above the poverty line to help make profit for the bosses. For the Ruling Class to continue to have slave labor (or the Working Class) they need the family unit. The family unit is the production facility of slaves, as it reproduces children who will eventually grow up and become replacement slaves for their parents.

This is why our society and government continues to oppress queer people. We threaten the reproductive cycle. If everyone tomorrow turned around and became queer, there would be fewer children and fewer slaves for our corporations. As a result, the Ruling Class would be unable to produce enough capital, and hence eventually capitalism, which relies on constant, unsustainable growth, collapses.

This is why homophobia exists. Our governments and corporations continue to reinforce the heterosexual status quo, bombarding our society with heterosexual propaganda, so that society will oppress and discriminate against queer people, the government and corporate motive being to continue and propagate the capitalist society.

How do we stop homophobia?

It starts right here and right now. it's up to you. You must choose to stop harassing and discriminating against queer people. When your family, friends and teachers are being homophobic, then you must tell them that what they are doing is wrong and explain why. You can get involved in queer campaigns on campus (see Queer RMIT Article) and attend pride events here at RMIT. Homophobia is a form of oppression that will not simply disappear. Homophobia is one form of persecution amongst many that exist in our society. The way to beat it is to educate people about these facts. Hopefully thousands of RMIT students after reading this article will know better than to be homophobic. But ultimately, only when every person in the world "knows better" than to be homophobic will queer oppression end. To achieve that, it might just take a revolution.

BY BRENDAN MEILAK,
PRESIDENT, QUEER RMIT.

Parts of this article have been adapted from Sarah Lantz's paper "The Youth Allowance - Circumscribing young peoples sexuality." See Student Union for ]nfo.

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