Posted: June 14, 2016 Filed under: morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: anti-LGBT violence, hate crimes, homophobia, internalized homophobia, LGBT rights, Omar Mateen, Orlando shootings, Pulse nightclub, terrorism
As we learn more about Omar Mateen, the man who murdered 49 people and injured 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, it is becoming clear that it was no accident that the gunman deliberately targeted LGBT people. His claims of connections to overseas terror groups may have been little more than a cover for his own “internalized homophobia.” From an LGBT support website “Revel and Riot.” The image at the top of this post also comes from the Revel and Riot article.
Simply put, internalized homophobia happens when LGBQ individuals are subjected to society’s negative perceptions, intolerance and stigmas towards LGBQ people, and as a result, turn those ideas inward believing they are true.
It has been defined as ‘the gay person’s direction of negative social attitudes toward the self, leading to a devaluation of the self and resultant internal conflicts and poor self-regard.’ (Meyer and Dean, 1998).
Or as “the self-hatred that occurs as a result of being a socially stigmatized person.” (Locke, 1998).
PROBLEMS WITH THE TERM
Many LGBQ people do not relate to the expression “internalized homophobia” and as a result end up rejecting the idea before thoroughly examining its meaning. The word “internalized” presents the first barrier. “The concept suggests weakness rather than the resilience demonstrated by lesbians and gay men and keeps the focus away from the structures of inequality and oppression.” (Williamson, I., 2000) The word “homophobia” is the next complication – a difficult and seemingly illogical possibility. How can someone who identifies as LGBQ also have feelings of dislike, fear, and disgust towards themselves? So what can we do about the fact that the combination of words “internalized” and “homophobia” feel unrelatable for so many LGBQs?
Researchers have suggested that using ‘heterosexism’, ‘self-prejudice,’ and ‘homonegativity,’ in addition to the widely accepted term “internalized homophobia,” can help to add depth to our comprehension of the true meaning of the issue.
WHY DOES IT HAPPEN?
Internalized homophobia is a concept much more nuanced than it’s simple definition would suggest. It is clear that the word “homophobia” in this context, is misleading – the over simplified idea that it is individual acts of fear and ignorance diverts our attention from the much more pervasive systemic oppression that is at the root of the problem. The hateful and intolerant behavior of those closest to us often has the most profound impact (parents, church community, peers, partners). While they should be held responsible as individuals, the real culprit is an aggressively heterosexist society that is defining what is “normal,” and therefore what is “right” and “wrong,” through laws, policy, culture, education, health care, religion and family life. This systemic oppression is meant to enforce the gender binary, marginalize LGBTQ people, and keep heterosexual people and their relationships in a position of dominance and privilege.
When we see that homophobia is a result of a this larger system, we see that it is institutional; that it is impossible to exist outside of it; that the real definition of it is so much more than the dictionary simplicity of “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals;” that the root structure is vast, affecting every aspect of life and culture. All of these factors make dismantling heterosexism extremely complicated, and uprooting internalized homophobia even more so.
The above paragraphs form the introduction to a long article, complete with academic references. I can’t help but wonder if it may provide a better explanation for Omar Mateen’s actions than the reflexive assumption that his terrorist attack was inspired the quite disparate terror groups that he claimed connections with.
Pulse nightclub after the attack.
From Al Jazeera: Orlando: Omar Mateen ‘pledged loyalty to ISIL, others.’
An American man suspected of killing at least 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando espoused support for a jumble of often-conflicting organisations, according to the director of the FBI.
As details of the worst mass shooting in US history emerged, FBI Director James Comey said on Monday that the suspect, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, had not only pledged loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), but also expressed solidarity with the Tsarnaev brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing and a suicide bomber who died on behalf of the al-Nusra front, a group at odds with ISIL.
“They’re really trying to paint a picture of a confused person, who felt targeted because of his religion,” said Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Orlando.
The shooter had called 911 during the attack at the Pulse nightclub early on Sunday to express his allegiance to ISIL.
But Comey – who believed Mateen had “strong signs of radicalisation” – said that in the past few years, the gunman also expressed support for both al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.
The FBI investigated Omar Mateen for 10 months beginning in May 2013 after he was said to have inflammatory remarks in support of terrorists.
Mateen appears to have been confused about the groups he named and that they were in opposition to each other. It now seems that these claims were attempts to draw attention away from his conflicted attitudes toward LGBT people and possibly toward his own sexuality.
Lawrence Mower at The Palm Beach Post: Orlando shooter Omar Mateen was gay, former classmate says.
A former classmate of Omar Mateen’s 2006 police academy class said he believed Mateen was gay, saying Mateen once asked him out….
The classmate said that he, Mateen and other classmates would hang out, sometimes going to gay nightclubs, after classes at the Indian River Community College police academy. He said Mateen asked him out romantically.
“We went to a few gay bars with him, and I was not out at the time, so I declined his offer,” the former classmate said. He asked that his name not be used.
He believed Mateen was gay, but not open about it. Mateen was awkward, and for a while the classmate and the rest in the group of friends felt sorry for him.
