Homophobia & HIV: The Gay Plague
“You can try to resist,
But you know,
Don’t you know that you can’t fight the moonlight?”
-Can’t fight the moonlight (LeAnn Rimes)
The year is 2018; my friend and I are lazing around with this beautiful song playing in the background. She proceeds to tell me the underlying theme of this song and how the moonlight is a metaphor for repressed sexuality. Coming out was not easy for her and confronting her parents was an uphill task, but she did it anyway because she could not fight the moonlight.
“Somebody, your father or mine, should have told us that not many people have ever died of love. But multitudes have perished, and are perishing every hour- and in the oddest places! – for the lack of it.”
This paradigm by Author James Baldwin perfectly encapsulates the fear and stigma etched to people’s minds about the LGBTQ+ community. Homophobia is defined as the fear, hatred, discomfort with, or mistrust of people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. People who identify themselves as a part of the LGBTQ+ community have experienced harassment and a lot of discrimination from society over the years.
On top of it, the global HIV epidemic has always been closely linked with negative attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community and the media, in some parts of the world, fuelled this view. This was sensationalized to an extent where headlines like ‘The Gay Plague’ started trending and aggravated the entire situation by alienating and demonizing an imperative community that deserves to be treated with respect and compassion as much as everyone else does!
Repercussions on Mental Health of People Battling Homophobia & Its Stigmatization
Members of the LGBTQ+ community are at a greater risk of experiencing hate crime. Studies show that young people and those identifying with the community from black and ethnic minority groups are subjected to a lot more prejudice.
Gay and bisexual youth and other sexual minorities are more likely to be rejected by their families. This increases the possibility of them becoming homeless. Statistics show that about 40% of homeless youth belong to the LGBTQ+ community.
This stigma leads to poor mental health and poor coping skills such as substance abuse. The American National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) found that 15 percent of homosexual adults had alcohol or drug use disorder compared to 8 percent of heterosexual adults.
The taboo associated with the community drives them to stop doing some of their usual activities. Basic issues like restroom access have a profound effect on transgender youth’s well-being. Denial of gender-appropriate facilities, job opportunities, and educational opportunities also has serious repercussions on the mental health of these sexual minorities.
“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.”
Some Stereotypes Prevalent in Society & Ways to Debunk them
Myth: It Is Not The ‘norm’ To Identify As A Part Of The Lgbtq+ Community
Many people think that it is unnatural to be an individual who identifies with this community because people still believe that platonic relationships can be formed with the procreation of children only and they think that homosexuality is a choice.
DEBUNKED: The only thing that is unnatural or not the norm is to not act on these feelings. Many people who are a part of these sexual minorities choose to raise children with their partner and provide a family to those children who could not have one before. Also being a part of this community isn’t a choice, but on the contrary, these feelings get solidified over the years.
Myth: They Can Be Identified By Certain Mannerisms, Clothing Or Physical Characteristics
Gupta uncle thinks that gay men are too dressy and effeminate in their mannerism unbeknownst to the fact that his son who fits the bill of “a typical alpha male” is gay and can’t come out due to his father’s beliefs about the community.
DEBUNKED: I am sorry to burst your bubble Gupta Uncle, but there is no ‘type’ with which you define the entire LGBTQ+ community based on your own regressive notions. Today, fewer people from this community feel they must dress to pass in the mainstream community and some people choose to make a political statement through their appearance.
Myth: People Become Homosexual Because They Were Sexually Abused As Children
Many anti-gay rights activists claim that homosexuality is a mental disorder caused by some psychological trauma or aberration in childhood. This belief stems from the stereotype that homosexuality is a choice or a conscious decision and not something that someone is born with.
DEBUNKED: The American Psychiatric Association noted in a 2000 fact sheet that while dealing with gay, lesbian and bisexual issues, sexual abuse does not appear to be any more prevalent among children who grow up and identify with the community than in children who grow up and identify as heterosexual.
Myth: The HIV Stigma And Spread Of The Gay Plague Through Homosexuals
At the beginning of HIV epidemic, the LGBTQ+ community was frequently singled out for abuse as they were seen responsible for the transmission of HIV and led to the criminalization of same-sex relationships.
DEBUNKED: HIV and other sexually transmitted infections can be caused through unhealthy intercourse or subjecting the body to drugs from the HIV carrier. So it is prevalent among both homosexuals and heterosexuals. Imposing a blood ban on an entire community and restricting access to healthcare for them is the actual crime here.
Myth: Homosexuality Will Spread If You Hang Around People Who Identify Themselves As Homosexuals
Often physical intimation with the same gender is just simply led to the categorization of a person as “gay”.
DEBUNKED: Sexuality is so much more than this. It is the identity of a person. Having different sexuality doesn’t make anyone less human. On the contrary, people with different sexualities are more human than others because it truly takes a lot of heart and delicacy to see people, and yourself, without the biased lens of gender. The stereotype that homosexuality will spread if you hang around homosexuals is idiotically feared of but people should understand that homosexuality is not a choice.
“Love can’t block a bullet
But neither can it be shot down,
And love is, for the most part, what makes us-
in Orlando and Brooklyn and in Kabul.
We will be everywhere, always;
There’s nowhere else for us, or you, to go.
Anywhere you run in this world, love will be
There to greet you.
Around any corner, there might be two men.
-A POEM FOR PULSE (Jameson Fitzpatrick)
How to Combat Homophobia & the Vulnerabilities that the Community is Subjected to?
Homophobic innuendos, jokes, and teasing should not be promoted in advertisements and print media and should be deemed offensive.
Talking about the issue in dinner table conversations and usage of inclusive language in discussions with friends and family.
Counselling in schools should be done and students should be made aware of the community from a young age. The mental health issues and the stigma associated with the community should be addressed as well.
We should make sure that homophobia is challenged just as strongly as racism or any other form of bigotry.
Businesses should work to create an inclusive culture and pledge their support to employees irrespective of their sexuality. Thousands of Apple employees marched together in San Francisco’s pride parade in July. Moves like these should also be showcased by the mainstream media.
Pronouns aren’t important to homosexuals, as they aren’t to heterosexuals and can be used in a similar manner. Using neutral language is a good way to include people who have worked hard, regardless of gender.
Educate yourself and confront homophobia and transphobia.
Talking about these issues on safe platforms like Now&Me can not only initiate conversations about homophobia but also create a safe space for people who are battling the anxiety and stigma associated with the community.
Be your own trailblazer, follow your arrow and most importantly, don’t be the reason for someone losing their sheen because you made them fight their moonlight!!
Edited by Annanya Chaturvedi