Political Homophobia: Sheds Clouds Over the Rainbow
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro criticised the country’s recent Supreme Court judgment which ruled to criminalise homophobia, making it a crime equivalent to racism. Bolsonaro went on to say “But we can’t let this place become known as a gay tourism paradise. Brazil can’t be a country of the gay world, of gay tourism. We have families.” Earlier he had also said that “I’d rather have my son die in a car accident than have him show up dating some guy.” This had me thinking as to how such a statement could foster internalised homophobia in a teenage kid who is fighting a secret battle with his/her own individuality every day.
In this age where we do not provide safe spaces to members of sexual minorities, any such remarks not only further the stigma that surrounds members of the LGBTQ+ community but they also engender self-hate amongst closeted teenagers who are still either questioning or are sadly trying to fit-in according to the conservative standards of the society. However, this was not the first time when the head of a nation unapologetically made homophobic and transphobic remarks.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, while attending a gathering of the Filipino community in Tokyo this June, asserted that he was cured from being gay by his ex-wife. The portrayal of sexual orientation as a disease by someone in power only reflects abuse of the media as a platform to propagate ignorant and loathsome remarks against a minority community which is striving to attain recognition in all the spheres of society today. This propagation is often termed “Political homophobia.” Political homophobia in the previous examples forms one of the ways which leaders employ, in order to build a uniform national identity which condemns western liberal values. It therefore becomes all the more crucial to discern how homophobic and/or transphobic slurs devastatingly impact the mental health of the people belonging to sexual minorities.
Ilan Meyer’s landmark research on “minority stress” reflects that within a heteronormative society, individuals belonging to sexual minorities are prone to high rates of mental health issues which may include depression, chronic stress conditions, anxiety, etc. Unlike other marginalised groups like immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community does not grow up among people like themselves. Due to this, the stigma of non-acceptance stems from within their own families. This leads to distress and anxiety amongst LGBTQ youth which further leads to the adoption of poor coping mechanisms like substance abuse etc. These mechanisms result in the deterioration of health and may even result in fatal health conditions. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, a youth belonging to the rainbow community is two to seven times more likely to commit suicide than any heterosexual youth.
The leaders of the world today should therefore be called out for propagating hateful and demeaning remarks against any vulnerable section of society as these leaders are the ones who are entrusted to ensure human rights and security to the people they govern. At a time when the number of gun violence incidences and hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community have skyrocketed, what this community needs is more allies who can not only stand with them and make them feel proud about their individuality but also, when there is no acceptance flowing from their families, they can become their chosen family.
In closing, I would like to stress that it is high time for the leaders of the world today to recognise that homophobia is an expression of hate which only triggers the commission of hate crimes against the LGBTQ+ community. Any form of political remarks or legislative decision by them could potentially accelerate the aversion of this community by society.