Saturday, February 18, 2006

Homophobia Againts Straights.

Straight Expats- Victims of Homophobia.

Homophobia is a very bad thing according to the modern PC culture. I am sure that as a gay person, one will sometimes endure mockery and discrimination coming from all layers of society.

However, gays have made significant progress in attaining an almost equal ground with other minorities in being able to assert their rights to live a full life on this planet. We are witnessing gay marriages in many countries, laws against verbal and other types of abuse targeting gays, and other measures designed to safeguard the human dignity of this group of people.

There is a strange phenomenon that I would like to discuss that has affected me as a long time expat- I am not gay by any measure, however, I have been a victim of homophobia because of being mistaken for one on many occasions. Because of that, I am now very sympathetic with the suffering that gays have endured over the centuries even if I am not one myself.

How so? If you are an expat male, you may end up living in places where male behavior is different from what you are used to. If you spend time in say, Italy, you will often learn to dress like an Italian man, that is, in rather bright and fashionable clothes, latest style shoes and sometimes, even a stylish hat. But what is meant to attract a woman in Italy, may be mistaken for a “gay” way of dressing in other parts of the world. One place that comes to mind is Britain, where men often wear dark, no-pattern, subdued-color clothes with denims. A brightly dressed male in the UK, particularly outside of London, may evoke hostile reactions from homophobes, as he may be mistaken for a homosexual on the prowl, while the man simply dresses up to go and “pick up girls”. What is perfectly acceptable macho behavior in Italy may result in being beat up by crazed gay bashers, even if one is not gay.

An East European who is given to hugging other men- his buddies, and even kissing them on the cheeks, will have to be very careful in the Caribbean. Such behavior may earn him a reputation of being one of undesirable sexual preference, and make him suffer from discrimination, while he may think that he is not doing anything wrong and wonder why people are treating him in such a strange way. That kind of conduct may also attract into his sphere of activities real gays who may mistake him for one.

In parts of Latin America gays are often distinguished from straights by the fact that they dye their hair, or rather highlight it with blondish streaks. However, the same effect would appear if, say, a German would go to a tropical place, and spent a great deal of time in the open air under the hot sun. While the locals’ hair color does not change- they grew up in such hot weather- the hair color of the German will acquire faded highlights- enough to make many Latinos mistake him for a homosexual. That, in turn will produce all kinds of social effects including ostracism, suspicion, mockery, or even the ridiculous “ hey, buddy, if you are gay, it is nothing against you” attitude, while the poor German does not even know what is going on and why he is avoided by the “Macho” Latin male, and cannot make friends and date women (who consider him too effeminate).

Even when taking a group photo one has to be very careful not to hug people of the same sex lest one wants to suffer from frowns and having other men make nasty remarks about one.

French males ( the straight ones) often have a way of crossing their legs by placing the knee of one leg directly above the other knee, rolling their eyes and even talking with a” limp wrist”, which would be very indicative of being gay in the US. The sentimental mannerism of the French can further enhance such an impression if they move to the United States. In extreme cases, they can be insulted and even beaten up if they end up in some redneck bar. For being “ gay”…all while they are not.

The behavior of a European aristocrat can be seen as “gay” in many parts of the Americas. A male ( straight as one can get) poet, painter/sculptor or a dancer from Russia will soon find out that many of his counterparts in America are gay and that straight men will often not share his predilection for such “lady-like” pursuits.

The same goes for women who come from cultures such as SE Asia where women can hold hands. A Thai girl who moves to the English part of Canada will have to learn not to do it unless she wants to be branded a “lesbian”.

In some parts of the world such innocent gestures as crossing one’s arms, waving one’s hand, speaking in a pitch that is higher than what one supposed to be speaking, getting a certain haircut ( which is perfectly OK in one’s own country) can make one a target of homophobia.

When one relocates abroad, one has to be extremely mindful of these things for, in some very exceptional cases, homophobia may even cost one his life- as it has with quite a few real gays. Please observe how people of your sex behave and ask around about what modes of conduct would be acceptable between males and males or females and females.
This will save you a great deal of trouble.

While homophobia is seen as bad and is being battled by many organizations and progressive thinkers in today’s’ Western society, homophobia against straights is not an issue that can be raised comfortably or taken seriously by such people as it seems to affect expats only. It is therefore, up to us to be attentive to the way we are supposed to act in the new society. Real homophobia is bad enough- let’s not add its weird twist directed against non-gay males to that already difficult issue. Watch how your sex dresses and act, do the way they do, and you should be OK.

1 comment:

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