Thursday, January 6, 2011

Cure for lesbianism discovered by my colleague

I had an interesting conversation today with someone... and by interesting, I mean horribly homophobic, sexist and offensive. I wasn't going to mention anything about context in order to not identify this person, but the context is quite important. I was in my office at the university, which is one of my favorite places... somewhere that I am surrounded by graduate students working on a degree in sociology in a program that has an emphasis on social justice. If there is anywhere that I feel safe, it is my office. Not so much today.

The word girlfriend was mentioned in conversation, and he said "what do you mean girlfriend?" So I said I was gay (something I assumed everyone here knew, but apparently not), and he went off on this huge tangent.... starting with "I'm not against that BUT" and, as I've mentioned in numerous previous posts, if you have to say "but" in that context, you are better off not speaking at all.

As he was speaking, after getting over the shock of what I was hearing, I began furiously writing down what he was saying as he was saying it so I could quote as much of it as possible here for the benefit of readers.

I feel I need to mention that he doesn't think he is homophobic because he is ok with people being gay, he just thinks that they are wrong in that they are not actually gay, they just haven't yet realized that they are straight. Here are a few quotes, the ones without quotation marks are paraphrased;

"If she is with a good man who is doing his job as a man, women will prefer the man"
He didn't say exactly what it meant to do your job as a man, but I can guarantee you that dating a man who was doing whatever that job happens to be would not be enough to make me attracted to him for long. But it is good to see that the gender binary is alive and well in sociology.

There are two types of lesbians, one who will always play the man, which I don't understand, but for the one who plays the woman, there is nothing that a woman can give her that a man cannot
I wonder which "type" of lesbian I am... probably the latter. I did wear a skirt on New Years Eve, but I have also been described as moderately androgynous. Is that more or less wrong than "playing the man"? Few things annoy me more than the assumption that all relationships need to follow some kind of dichotomous gender construct.

If you cannot stay attracted to men, it is the fault of the men that you have dated. You have built up stereotypes in your head on the image of the men, which limits your view of how men can satisfy your needs
Ah, I see. I am gay because I was raped. Or maybe I'm gay because my daughter's father was abusive. Or because my ex-husband was sexist. Or because my dad left when I was 3. Or all of the above. Good to know. Am I 'cured' yet?

This line of thinking scares me, as I believe it makes lesbians particularly vulnerable to sexual violence from men in certain ways.

"The link between men and women is a frontier, and it is really hard to penetrate that frontier"
ummmm... what?

If a gay person starts dating the right person of the opposite sex, they will no longer be gay. It depends on their experience of dating.
This one particularly offends me because it is exactly what I had convinced myself. This misconception is the reason I got married to a man. It is the reason that I dated men exclusively for 6 years. It is the reason that I hated myself for not being able to conform to heteronormativity.

"I know it cannot be better" (gay as opposed to heterosexual relationships)
Yes, for many of us, not only can it be better, but it is better.

"but i'm not against that..."
No, not at all. You are CLEARLY ok with non-hetero lifestyles. You just think that we are all tricking ourselves.

After politely, but vehemently disagreeing with him (multiple times), I had to leave the office and rant to a queer studies prof in the department. I wasn't sure if I should tell him off, or just try to let it go... I'm still not entirely sure. On one hand, I have to see this person all of the time, we share a tiny little office. On the other hand, holy homophobia batman.


  1. Good lord.

    I'm so sorry that this happened...and in a previously safe and happy space, awful...

  2. Uck, that is just outrageous. And you have to share an office with this person???

  3. Thanks... I was kind of shocked by it. There are just certain spaces where I have learned to expect stuff like this, and others where it catches me off guard.

    But that's ok, because It Gets Better, right?

  4. You expect these sorts of arguments from undergraduates and folks outside of academia, but grad students? Actually, maybe I'm not that shocked - though possibly a little at how blatant this heterosexist idiocy was... you'd think that part of being in a grad program is learning how to hide your stupidity. The line about frontiers and penetration is uber-creepy, even though I cannot understand what it means. And you did the right thing, I think, by mentioning this person's behaviour to a professor: departments should have equity guidelines and bigotry should be confronted and not tolerated.

    (Also, as we all know, the best counter-argument to the whole "you're-only-gay-because-you-haven't-met-the-right-person-of-the-opposite-sex" argument is "you're only straight because you haven't met the right person of the same sex." At the very least it reveals the fallacy in reasoning!)

  5. Thanks JMP.. I agree with everything you just said, and it is comforting to read words of support. I kind of feel like I should have said more or told him off or something (it's not like me to be relatively quiet), but I'm sure it wouldn't have helped.

    As for your last comment, it is funny because of a facebook status that a different colleague wrote afterwards, which I am copying part of below. I will warn you, the conversations I have with this person are not always entirely appropriate...

    J-apparently all lesbians need to be cured is a 'good' man and a deep dicking. Wow...expected more from sociology grad students.