“He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him,” he said. “He was always socially awkward.”
Members of YAWF (Youth Against War & Fascism) carry a banner in the Fifth Annual Gay Pride Day march (Gay Liberation Day), New York, New York, June 30, 1974. It reads ‘Stonewall Means… Fight Back! Smash Gay Oppression!’ (Photo by Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images)
The Orlando Sentinel: Witness: Omar Mateen drank alone at Pulse before attack.
At least four regular customers at the Orlando gay nightclub where a gunman killed 49 people said Monday that they had seen Omar Mateen there before.
“Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent,” Ty Smith said.
Smith told the Orlando Sentinel that he saw Mateen inside at least a dozen times.
“We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,” Smith said. “He told us he had a wife and child.” ….
Another Pulse regular, Kevin West, told the Los Angeles Times that Mateen messaged him on and off for a year using a gay chat app.
They had never met, West said, but he watched as Mateen entered the club about 1 a.m. Sunday, an hour before the shooting began.
There’s quite a bit of information about Mateen’s connections to law enforcement in the article. I think those could reveal a great deal about his personality as well as his attitudes toward homosexuality. I’m sure we’ll be learning more in the days ahead.
According to The Daily Mail, even Mateen’s ex-wife says he had “gay tendencies.” From the article:
Many in the Orlando gay community are now coming forward to share similar stories of seeing Mateen at clubs for the past decade or speaking to him on hookup apps….
Regulars at Pulse said they saw Mateen several times over the past three years drinking alcohol and dancing with men.
A couple who perform as drag-queens at the popular venue in 1912 South Orange Avenue said they had seen the 29-year-old party at Pulse.
Ty Smith and Chris Callen said the father-of-one was sometimes so drunk he had to be removed from the club.
Callen, who performs as Kristina McLaughlin, said: ‘I’ve seen him a couple of times at Pulse, a couple of other people that I’ve spoken with, including an-ex security guard, have actually witnessed this guy at Pulse many times before.’
Smith said he’d seen Mateen at Pulse ‘at least a dozen times.’
‘We didn’t really talk to him a lot, but I remember him saying things about his dad at times,’ Smith said. ‘He told us he had a wife and child.’
A security guard who worked at the club two years ago still remembered Mateen turning up to the venue, he added.
Orlando’s gay community is still reeling from the tragedy, and those who had seen Mateen at gay clubs before seem to all have a story to share about his temper.
Callen said Mateen, who seemed like a ‘nice guy’ and was ‘comfortable’ with the draq queens, threatened someone with a knife when he became angry about a religious joke.
Remarks that Mateen drank heavily conflict with his apparently strict adherence to his Muslim faith, including regular worship at a mosque in his home town of Port St. Lucie – where he was quiet and kept to himself.
It seems fairly obvious that Mateen’s attack on The Pulse was a terrorist attack against the LGBT community perpetrated by a confused young man–just as the murders at Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs were a terrorist attack against women, despite that fact that authorities won’t call it one. The only reason the focus in the Orlando attack has been on connections to foreign terrorism is that Omar Mateen’s parents came from Afghanistan. They were here long before 9/11, because Mateen was born in Queens, NY and he was 29 years old.
Here’s a 2012 article from Scientific American on the possible connections between homophobia and repressed homosexuality: Homophobes Might Be Hidden Homosexuals.
Homophobes should consider a little self-reflection, suggests a new study finding those individuals who are most hostile toward gays and hold strong anti-gay views may themselves have same-sex desires, albeit undercover ones.
The prejudice of homophobia may also stem from authoritarian parents, particularly those with homophobic views as well, the researchers added.
“This study shows that if you are feeling that kind of visceral reaction to an out-group, ask yourself, ‘Why?'” co-author Richard Ryan, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, said in a statement. “Those intense emotions should serve as a call to self-reflection.”
The research, published in the April 2012 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, reveals the nuances of prejudices like homophobia, which can ultimately have dire consequences. [The 10 Most Destructive Human Behaviors]
“Sometimes people are threatened by gays and lesbians because they are fearing their own impulses, in a sense they ‘doth protest too much,'” Ryan told LiveScience. “In addition, it appears that sometimes those who would oppress others have been oppressed themselves, and we can have some compassion for them too, they may be unaccepting of others because they cannot be accepting of themselves.”
Ryan cautioned, however, that this link is only one source of anti-gay sentiments.
Read much more about these studies at the link.
It’s very important not to allow the media and Republicans to erase the fact that the attack on The Pulse was an attack on the rights of people in the LGBT community and their freedom to gather and support each other in public places.
A few more relevant links:
The Atlantic: The Extraordinarily Common Violence Against LGBT People in America.
Erasing 76 Crimes: 1000s who died in anti-gay, anti-trans attacks (updates).
The New York Times: Before Orlando, There Was New Orleans.
The Daily Beast: Drag Queen: Anti-Gay Terrorist Omar Mateen Was My Friend.
The Christian Science Monitor: For gay community, Orlando a sign threats remain amid growing tolerance.
The Desert Sun: Anti-gay community has blood on its hands: Column.
What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.