Post-Homophobic America

[Content Note: Homophobia.]

We have heard that we live in a post-racial America, and that we live in a post-feminist America. These things are not true, despite the insistence with which they are expressed by privileged people invested in the notion that racism and misogyny aren't Real Concerns anymore.

We hear less that we live in a post-homophobic America, at least in such explicit terms, but there is some notion attached with the increasing support for and legalization of same-sex marriage that the equality battle is largely won. This is partly a result of marriage equality having been positioned as the Final Frontier in equality by the most privileged members of the queer community, and mainly a result of straight people whose privilege inoculates them from the scope of how homophobia plays out in ways other than legal inequities.

This morning, I have read these three stories:

1. Niners CB Says Openly Gay Players Would Not Be Welcomed on the Team:
San Francisco 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver has made inflammatory comments regarding homosexuality in football just a few days before Super Bowl XLVII.

Shock jock Artie Lange revealed he had interviewed Culliver at media day Tuesday and aired a segment on his show that night, where the player insisted that any gay players would not be welcome on the team.

"I don't do the gay guys man," said Culliver, whose Niners play the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. "I don't do that. No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do.

"Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can't be…in the locker room man. Nah."

When quizzed by Lange whether any homosexual athletes would need to keep their sexuality a secret in football, Culliver responded: "Yeah, come out 10 years later after that."
2. Tennessee 'Don't Say Gay' Bill Now Requires Teachers to Inform Parents if Their Child is Gay:
Tennessee's so-called 'Don't Say Gay' bill died with the adjournment of the state assembly last year. But now the measure is back — with new, harsher requirements.

The bill, SB 234, still bars Tennessee teachers from discussing any facet of "non-heterosexual" sexuality with children in grades K-8. But the newest iteration also includes a provision requiring teachers or counselors to inform the parents of some students who identify themselves as LGBT. State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R), who authored the bill the first time around and again introduced it this time, calls out students who might be "at risk," but leaves the interpretation of that behavior to the teacher.
3. Facebook Users Mount Campaign to Save 'Gay Dog' from Being Put Down by Tennessee Kill Shelter:
This healthy male American Bulldog mix is scheduled to be put down later today at the Rabies Control shelter in Jackson, Tennesee.

"Not bc he is mean or bc he tears things up," says a Facebook user [who pays regular visits to the kill shelter looking for dogs to rescue]. No: "Because his owner says he's gay."

According to the [Facebooker], this unloved pooch was rejected because he was found "hunched [over]" another male dog.

"His owner threw him away bc he refuses to have a 'gay' dog!" she writes. "Don't let this gorgeous dog die [because] his owner is ignorant of normal dog behavior!"
That's just stuff I've read this morning.

Equality is frequently treated as some sort of race with a definitive endpoint marked by a single achievement. Equality for African Americans was declared upon the Emancipation Proclamation, upon the passage of the Civil Rights Act, upon the election of the nation's first black president. Equality for women was declared upon women getting the right to vote, upon the passage of Roe v. Wade, upon Geraldine Ferraro's appointment to a national ticket.

Social justice doesn't work this way.

It's an ongoing process of changing the culture, including but not limited to meaningful legal changes. But marriage equality does not protect gay athletes in locker rooms, or gay kids in public schools, or bigotry that manifests in dangerous, oppressive, and/or absurd ways, like rejecting "gay dogs."

It's a tantalizing idea that one bit of legislation, or three bits, or ten, can mark an endpoint to institutional oppression. But culture changes not with the stroke of a pen. That takes a fuckload of teaspoons.

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