    D-I would ask him if a good man and a deep dicking would cure him of his heterosexuality.

  6. Well if you ever need allies, although im sure you have many in your office, come to the psych office, im sure it would be fun. I really didnt think people thought that way anymore. Like you said, specially grad students in the social sciences.

  7. Thanks Danielle. I do have allies in my program, but you psych folks seem to arrive at school earlier than most of my nocturnal soci colleagues, so I may have to take you up on that sometime.

  8. I would ask him if he approaches the whole of sociology by constructing elaborate theories based on little hunches that he has, or whether he ever checks to see if there is evidence to support them...

    And does he realize that his intuition is a product of social conditioning that teaches us to view homosexuality as deviant? Or does he think he came up with that all on his own?

    It'd also be interesting to get into his computer and see what kind of porn he likes. Admittedly, this could be creepy, but a nice way to start a really honest conversation...Of course, I am not actually recommending that you do anything to violate his privacy, just doing a little speculating of my own...

  9. I am not going to associate his thinking with the discipline of sociology in any way. He did mention his own cultural upbringing a few times, so I am rather sure he is acknowledging some of what you call the social conditioning that might shape his view that homosexuality is not just deviant, but actually non-existent.

    As for the last part of that comment, I don't buy into the stereotype that homophobic people are secretly closeted or sexually deviant in some way...

  10. I don't buy into the stereotype that homophobic people are secretly closeted or sexually deviant in some way...

    Not all of 'em, sure. But a fairly high percentage, I'd bet.

    I heard there was actually a study done on this: 'phobes and nonphobes getting their physiological responses to porn monitored. The non-homophobes, when shown gay porn, registered as mildly sexually excited by what they were seeing. The homophobes, when shown the gay porn, registered as super duper excited.

    And then of course we have all the rabidly anti-gay politicians in the US who get caught with other dudes.

    It amuses me to imagine that your colleague's porn collection is actually uberSTRAIGHT. I wonder what that would even entail? The mind boggles.

  11. "Give the actress a huge prosthetic vagina so she looks even more female! No - give her twenty prosthetic vaginae! Paste them all over her abdomen! And give her a bunch of extra tits, too. And have the guy drink whiskey and fire a machine gun into the air while he's fucking her."

  12. The 'dick is magic' school of homophobia generally can't cope with the notion of bisexual people at all. I am genderqueer/nonbinary trans/it's complicated, but when I used to identify as a bisexual woman, I sent that type of homophobe into fits. The notion that the hard butch had not only had sex with men, but had excellent enjoyable sex with men and as well as with women was impossible for them to cope with. One guy actually went silent, made a choking sound, and fled the room in response to being informed of it. The most hilarious one actually tried to tell me that I wasn't really bi but was really a lesbian (fat butches don't get faced with the 'really hetero' side of biphobia as much). Somehow he seemed to think that it would help his case by suggesting that I was just fooling myself about the good sexual and dating experiences I had with men. Ah, homophobes and their irrational self contradictory views.

  13. Wow, that's absolutely awful. I think you definitely should report it to someone (if you haven't already!), because behavior like that is totally unacceptable. And in your own office, and he's a colleague, and it's the goddamn SOCIOLOGY department... ugh.

    Honestly, the guy sounds a bit off-balance to me. "A frontier that cannot be penetrated?" I don't even...

  14. DarkSideCat, isn't it great that we know people who can tell us what our sexual preferences are? It is so much easier than trying to figure it out for ourselves.

    And Laura, I have told the chair of the department and the rest of the union executive are regular readers of the blog, so they are aware of what has been going on as well. And, yes, you would think that if anywhere is safe, it is the sociology grad office (the pride office has already been tainted for me, but that was like 5 years ago).

  15. "D-I would ask him if a good man and a deep dicking would cure him of his heterosexuality."

    I would have loved to have been there to ask that.

  16. "If a gay person starts dating the right person of the opposite sex, they will no longer be gay. It depends on their experience of dating."

    Oh god, how I tried this. I didn't even know I was trying not to be gay at the time.

    I'm sorry this happened to you, I hate these moments but I've never had one so confronting as this.

  17. Thanks Iany. It does seem to happen quite frequently... I mentioned in the post that I did the same thing for a long time.

  18. "Ok" is not an approrpiatly proqueer position. "Ok, but" is way worse. Being gay is "fabulous", now we're somewhere. Probably "being queer in any capacity is just as valid as being straight" is fine maybe. On a more serious note, this really sucks to happen anywhere, nevermind a place that's supposedly YOUR space for work. Queerhating shit like this makes me all angry and shit.

  19. Thanks. I am perfectly happy with people thinking that being queer is just as valid as being straight, and straight is just as valid as being queer. Thinking queer is fabulous sounds good, but still creates difference... potentially, but not necessarily, like putting women on a pedestal. Definitely better than discrimination, but I would like to see more of a sameness, so it just wouldn't matter either way.

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