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Source: (consider it) Thread: Where did the demonisation of homosexuality come from?
Schroedinger's cat

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This is a historical discussion, rather than a theological one. The thing is, I remember from my university days (30 years ago, not really long in terms of theological development) that one friend of mine came out while there, while staying within the Christian fold. My 3rd year project supervisor was openly gay, without anyone seeming to have any issue with it. It was part of the rich tapestry of life found there.

I should point out that there was a demonisation of sex as a whole, which was pretty much in line with the conservative aspects of society as a whole.

And yet, in years since then, is is homosexuality that has become the touchstone of conevo faith, the cause of all our woes, the biggest issue in the fundamentalist world. And I am left wondering exactly how we moved so far so quickly. Is it just that every other battle has been lost? Is it just that most of the conevo leaders are secretly gay? Why THIS issue, and not some other?

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Barnabas62
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It's still a Dead Horse, SC, so that's where the thread is going. The roots of the demonisation of homosexuality is an aspect of the topic of homosexuality, and therefore conforms to the DH guidelines.

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Jolly Jape
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This is pretty much my recollection of how things used to be. There were a couple of ladies in my (then) church (charismatic evo) who were assumed by most people to be a couple, and no-one so much as batted an eyelid. In fact, one of the ladies was in a leadership role, and when a new vicar arrived and started to express an interest in their private lives, the churchwardens took him on one side and made it clear to him that "this was not how we deal with things here".

Even more surprisingly, there was a similar couple of ladies who were well respected members of a nearby (very conservative, as in Reform-type) parish.

I do think that the path for gay men was probably less smooth, for all sorts of reasons unrelated to theology.

I guess, though, that, overall, the attitude was of "don't ask, don't tell", which, whilst not ideal, was at least preferable to the current "culture wars" environment.

I think that a great deal of this is about leaders seeking to bolster their position amongst their peers by a display of machismo posturing. Mostly, the congo just shrug their shoulders and roll their eyes in a "he's* off on one again" sort of way, which is maybe not creditable, but at least fulfils commandment one of Anglicanism: "Thou shalt not rock the boat".

* It mostly seems to be a "he"!

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
Why THIS issue, and not some other?

Because it's always easier to denounce sins you're not inclined to commit yourself.

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lilBuddha
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ISTM, a difference is the issue is more one in the public debate. The exclusionary policies are being challenged and challenge often bring an intensity to resistance.
Religious authorities are less important in the secular world as well, also a challenge.
Same reason for the double-down on the evolution front.

[ 10. November 2014, 15:28: Message edited by: lilBuddha ]

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quetzalcoatl
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I think Croesos has a point - you can't lambast divorce, as a good chunk of your congregation will be divorced, and some of your pastors. So being gay is a very convenient sin.

But I think some homophobes have changed, as friends and relations have come out. If your daughter comes out as a lesbian, it may well affect you.

[ 10. November 2014, 15:37: Message edited by: quetzalcoatl ]

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Byron
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Yup, gay people were scapegoated by the church 'cause they were perceived as an safe target. What the hatemongers never foresaw was the gay rights revolution. They're now trapped by a homophobic monster of their own making.

My heart doth bleed and all that.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by quetzalcoatl:
But I think some homophobes have changed, as friends and relations have come out. If your daughter comes out as a lesbian, it may well affect you.

That was noted in this thread from a year and a half ago.

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Palimpsest
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It became harder to ignore. Not just the gay rights revolution, but Aids acted as a tracer dye to all the "don't ask, don't tell" compromises.

I remember an article about how many Black Churches had a traditional role for gay men in the Choir and that death rate in the Choir became too large to ignore.

The other pressure was the generational revolution of the sixties. Suddenly the Church as part of the authorities lost respect from the younger generation.

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Baptist Trainfan
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quote:
Originally posted by Palimpsest:
I remember an article about how many Black Churches had a traditional role for gay men in the Choir and that death rate in the Choir became too large to ignore.

I don't think this is the article you mean - but it seems to be relevant. (I cannot vouch for it in any way).
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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
Why THIS issue, and not some other?

Because it's always easier to denounce sins you're not inclined to commit yourself.
Or to point the figure towards someone else so that nobody will suspect that you 'struggle' with the same 'temptations.'

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Oscar the Grouch

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I think that the "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT) issue is important here.

For a long time, DADT meant that gays and lesbians could exist in even pretty conservative churches. And, simply by existing, they inevitably wore down the prejudices of fellow church members.

As gay right activists became more outspoken and more widely accepted, DADT became less acceptable. It was seen as dishonest (on both sides) and gays and lesbians who worked on DADT were regarded as somehow "betraying the cause".

