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Time to face the truth on sexual orientation…

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Anti-gay activists have long argued that gay people do not need protection from discrimination because they can hide their identity. Anti-gay activist Janet Boynes succinctly made this point in her book, Called Out: “The difference between black skin and homosexuality is that black skin is a physical characteristic while homosexuality is a behavior.”

Martin Strachoň / Wikimedia Commons

However, this belies the reality that sexual orientation is often as visible, and in some cases more so, than other distinguishing human characteristics. For instance, long before many children have an inkling of their sexual orientation, they are harassed on the playground for perceived homosexuality. Anyone who denies this is either a bald faced liar or has never played with other students at recess.

Let’s be clear, I am not claiming that all gay people are detectible by “Gaydar.” There are many homosexuals who can “pass,” just as there are light skinned African Americans who can be mistaken for Caucasians. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who can’t pass are often targets for harassment, discrimination, and violence.

With President Obama coming out in favor of marriage equality and the general success of the LGBT movement, anti-gay activists are becoming more desperate and delirious as they lose ground.

For instance, in its annual report released last week, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects recorded thirty hate-motivated killings of LGBT people, the highest number they ever recorded in the United States. The actual violence is augmented by the spiritual, political, and rhetorical violence emanating from pulpits or anti-gay groups that demean, or outright call for the detainment or death, of homosexuals.

The need for comprehensive laws protecting LGBT people becomes more urgent when one looks at the science showing the public’s ability to identify many LGBT individuals.

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE shows that people can often peg gays by their facial features.

In this study, photographs were observed by subjects for 50 milliseconds, which was long enough for participants to know they’d seen a face, but probably not long enough to feel they knew much more. Participants were able to identify sexual orientation with 60 percent accuracy. Since a chance guessing would yield 50 percent accuracy, 60 percent might not seem impressive. But the researchers say that the effect is statistically significant — several times above the margin of error.

In a similar study involving tape recordings of gay and straight men, 75 percent of gay men sounded gay to a general audience. This is just a hunch, but I think these experiments help explain why the biggest homophobes are often gay.

“Individuals who identify as straight but in psychological tests show a strong attraction to the same sex may be threatened by gays and lesbians because homosexuals remind them of similar tendencies within themselves,” said Netta Weinstein, a lecturer at the University of Essex and the author of a study on the issue.

Self-loathing gay people may look in the mirror and see the telltale traits of homosexuality. So, they desperately do everything in their power to offset the psychical characteristics, such as dressing in conservative clothes or making anti-gay jokes.

So-called “ex-gay” ministries can’t change a person’s sexual orientation, but they do specialize in altering one’s behavior. Like actors playing roles, “former homosexuals” are taught to sit, talk, walk, and socialize in gender normative ways. The Catholic “ex-gay” organization, Courage, even hosts a sports camp where “men physically compete on the field.”

The futility of such frantic efforts to fit in is rather clear when one looks at the stereotypical appearance of leading “ex-gay” activists. Alan Chambers, Randy Thomas, Richard Cohen, Sy Rogers (pictured), Greg Quinlan, Janet Boynes, and Anne Paulk are significantly more stereotypical than the average LGBT person. Yet, they teach classes or distribute materials on how gay people can pass in a homophobic society.

We live in a world that consists of remarkable complexity and breathtakingly beautiful diversity.

There are at least 500 animal species where homosexuality has been documented, which clearly shows that being gay is as natural as breathing air. Is it not odd that people can accept that nature has room for the Venus Fly Trap and the Yoda Bat, yet they can’t fathom the existence of homosexuality in human beings?

I’m glad that science is beginning to explain the mystery of sexuality – but people should also have enough common sense to see the truth.

Opinions and advice expressed in our Views & Voices columns represent the author's own views and not necessarily those of LGBTQ Nation. We welcome opposing views and diverse perspectives. To submit a article, column or video, contact us here. Due to the volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee publication.

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12 more reader comments:

  1. Even if I COULD pretend to be a straight cisgendered person to appease bigots, I wouldn’t.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:14am
  2. wow just wow the people in the videos are so uneducated they think the bible teaches them everything and it does not i am gay i am proud and if im going to hell then so be it i dont care i would rather be happy and endup in hell then be miserable and endup in heaven

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:17am
  3. More to the point… we should not have to hide who we are!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:17am
  4. Really good article! Shared!

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:23am
  5. unfortunetely for some of us….we have no choice but to stay closeted at elast at work…as i like ot eat and have a roof over my head…….i would love a different job…ugh

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:32am
  6. I told someone last week I would rather put a bullet in my head then to stop my transition from male to female

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:41am
  7. Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:55am

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:55am
  9. To suggest that someone hide their identity is totally ridiculous. Come out of the closet and be who you are. If you are discriminated against at your job, then sue the ignorant bastards. You should not have to be someone you are not. Stand up for yourself in all situations.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 10:58am
  10. Lately i have been really bothered by the stuff i am reading coming out of the States…ever since Obama pseudo-endorsement of Marriage Equity…seems that the anti-gay bigots have gone gang busters in getting their Hate Propaganda out there…i have been so troubled that i actually thought about starting to unlike all the American LGBTQ pages and groups i belong to…and go back to living in my insulated bubble of living in a country where this is not an issue….As a Queer Canadian i supported, protested, marched and lobbied for Equality and when we finally were accepted legally as Equal Citizens all i could feel was a great sense of pride and accomplishment….

    but lately every now and then, that lingering sense of guilt and shame starts to creep back into my being…that sense of internalised homo-phobia we all have had to deal with as queer people living in a society that despises us…

    and then the old QUEER NATION advocate resurfaces…and the HELL NO WE WON”T GO…and I’M QUEER and I’M HERE mantras start going through my head again….

    so just from a Queer Canadian to all my Queer Americans Brothers and Sisters….i send you good energy and a reminder that it is possible keep up the good fight, it is at times hard and frustrating…but the fight is worth it….believe me…being recognised as a human being by the society you live in…is amazing…remember that is what your struggle is about…

    cheers all and Happy Pride

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 11:01am
  11. that poor misguided little boy :(

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 12:17pm
  12. Maybe we should start discriminating against people with blue eyes and tell them to hide there blue eyes or red heads and tell them to dye their hair. What an ignorant though.

    Posted on Wednesday, June 6, 2012 at 4:29pm