Opinion: Coming to terms

Last week, Davis Mallory, an openly gay, former participant of the
Real World, led a discussion in the Campus Center on homosexuality and
religion. One-by-one, people in the room expressed their views on the
subject. One of the last students to speak said something along the
lines of “my parents have always taught me the importance of being
accepting to homosexuals. One of our family friends is a homosexual.
He’s a good friend, and at this point, we don’t talk about him as a
homosexual, but as a man who just happens to be a homosexual.” I was
infuriated when he said this, and I was ready to leave the room. I
wanted to call him out on what he said, but his words just melted into
the discussion. Things continued according to plan, and the discussion
remained dry and temperate.

What did this student mean? What his words suggested is that to be a
homosexual is to be something other than a man, and that we must
differentiate between gays and people “who just happen to be”
homosexual. Why else would he be so deliberate and specific about the
difference? Why would he feel obligated to make an explicit
distinction? These are questions that demand further examination.

What do I mean when I write “implicit homophobia”? I am referring to
the purple triangles around campus, marked “LGBT Friendly,” as if to
suggest that elsewhere this is not the case. Why not put up signs like
“It’s okay to be black or poor”? Because gays deserve “special”
treatment? Doesn’t that constitute discrimination? Coming out of the
closet often warrants a response like “We love you anyways” or “It’s
okay,” as if to suggest that one should not be loved if she/he is gay
or that being gay is not okay. Or the entire concept of “Gay Pride,”
which seems to suggest that if I’m not proud of my sexuality, there’s
something wrong with it. If being gay is something as normal as being
straight, why do we have to be prouder about our sexuality than

When it comes to words, things are clearer. On March 3rd, Katie McHugh
wrote “Conflicts at CPAC,” an article in which she infamously wrote
that the “homosexual movement, a liberal sub-faction, proliferates
like melanoma.” I don’t usually read The Campus – one of my friends
brought the article to my attention – but Katie’s words have been
described as “intolerant,” raising more than a few eyebrows.

In 2008, Melissa Muenz wrote an article that described how many of her
colleagues were surprised to know that she was not a lesbian. Melissa
was not offended by their assumptions. In fact, she asked “Why should
I be offended if someone thinks that I’m a lesbian?” After all, what’s
wrong with being gay?

The typical liberal student on campus would automatically respond,
“Nothing.” Yet if someone were to ask him “Are you gay?” he would be
offended. And if it is okay to be gay here at Allegheny, why do so
many of the people I know remain in the closet? If people like Katie
are the ones being accosted for their views, if intolerance towards
homosexuality is no longer acceptable, why are so many students afraid
to be open about their deviant sexuality? I would argue that gays
remain in the closet not because of people like Katie, who openly
attack homosexuals, but because of those who unknowingly propagate
homophobia. Whether it is clear to you or not when this implicit
harassment arises, I would think that the proliferation of implicit
homophobia is what makes gays on campus uncomfortable, even if they
are unaware of it. Katie’s words, as an impetus for debate, are
constructive. Yet when careless, subtle remarks are made, when
intolerance lacks substance, there can be no debate. When gays remain
in the closet and when intolerant views are kept shuttered, discourse
vanishes. Even though liberals and conservatives alike try to promote
tolerance on campus, the words “I am gay” can only be uttered with
apprehension. This fear of nonconformity and shirking from discussion
unveil liberalism as a skin-deep sentiment on campus. I hope that
people like Katie can openly come to terms with their intolerance just
as much as the gay men and women on campus can openly come to terms
with their sexualities.

I write this so that some of my friends may better come to terms with
who they are.