On one hand, the demise of DADT is a good thing. There is more honesty and openness. But I can't help feeling that one consequence of its demise is that people have been forced more strongly into opposing camps. DADT allowed a high degree of ambiguity, which included allowing people to NOT have to express a view or adopt a position. In other words, DADT permitted a lot of middle ground. That middle ground has - largely - gone.

(I want to be absolutely clear here. I am NOT arguing for a return to DADT - simply pointing out one, possibly unintended, consequence of its demise.)

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Starlight
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There seems to me to have been a lot of public fear-mongering about AIDS, that was done in the name of public safety to try and reduce infection rates. This led to a lot of people having a life-long deep-seated fear of it, even though today it poses relatively little threat to people in the Western world. It also led to certain nutters announcing that AIDS was "God's punishment for homosexuality". Most importantly the event of AIDS propelled male gay sex into the sphere of public policy debate as a social and health issue.

Here in New Zealand, it was the AIDS crisis that directly led to the introduction of a bill to decriminalize male gay sex, as the medical authorities wanted the potential victims of the disease to feel safe coming forward for testing and treatment. It was apparently anticipated by the proposers of the bill that it would pass uncontroversially, as it was requested by the medical authorities and there was obvious medical need. (From what I can tell, I seriously doubt the bill would have passed otherwise, as a significant proportion of the country at the time seems to have been quite anti-gay. The mainstream Christian denominations made it clear that they only supported the bill due to medical need and that on moral grounds they didn't think homosexuality should be legal.) However, a certain segment of Christians (mainly the Salvation Army) made an extremely zealous and concerted attempt to prevent the bill passing via a nationwide campaign and petition. The scale and intensity of the opposition and the speed with which that opposition appeared apparently took the unprepared advocates of the bill completely by surprise. There was also a politician or two who jumped on the McCarthy-like bandwagon, seeking popularity by being an outspoken advocate of traditional values. The petition subsequently failed to reach the required number of signatures, and the bill passed.

The idea of politicians getting popular from opposition to gays, was, of course pioneered in the 20th century by McCarthy himself. Whenever there's a potential "moral issue" going, there always seems to be at least one politician willing to try to propel himself into popularity by making the moral issue a public platform for himself. In the US, McCarthy and more recently George Bush Jr stand out (in a bad way) as having propelled their political careers forward by attacking gay people. It's not simply politicians though that do this: There always seem to be at least a few public-spirited nutty advocates of traditional morality who rise up from the masses and embark on a nationwide campaign of attention-seeking and egotistical self-aggrandizement in the name of the cause of stopping the public menace of the gay people. They become an instant celebrity as they receive fame and attention speaking at events throughout the country and get quoted in newspapers and on the news, and it can be (initially) quite financially lucrative for them as they seek donations to support the cause. These are usually people with no qualifications whatsoever, whom nobody would listen to or quote if they told us the sky was blue, but when they start spouting absurdities and embark on a national moral crusade about something they know nothing about they get immediately taken seriously by both believers and the media.

I would also point to the gradual loss of liberals/nominal Christians from the Church over time. 50 years or so ago, everyone in most of the Western world would have considered themselves 'Christian' even if they didn't really believe in God. The presence of people holding liberal / secular values in relatively large numbers within Christian organizations and churches and hierarchies served to keep a useful leash of sanity on the more overzealous members, by bringing alternate biblical interpretations to the table and advocating more thoughtful approaches, and an interpretation of Christianity more focused on loving one's neighbor, and simply providing padding to dampen down the over-zealous enthusiasm by preventing it getting too concentrated. I think over time this demographic has significantly diminished, with increasing numbers of people simply regarding themselves as atheist instead and no longer participating in Christian circles. Unfortunately this has increasingly led to the zealous fundamentalists achieving critical mass. As a result, a lot of churches have become less liberal and more evangelical and fundamentalist over time.

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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I'm old enough to recall when homosexual acts were illegal. Birth control and abortion were also illegal in Canada at the time. ~1969 was the change. It seemed at the time that same sex identification was considered a mental disorder. Terminology suggested the biological aspect of sex, ie reproduction, was key in the then understanding. The term "gay" had not come into use.

So my understanding is that it is far less demonized than in the past. Once the laws dropped legislation of personal morality (we're not yet done, eg recreational drug use), we have had to wait until a good number of people raised in those prior times either change their attitudes or die out. I am one of the former, though was more ignorant than had a clear opinion.

