The Orlando Massacre One Year Later
The first year anniversary of the Orlando Massacre will be commemorated on Monday, June 12th. On that date a year ago 49 almost-entirely young men and women were slaughtered and 53 wounded at Pulse, a gay nightclub, in Orlando, Florida. They were celebrating Gay Pride in that city. The act fits the United Nations' definition of genocide. Their deaths represent an act of American behavioral cleansing, not the first and probably not the last.
That same day a hyperalert Santa Monica policeperson arrested a man who was headed to the Gay Pride celebration in West Hollywood, occurring a few minutes away, with ready-to-mix explosives, an assault rifle and hand guns, and enough ammunition to cause unimaginable carnage there.
With the blood from the massacre in Orlando barely dry, let me emphatically state that the word "homophobia" is wimpy, a misnomer, and needs to be retired. When it was introduced in 1969, this then new word had a modicum of relevance. It quickly became the word to explain gay oppression, but no longer. Gay people understand more now.
The word "homophobia" trivializes and obfuscates what is really happening to gay people in the United States and globally, now and historically.
The word "phobia," meaning "fear," belongs to the lexicon of clinical psychology, not sociopolitical discourse regarding social privilege and societal change. The word "homophobia" trivializes and obfuscates what is really happening to gay people in the United States and globally, now and historically. It is contemporary psychologizing at its worst. "Homophobia" says absolutely nothing about the deeply entrenched and enduring social system that that breeds and perpetrates violence, even genocide, against LGBTQ people and the community from which they come.
The term "homophobia" was first coined by Dr. George Weinberg, a psychologist, in the American porn magazine Screw in 1969 and amplified in his Society and the Healthy Homosexual in 1972. "Homophobia" describes an individual's internal emotional state—fear of homosexuality and homosexuals. Again, it says absolutely nothing about the dominant, systemic intellectual, religious and cultural superstructure in society that supports and makes possible horrific acts of violence against gay people.
I strongly suggest "homophobia" be replaced by the words "the ideology of heterosexual supremacy," a mouthful for sure, "hetero supremacy" for short. Since every ideology is actualized by having practices attached to it, let's call the practices "hatred of gays," "behavioral cleansing," and "genocide." [Let me hasten to add, this is not about demonizing heterosexuals, far from it. In 1969 with the commencement of the Gay Liberation revolution, and continuously thereafter, heterosexual allies understood and supported Gay Liberation long before most homosexuals had the courage to utter the words "gay oppression."] Was Hitler's "Final Solution" caused by a jewishphobia or was it based, in large part, on an ideology of Aryan supremacy, having superior and inferior races, with open hunting season on the inferior ones?
Let me give you a few contemporary examples. You tell me if they are phobias or whether there is a critical necessity for a more intellectually-honest, reality-based descriptor.
Today, for example, the Catholic church teaches globally that homosexuality is an "objective moral disorder" and all those who practice it will burn for all eternity in Hell. Does this sound like a simple phobia, only requiring Pope Francis and the College of Cardinals to undergo 12 sessions of cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy to cure? Or does it sound remarkably like the hate language that's a prelude to genocide?
Is there any difference between the Church's "objective moral disorder" (gays are unnatural and inferior) and ISIS' teaching of fitrah, "natural human disposition" (gays are unnatural and inferior)? Both define "natural" exclusively from a position of heterosexual power in heterosexual terms, portraying gays as unnatural freaks permitting intellectual genocide (the Church) and physical genocide (ISIS) against gay people. It's what John Adams was getting at in 1788 when he first used the phrase "the tyranny of the majority."
The ideology and practice of heterosexual superiority has always had consequences for gay people—gruesome death, like the Orlando Massacre.
The phrase "death by stoning" is accomplished by having a gay man dig a hole in which he is buried up to his shoulders with only his head and shoulders showing. Then rocks and pieces of concrete are forcefully hurled at his head, crushing it.
There have been reports from Iraq that vigilante groups capture gay men, sew their anus shut and then force-feed them large quantities of laxatives. Writhing in excruciating pain, their gastrointestinal tract explodes.
In Iran and Saudi Arabia the ayatollahs and mullahs approve of gay men involuntarily being forced to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Their medieval binary-reasoning is that if gay men want to have sex with men as women do, we'll make them women.
In Libya and other places, militias tie up gay men, take them to the roof of very tall buildings and throw them off. If they are not dead when they hit ground, a group at the bottom stones them to death.
In Uganda a newspaper called for the death of all gays and lesbians. As a public service, it even provided names and addresses. At night someone broke into the home of David Kato, a young man central to Uganda's fledgling gay liberation movement and referred to as the first openly gay man in Uganda. His brains were beaten out with a hammer as he slept.
In Bangladesh recently, Xulhaz Mannan, the vocal and visible editor of Roopbaan, the only gay magazine there, was hacked to death, along with his companion, with a machete by Al Queda fundamentalists.
In Chechnya today gay men are rounded up and held in concentration and torture camps. If not killed by starvation and torture at these camps, after their release relatives complete the task in the name of "honor killing."
The Christian West also has a rich and horrific history of gay behavioral cleansing reaching back to the European Middle Ages. The men and women burned alive at the stake by the medieval Catholic Inquisition were often gay men and lesbians, so-called heretics, practitioners of of the pre-Christian Old Ways which included same-sex love.
In Russia today, with a extremely close alliance between the Putin government and the Russian Orthodox Church, a government-sponsored pogrom against gay people is underway involving beatings, torture and murder.
In predominantly Christian Brazil, after they are robbed, gay men are often locked in the trunks of cars and then the car set on fire, burning them alive once again.
Historically, the list of religion-sponsored and state-sponsored genocide against gay people, based on the unexamined assumption of hetero superiority, goes on and on, century after century, all over the world. Is the best descriptor of these acts of heinous savagery the word "homophobia?"
Before Americans get too self-righteous by pointing their finger at Islam, assault rifles, or whoever or whatever by political opportunists, there is now also a growing, documented history of murder and other violence by heterosexual supremacists against gay people in the United States.
The only difference between then and now is how many gays can be killed at one time. Before the Stonewall Rebellion, gays in the United States were murdered, beat up, driven to suicide one by one, under the radar of the media, legal justice or anyone really caring. The dominant hetero culture gave gays what they deserved—behavioral cleansing. See a cockroach, call the exterminator.
Since the self-acceptance and social visibility ushered in by the Gay Liberation revolution gays have congregated in larger and larger numbers in heretofore safe spaces, like Pulse, and by the hundreds of thousands during Gay Pride celebrations across the nation in June of every year. All of this has changed with the Orlando Massacre. The smell of caution is now in the air. A certain beautiful innocence has been crushed.
One simply cannot understand what happened in Orlando or is happening around the world or what has transpired historically without understanding the theory and practice of heterosexual supremacy. It's that simple. Otherwise, all you get are people mouthing tired platitudes, like the mindless word "homophobia," like now.
If we really want to live in a truly pluralistic society, there is no room for cults of supremacy of any kind.
Don Kilhefner is a pioneer Gay Liberationist, co-founder (with Morris Kight) of the LA LGBT Center and Van Ness Recovery House and (with Harry Hay) the Radical Faeries. He has devoted the past 50 years to gay community organizing in Los Angeles and nationally.