The Olympic games are traditionally a reason for countries to unite and celebrate not only the achievements of their own countrymen, but also the camaraderie of the world's athletes coming together with common goals and sportsmanship. But this Winter Olympics in Russia just seems different. One of the most glaring differences about this year's games, for me, is that rather than the cheers and chants of hopeful fans, the headlines and social media, and even the team uniforms are more focused on highlighting the sexuality of the athletes than celebrating the success of the medal winners. It certainly doesn't hurt that Putin, Russia's leader, is notoriously discriminatory toward gay people, and that seems to have influenced how we talk about Sochi.
I recently posted my observation on Facebook. Several of the replies I got suggested the media attention was a "Big F*ck You!" to Putin because of his homophobic policies. Another posted a quote that said "I hate the word homophobia. It's not a phobia. You are not scared, you are an a**hole." And that got me thinking. Is homophobia a fear? And if so, what are homophobes like Putin and the old guy next door, really scared of? I mean, it's not like they can become gay themselves by supporting homosexuality ... and homosexuals don't have a reputation of being violent or dangerous. So what is there to be so afraid of?
Then it hit me like a wayward hockey puck. It's the sex!
Think about it: If a young male athlete were to announce that he was sharing an apartment with his best friend in the Olympic village, no one would flinch. Heck, we "bunk" our kids together in same-sex dorms at college every year. But let him announce that he is in love with that best friend and they're sharing an apartment because they're gay? WHOLE different story — But why?
It's also why female homosexuality is more widely accepted than male homosexuality. Two women pleasuring each other is perceived as softer, gentler and more natural than two men doing so. It's just that simple (however incorrect). When parents fear their child bringing home a mate of the same gender, it isn't because they'll "never get to be grandparents" (I cry "BS!" to that one). Let's face it: It's because they instantly visualize their child in an uncomfortable sexual scenario and it freaks them out. Male homosexuals engage in the type of sexual activity that many heterosexuals associate with prison abuse, molestation and rape. It's too difficult for some parents, grandparents and friends to associate what they have always seen as torture with loving intimacy. It's painful for them to imagine their loved ones being "subjected" to what they identify as subservience and "abuse".
The religious groups who fight homosexuality aren't focused on the parts of the Bible that talk about love, commitment and sharing a home ... they reference sodomy and sinful acts of the flesh. If they really cared so much about people going to Hell, those same groups would be fighting for laws against sex outside of marriage and adultry (don't get me wrong; those things are also perceived as "bad" ... just not as "bad" as being homosexual).
When a homosexual partnership comes out, people aren't envisioning them buying a house together, doing their taxes or making medical decisions for each other. They picture them having sex, and the ability to "tolerate" that vision is what will determine whether or not the person they came out too will accept them or not.
But my burning question is ... why? Why do we base our acceptance of an entire demographic of our society on whether or not we like how they have sex? Do we care if our heterosexual friends and family prefer missionary or something more adventurous? Do you envision your parents getting busy (Oh god, my eyes!) So why are you so concerned with the gay couple next door? Do we disown our adult children when we find out they've been going down town on their spouse? Then why does it bug us when our gay friends pleasure their partners in the same way? The truth is, when we decide we are "against" homosexuality, we are basing that bigotry on a facet of someone else's life that is completely none of our business. There is no time better or more necessary to bring this up than now, when Russia's unacceptable treatment of gay people is at the forefront of our minds.
So, maybe, with the Sochi games in full swing, we take a look at ourselves. The point isn't for us to fight against or even for homosexuality at all. Maybe the real answer is for us to just stop focusing on the sex and just celebrate the athlete, the journalist, the neighbor, the friend ... the person.
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