[ 10. November 2014, 21:44: Message edited by: no prophet's flag is set so... ]

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Palimpsest
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Medicalization of Homosexuality was initially a progressive strategy of the early 20th century to change the attitude toward Homosexuals from sinner or criminal to mentally ill. It actually led to marginally improved treatment; asylums instead of prisons, but it became a limit to progress. Eliminating the "medically ill" label was started by Evelyn Hooker in the mid 1950's.
So the religious sorts who had deferred to medical definition of homosexuality were left to figure out a new (or old) stance toward the Homosexuals. There's a parallel struggle in the Psychiatrists to decide how to accept this change of this status.

[ 11. November 2014, 00:46: Message edited by: Palimpsest ]

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Porridge
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I think the demonization is both much, much older and much. much deeper.

Christianity, after all, springs originally from Jewish roots, and we have the OT proclaiming (male) homosexuality an abomination. Why?

Well, first of all, we're dealing with a religious mindset that holds women generally (though with specific exceptions) as inferior beings who "count" religiously only when they give birth, particularly to male children.

Second, this religious mindset belongs to a relatively small, struggling (at least initially) group settled in a land "promised" to them by their God, and pretty much surrounded by other, hostile groups.

One way to hold on to "promised land' is to fight tooth and claw for it, for which valiant young soldiers are needed; another way is to out-populate your hostile neighbors, and preferably both. Those who fail to contribute to this enterprise are going to be seen as letting down their side. "We can't have people running about not begetting children! We need more manpower!"

So sexual behavior that fails to produce babies will be frowned upon, and (depending on current threat levels) demonized.

As for conevos (at least in the US, which is all I know about), don't these folks often see themselves much as the ancient Hebrews did -- that is, a folk determinedly clinging to spiritual and cultural survival surrounded by a world hostile to their beliefs, their intentions, the way of life they'd like us all to follow? Aren't they, like the ancients, outnumbered and under threat (or at least they see themselves in this predicament? Don't they also hope to outnumber the surrounding heathen, at least in part by having large families with lots of babies (and also proselytizing like crazy)?

And aren't homosexual men (in particular) seen as letting down their side in this baby-producing enterprise?

The reason all this hostility toward gays was much quieter pre-AIDS is that everybody was quieter about all our social ills back then -- racism, poverty sexism, etc.

And gay men get it in the neck more than lesbians for the simple biological reason that it takes minutes for men to be potentially "fruitful," while it takes the better part of a year for a woman to achieve the same result. In theory, anyway, a sperm-producer could impregnate several women per week. How dare he waste this precious resource which our community so desperately needs?

Really, I think we're too quick to ignore or dismiss the more primitive aspects of our simian underpinnings.

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ExclamationMark
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quote:
Originally posted by Porridge:
1. I think the demonization is both much, much older and much. much deeper.

2. The reason all this hostility toward gays was much quieter pre-AIDS is that everybody was quieter about all our social ills back then -- racism, poverty sexism, etc.

1. This thread is moving towards equating "demonization towards" and "opposition against:" the two are not synonymous provided we recognise the freedom to hold divergent opinions and the flexibility to express them.

Opposition can go hand in hand with "demonization" - although few people would consider gay people to be possessed in the strictest definition of "demonization."

Opposition to (and often repugnance at) acts of gay sex has been common throughout history, in all cultures. Where gay relationships have been condoned in a culture (or even had a blind eye turned towards them), it's for considerably fewer years as when such things have been proscribed.

2. The opposition is much quieter now: it isn't the done thing in many circles (including churches) to admit to ambivalence (let alone opposition) to such things as SSB's. In the 1950's and through to the 90's the Police engaged "agent provocateurs" in public toilets to entrap gay men. It wasn't until 1967 that sex acts between consenting adults of the same sex, in private, was decriminalised. Until then getting caught, even in private, meant probation and for some a prison sentence. Attitude to gays and their activities varied with the Home Secretary of the day but at times could be febrile and near hysterical at the potential demise of society. .

Now the age of consent is the same as that for same sex relationships - which probably means 14 irl. There's been huge change in the last 10 years to the extent that many (who have genuine and well thought objections) are themselves marginalised and unable to express their concerns.

The % of people who self identify as gay is a moving number - 2% to 5% is the range. many more actively support or at least don't wish to discriminate. I'd say that there's a real victory here.

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Starlight
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quote:
Originally posted by ExclamationMark:
Opposition to (and often repugnance at) acts of gay sex has been common throughout history, in all cultures. Where gay relationships have been condoned in a culture (or even had a blind eye turned towards them), it's for considerably fewer years as when such things have been proscribed.

Not at all. The exact opposite is true.

Gay relationships have been celebrated or tolerated or ignored in most cultures in history. The significant exceptions are those cultures that have been directly influenced by Judaism/Christianity/Islam whose opposition to homosexuality can be traced back to the Levitical prohibition. That prohibition is unique in the sense that it is by far the most negative attitude to homosexuality found in any culture in history.

