Monday, August 23, 2010

Teaching Tolerance: Homophobia, Heterosexism and Modern Intolerance - Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

Racism, sexism, and ageism are all intolerable forms of discrimination. They are not tolerated in any form and are met with outright criticism. It was not until 1973 that the American Psychological Society removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, and homosexuals continue to experience both overt and covert forms of discrimination. Homosexuality in the United States remains culturally invisible because homosexuals that are visible are subject to attacks from society (Herek, 2007). The label gay or lesbian leads many people to reduce the value of the person almost immediately (Basset, van Nikkelen-Kuyper, Johnson, Miller, Carter, & Grimm, 2005). The ease with which gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered (GLBT) people can blend in with society leads them to live secret lives where they only display portions of their true selves, but by hiding they are avoiding prejudices. The reduction of prejudice and eventual universal acceptance of GLBT individuals is an issue that our society struggles to find a solution to.

In the United States heterosexism has become and institutionalized form of prejudice. The government has taken measures to prevent homosexuals from marrying, limit their adoption options, and restrict them from benefits that most married couples take for granted. Institutional heterosexism is defined as “societal-level ideologies and patterns of institutionalized oppression of nonheterosexual people” (Moradi, van den Berg, & Epting, 2006, p. 57). There is also a ban against lesbian and gay military personnel, no legal protection from discrimination in the workplace, housing or other services. Possibly the most institutionalized form of discrimination against GLBTs is the existence of anti-sodomy laws in about one third of all US states (Herek, 2007). The institutionalization of heterosexism in the United States has come about as a result of increased focus from conservatives and religious leaders since the late 1980s. The institutionalization of heterosexism has made anti-gay behaviors and attitudes particularly unique when compared to other forms of prejudice. Heterosexism is more pervasive and more likely to be overtly stressed than any other form of prejudice against any other minority group. This does not mean that heterosexism cannot be stopped, but first possible causes must be identified.
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