Unfortunately most cultures today have been significantly negatively influenced against homosexuality by either Christianity or Islam over the years, and so it can seem to the casual observer of the world in the 20th century as if no culture in the world was pro-gay. However, the accounts of early missionaries and anthropologists tells another story: In nearly every culture we find that the native peoples upon the arrival of the missionaries were observed (much to the disgust of the missionaries) to be practicing sodomy and seeing nothing wrong with it. That pattern seems to have been pretty much the same the world over, regardless of whether one looks at Africa, at South America, or New Zealand and the pacific islands.

Ironically, for example, the British pretext for their original invasion of Uganda was the presence and practice of sodomy there. Now that the noble British have rescued the heathen there from their traditional practices and values, the Ugandans seem to have learned the lesson of not tolerating gays rather well.

quote:
There's been huge change in the last 10 years to the extent that many (who have genuine and well thought objections) are themselves marginalised and unable to express their concerns.
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Barnabas62
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I think it might be very helpful to this discussion to clarify what demonisation means; also what Schroedinger's cat meant by the term in the OP.

I think it is a very slippery term. The online dictionary suggests two definitions;

1. to represent as diabolically evil
2. an expression of strong disapproval, pronouncing as wrong or morally culpable.

To give a different example; the uncompromising condemnation of racism might be described as demonising racism as diabolically evil. Personally, I have no difficulty in accepting the use of the term demonisation in that context. YMMV.

But I get pretty confused about the general definition hereabouts. The biblical conceptions treat the devil and demons as real creatures whose purpose is to deceive and destroy human beings. And sinning, giving in to temptations, by thought, word or deed, opens the way for the devil or demons to influence, or possess, the other person.

I think that was part of a common understanding about sin and evil; homosexual acts were seen as sinful, but then some words of Peter in Matthew 16 provoked "Get thee behind me Satan" and Satan is described as entering Judas prior to the betrayal. No sexual sins under consideration in either case.

In that sense, the biblical picture of the influence of the devil or demons as seen to be ubiquitous in the whole area of sin and temptation. From that point of view, homosexual acts were included in the whole. So far as sexual sin is concerned, fornication in general was seen as abominable, something to "flee".

IngoB has made similar points from the viewpoint of Catholicism, which declares the Tradition to be that sexual acts are allowed only within a monogamous heterosexual relationship. All else is sin. I don't agree with that, but I don't see it as specific demonisation of homosexuals or homosexual acts. Neither does he.

So I think the real issue is how, or whether, homosexuality and homosexual acts in the modern era seem to have been singled out for special condemnation. It certainly seems to me to be the case that some parts of the church have done precisely that, and some people in the church have.

So I think we may have to distinguish between the more general changes in understanding of human sexuality since biblical times and what I think may be a more modern "singling out for special attention". Maybe the word demonisation gets in the way of that?

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lilBuddha
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It is not that I do not see your point, B62, but that I think perspective changes depending upon where you stand.
The word may feel more appropriate to an LGBT from what they've experienced than to a straight person from what they observe.
Finding a term which is neither too harsh or too soft is difficult.

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Barnabas62
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I get that, lilBuddha.

I've been on the receiving end of prejudiced offensiveness for being what I am (i.e. a working class Geordie), but I called it denigration. Reckoned it was their problem, not mine.

But then no bishop ever suggested I was "objectively disordered". Nor was scriptural or Traditional authority invoked. I can see that makes a difference.

But I'm still not sure that the term demonisation clarifies the nature of the offence-giving remarks, unless somebody flat out says "you are demonised" and says you need exorcism. I think it's loaded language.

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SvitlanaV2
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I think the churches have gradually been able to absorb secular influences in terms of straight sexual behaviours because the Bible itself seems tolerant of many of these behaviours.

It's been much harder for them to do so with homosexuality, because the biblical precedent isn't there. Yet the process of secularisation continues apace, and is now focused on complete equality for gay people. I think it's this pressure that has created an angry backlash from some churches, and a quiet confusion in others.

The demographic shift also presents a problem. Most young Christians in the Anglophone West are attending evangelical churches, which means the strictest churches have a disproportionate burden in dealing with the issue from a practical (rather than an official) point of view. So the attention is on them.

(The CofE is a special case in being both a broad church and a state church, so the media can hardly ignore its noisy internal disagreements.)

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
I get that, lilBuddha.

I've been on the receiving end of prejudiced offensiveness for being what I am (i.e. a working class Geordie), but I called it denigration. Reckoned it was their problem, not mine.

Yes, but how many working class Geordies are beat up or murdered for being working class Geordies? Is their suicide rate frighteningly higher than working class Home County dwellers? I'm not sure your experience is comparable.

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Barnabas62
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I recognised the differences of degree pretty clearly in my last post.

It is a fact that in UK history, people have died in class wars. Lots of them. But I don't minimise denigration, whichever group is on the receiving end. The differences of degree don't disguise the bitterness of the taste.

Like Solzhenitsyn said about another vile oppression, to taste the sea needs one gulp. Plenty of oppressive seas to drink from in human history.

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Schroedinger's cat

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I used "demonisation" because that seems to reflect the way it is dealt with. The point is that groups like Westboro make EVERYTHING about homosexuality. They are not the only ones with this approach, for whom homosexuality is the touchstone for orthodoxy.

I find in the UK, the conservative end of the evangelical spectrum also seems to take this as the core issue on which orthodoxy is determined - I hear less of the radical "All our ills are caused by the gays" approach, but I do hear ones attitude to them being used to ascertain whether you are "acceptable" or not.

And I do think this is new. It used to be the case that evangelicals - IME - were accepting of a broad range of views, with the primacy of the Bible as the touchstone of evangelicalism. These days, it seems that is it more a particular interpretation of the Bible, and of certain passages, that is core. I have problems with this, but I am just confused as to why this has happened.

I do think the AIDS issue was a major cause of raising the profile of gays. I know some people talked about it as the Gay Curse, but this was not - again, IME - widespread. Until more recently. It seems that the old DADT approach, which seemed to do people fine for some time, suddenly went.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
But I'm still not sure that the term demonisation clarifies the nature of the offence-giving remarks, unless somebody flat out says "you are demonised" and says you need exorcism. I think it's loaded language.

Not necessarily an exorcism (though people do still perform them to cast out the "demon of homosexuality"). There's also the idea that gay people are, either deliberately or unwittingly, advancing Satan's agenda in this world by demanding equal rights and the law's protection. Accusing someone of doing Satan's work for him is also pretty demonizing.

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Palimpsest
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Demonisation seems a reasonable description of the actions of the extreme right. A different term might apply to people who abuse gays because it's their tradition but don't apply a religious framing.
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Albertus
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
It is a fact that in UK history, people have died in class wars. Lots of them...

Is it? Which wars? I suppose you might call things like the Peasants' Revolt a class war, if you think it's big enough to be called a war at all, and perhaps even the Civil War (although if that was a class war it was surely a war between elite classes into which other people got dragged).

[ 11. November 2014, 20:30: Message edited by: Albertus ]

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
I used "demonisation" because that seems to reflect the way it is dealt with. The point is that groups like Westboro make EVERYTHING about homosexuality. They are not the only ones with this approach, for whom homosexuality is the touchstone for orthodoxy.

How many groups like Westboro are there, other than Westboro? Unless by "like Westboro" you just mean "they make everything about homosexuality" in which case you have merely stated a truism.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by Albertus:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
It is a fact that in UK history, people have died in class wars. Lots of them...

Is it? Which wars? I suppose you might call things like the Peasants' Revolt a class war, if you think it's big enough to be called a war at all, and perhaps even the Civil War (although if that was a class war it was surely a war between elite classes into which other people got dragged).
I would have said the civil war was a classic bourgeois revolution, to use Marxist terminology. It was about taking power from the nobility (exemplified in the divine right of kings espoused by Charles I) and putting it in the hands of the property owning middle class, like Cromwell.

In many ways the Jacobite rebellions could be said to be re-runs of this fight - with the old absolute Monarchy trying to overthrow the new bourgeois constitutional order. Likewise the American revolution was about cementing the power of the wealthy, educated middle class - hence why the electoral college and the senate of the new nation were to be appointed rather than directly elected.

[ 11. November 2014, 20:45: Message edited by: Arethosemyfeet ]

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Horseman Bree
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Seems to me that one could make a case for the Industrial Revolution being a form of class war. The activities certainly killed a lot of the "lower class" while making the middle class better off and fabulously increasing the status and richness of the Upper. Sort of like today.

But there was definitely a callousness about safety conditions, etc., when it came to the mere people who worked (or became maimed and couldn't work. Hello, Tim Cratchit!)

But this was a war of attrition, not a pitched battle. That had to wait for WW1 which had the unfortunate effect of taking a lot of the toffs as well.

We haven't had a "real" war for a long time, hence the resurgence of low-key action against the scum - you know, the ones that terrified the Duke of Wellington.

"I don't know if they would terrify Napoleon, but, by Gad, sir, they terrify me"

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Starlight
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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
And yet, in years since then, is is homosexuality that has become the touchstone of conevo faith, the cause of all our woes, the biggest issue in the fundamentalist world. And I am left wondering exactly how we moved so far so quickly. Is it just that every other battle has been lost?

I was thinking about this a bit more... I think that because homosexuality has been the topic of 3-4 successive attempts at legislation (legalizing sex, civil unions, anti-discrimination provisions, marriage), the conevos have got the chance to get repeatedly worked up about variants of the same thing. Other moral issues get debated for a few years, the legislation gets passed, and then everyone learns to live with it and move on and over time the mutterings about it die out. Whereas successive legislation has kept homosexuality firmly on the political radar for a much lengthier period. In most Western countries, the time span between serious political debate about legalizing homosexual sex through to legalizing homosexual marriage has encompassed a lot of people's entire lives: It's always been there as an active political issue, with various waves of activity.

Also I think the perceived threat of anti-discrimination laws has served to ramp the hysteria and crazy up a notch. This has allowed a good deal of fearmongering in Christian circles, and the idea that the gays are out to 'get' Christians. It's been a bizarre case of the persecutors screaming that they're being persecuted and the bullies crying that they're being bullied. The existence of laws limiting how nasty people are allowed to be toward gays, have been creatively interpreted by some Christians as a deliberate persecution of Christians, which has allowed for fearmongering on a level that has not been possible on other moral issues.

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Pomona
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Classism is real and extremely damaging. As a working-class LGBT person and an intersectional feminist who recognises the existence of the kyriarchy (intersecting spheres of oppression), Barnabas is right and (maybe unintentionally) in key with a lot of current intersectional feminist thought. Classism is oppression just like homophobia, and exists within LGBT circles too - just as homophobia exists in working-class circles. So a working-class LGBT person experiences an intersecting of oppression that people who only belong to one of those groups don't experience.

The term intersectional feminism was coined by black feminists who saw how mainstream feminism excluded black women, and that experiencing life as a black woman gave a different perspective on both racism and sexism.

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Barnabas62
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It wasn't unintentional, Pomona. Of course there isn't a perfect read across from any form of demeaning to any other. There are similarities and differences.

But thanks. You made my point for me. Demeaning tastes the same, no matter what form of prejudice gives rise to it.

Happy with the comments others have made about 'class wars'.

In the context of this thread, I did not intend the tangent! Sorry folks. I was simply trying to explore whether the term demonisation was particularly accurate or helpful. No intention to minimise or deny the suffering caused by demeaning and denigration, nor to draw inappropriate parallels.

[ 11. November 2014, 22:31: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Gee D
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quote:
Originally posted by Arethosemyfeet:
I would have said the civil war was a classic bourgeois revolution, to use Marxist terminology. It was about taking power from the nobility (exemplified in the divine right of kings espoused by Charles I) and putting it in the hands of the property owning middle class, like Cromwell.

In many ways the Jacobite rebellions could be said to be re-runs of this fight - with the old absolute Monarchy trying to overthrow the new bourgeois constitutional order. Likewise the American revolution was about cementing the power of the wealthy, educated middle class - hence why the electoral college and the senate of the new nation were to be appointed rather than directly elected.

Sorry, but I can't accept that. The higher nobility was supporting Cromwell both financially and politically. They were taking the opportunity to increase their power at the expense of the King. Those of the gentry who had benefitted from the distribution of church property also supported the Parliament, fearing Laud's attempts to boost the role of the Church and gather back much of the lost property. Then there was an odd mix of the urban middle classes and upper working class who were quite strongly Puritan. The Royalists were the lower nobility and those of the gentry who had not had that luck. Classic Marxist analysis sits ill with the facts.

As to the US - I would not call Washington, Jefferson or their ilk middle class.

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Byron
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On the class thing, class is a lot more fuzzier and changeable than sexuality. A kid from the projects who attends law school and ends up in Congress has shot up the social ladder. Sure, their background is deprived, and that experience shapes them, but they've changed class.

A gay kid who makes the same journey is sill gay. Sexuality, like ethnicity & gender, transcends circumstance. Circumstance changes how it's experienced, no doubt, but the underlying sexuality is unchanged.

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Barnabas62
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Folks who embrace classism, sexism, racism believe that the inferiority of birth continues, Byron. If people believe that homosexual orientation is a matter of birth, they may still believe that it makes the person inferior. If they believe homosexual acts are a matter of perverse choice, a turning against nature, somewhat different demeaning criteria are in play.

But if you are on the receiving end of the demeaning, the putting down, the distaste, it feels pretty much the same. You have been judged without any kind of trial. Any getting to know what you are really like. That hurts.

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Byron
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Of course, but there's no end of options to aid social mobility.

We can learn (customs and liberal arts), adapt our accent, move to a new city or country. Birth is where you're from, not where you're going. If someone attends a great school and has a career they love, honestly, how many others give a shit about their origins, or even know? Some WASP old money? Why'd anyone give a tinker's cuss for their opinion anyhow? Unless you're jonesing to join their country club, they're irrelevant.

Fixed aspects of us like sexuality or ethnicity are a whole other thing. A gay person can't change their orientation as a person can change their class, they can just pass as straight, with a ton of suppression and heartache. Yeah, putdowns feel the same, but the options ain't.

I adopt a general "screw you" attitude to assholes I don't know, so I realize this stuff bothers me a lot less than some others.

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Barnabas62
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As a bookend to that thought, it causes me to ask this question. What are the roots in human nature of this instinctive judging, this 'sizing up' of others?

Are they to be found in instinctive pack order behaviour? I think there is some drive to both find our place and improve our place in any perceived pecking order we sense in 'our pack'

There may be instinctive demeaning tendencies in all of us. So the issue of the historical roots of 'demonising' may take us back a very long way! But if so, it points towards a different kind of solution. We can in fact choose to recognise the intrinsic unfairness of behaviours rooted in social instincts. We can learn to do better.

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Byron
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I ain't one to go into evo-psych over-much, but I guess it's just in-group/out-group behavior, an atavistic survival instinct. The out-group are strangers and can hurt me. I don't trust 'em til they show they're not a threat.

So we generalize and prejudge.

I totally agree we can learn to do better when we get wise to our instincts. Exactly my philosophy. It'd go easier if we stopped beating ourselves up over it. Took me a long time to accept that, yes, I'm prejudiced. We all are. Not our fault, we evolved that way. It's only bad if we know better and don't work to overcome it.

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Barnabas62
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That's a pretty healthy approach. I'm not sure it invalidates historical enquiry or consideration of evo-genetic roots, but, like you, I reckon we (including me) over-speculate about such things.

I think I now also see why Schroedinger's cat wanted this thread to stay in Purgatory. There are some general issues here which are a lot wider than the Dead Horse. Ostracism of homosexuals was perhaps just an example of a more general issue; the roots of that ostracising (demonising, denigrating, demeaning, whatever label you prefer).

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Pomona
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quote:
Originally posted by Byron:
Of course, but there's no end of options to aid social mobility.

We can learn (customs and liberal arts), adapt our accent, move to a new city or country. Birth is where you're from, not where you're going. If someone attends a great school and has a career they love, honestly, how many others give a shit about their origins, or even know? Some WASP old money? Why'd anyone give a tinker's cuss for their opinion anyhow? Unless you're jonesing to join their country club, they're irrelevant.

Fixed aspects of us like sexuality or ethnicity are a whole other thing. A gay person can't change their orientation as a person can change their class, they can just pass as straight, with a ton of suppression and heartache. Yeah, putdowns feel the same, but the options ain't.

I adopt a general "screw you" attitude to assholes I don't know, so I realize this stuff bothers me a lot less than some others.

Actually, parental poverty (ie being born into poverty) affects a child more than where they go to school. It makes a huge difference.

Also class is not nearly so fluid everywhere.

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Byron
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quote:
Originally posted by Pomona:
Actually, parental poverty (ie being born into poverty) affects a child more than where they go to school. It makes a huge difference.

Also class is not nearly so fluid everywhere.

By "great school" I meant college, sorry if I wasn't clear. [Smile]

All kinds of factors affect our childhood development, including whether our parents divorce, whether we're picked on at school, our health, and so on. Sure poverty can be a major one, but if we've a loving, supportive family, it may not be the biggest issue.

And yeah, social mobility varies, but it's there, and if we can make it work, class is changeable. It's just a social construct in any case, a bunch of customs and perspectives we can alter. It isn't in any way fixed. Sexuality and ethnicity are.

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Adeodatus
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quote:
Originally posted by Byron:
I ain't one to go into evo-psych over-much, but I guess it's just in-group/out-group behavior, an atavistic survival instinct. The out-group are strangers and can hurt me. I don't trust 'em til they show they're not a threat.

I think it's even more stark than that. The out-group are the people against whom you can legitimately vent all your anger, violence and hatred. All of those violent reactions you feel because of your insecurity that maybe the in-group might not be the right group, you direct outwards at the out-group.

Bear in mind that in our culture at least, there was no such thing as "a homosexual" until the 1860s. There were sodomites, and there were women who did things we wouldn't even think, let alone discuss in polite company, but there were no homosexuals. "Homosexual" was a medical term (coined, interesingly, several years before the word "heterosexual"), and that was the moment at which homosexuals became a target for violence. Even English society had been remarkably tolerant of non-hetero sexual behaviour, but the mid 19th century was the turning point.

Neil Bartlett's book Who was that man? is a fascinating account of sexual behaviour in London around the time of Oscar Wilde's trials. Up to a few years earlier, he recounts stories of surprisingly liberal attitudes. But then the medical profession invented a whole class of person we could first be suspicious of, then identify (by "feminine features", or by homosexuals' notorious inability to whistle), and finally throw stones at with impunity.

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L'organist
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Its also worth noting that people tend to lash out at something if they fear they themselves may be one of the 'others'.

In research just after WWII Alfred Kinsey found that 37% of men reported some sexual activity with another man; after the initial horror that was written off as 'well, lots of people were recently in the forces, serving overseas, far from home, etc' - you get the drift. Then in 1973 another anonymous survey still found 25% of men reported some sexual activity with another male.

In both cases 'french kissing' was included as sexual activity but if you strip out those who only did that then still a sizeable percentage of men reported some sexual activity with another male.

Perhaps more to the point: a few years back I asked the then teenage sons why the word 'gay' was used so perjoratively - trying to do my understanding but concerned parent bit. Once they'd stopped acting up they admitted that it was a herd thing and maybe because, deep down, all the boys were afraid of discovering they were gay. I think that sounds fairly reasonable, don't you?

We demonise what we fear, be it sharks, spiders, gays or aliens.

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Albertus
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Yes, I think there's a lot in that. Can never understand why anyone's afraid of it, though.
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Soror Magna
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quote:
Originally posted by Byron:
... All kinds of factors affect our childhood development, including whether our parents divorce, whether we're picked on at school, our health, and so on. Sure poverty can be a major one, but if we've a loving, supportive family, it may not be the biggest issue. ...

A loving supportive family can help, but there are limits. A loving supportive family cannot magically create money for college, just for starters. Love and support won't magically cancel out the effects of sub-standard housing or underfunded schools or poor nutrition or a lack of community amenities. Yes, some people will always say, "Oh, we managed without X because we had love" but the reality is they still didn't have X, and other people did. Love alone cannot fix the real harm done to real people by poverty.

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Byron
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quote:
Originally posted by Soror Magna:
A loving supportive family can help, but there are limits. A loving supportive family cannot magically create money for college, just for starters. Love and support won't magically cancel out the effects of sub-standard housing or underfunded schools or poor nutrition or a lack of community amenities. Yes, some people will always say, "Oh, we managed without X because we had love" but the reality is they still didn't have X, and other people did. Love alone cannot fix the real harm done to real people by poverty.

Of course love doesn't conquer all, people need material support. Having that loving base, however, can be the first step to getting it, whether it's practical help in finding and accessing programs, scholarships etc, or just keeping spirits up.

Someone comfortably off financially, but in a miserable home situation, may well envy that. I'm not downplaying poverty at all, but other aspects of life are just as crucial.

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Carex
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My sense is that the demonisation is driven by two main factors:

1) It used to be that we just didn't talk about such things. That allowed us to pretend they didn't exist (or at least weren't "normal") while conveniently ignoring that many married people (of both sexes) were having lovers on the side. Few people want to look much below the public facade of relationships.

When when we did starting talking about LGBT issues / relationships that made it seem like there was a sudden surge in activity: while making it legal may have allowed more people to feel comfortable having such relationships, the actual increase was probably rather small - they were just more public.


2) Focusing people on an external "evil" or threat has long been a way of consolidating power while diverting attention from local problems. It's much more attractive to demonise someone else rather than to look closely at our own faults. Righteous indignation is like tuna hotdish - a primary comfort food for many religions.

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Schroedinger's cat

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quote:
Originally posted by mousethief:
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
I used "demonisation" because that seems to reflect the way it is dealt with. The point is that groups like Westboro make EVERYTHING about homosexuality. They are not the only ones with this approach, for whom homosexuality is the touchstone for orthodoxy.

How many groups like Westboro are there, other than Westboro? Unless by "like Westboro" you just mean "they make everything about homosexuality" in which case you have merely stated a truism.
Probably a truism - there are other radically right-wing groups, usually small, but who don't get the same regular publicity that Westboro do, but occasionally get an article.

It may be a truism, but the point is that these do represent the extreme edge of fundamentalism, and I suspect that there are other groups who agree with them, but don't want the problems. My point is that I don't think it is just one small group of nutters - it is a whole set of groups, who reflect the ideal of hard fundies.

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