About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Benjamin Law on gay rights and anti-gay attitudes

A nice article over here.


Straight guys, it turns out, are interesting. One study from the 1980s examined the behaviour of hundreds of primary school boys, and how homophobic language affected their interactions. When they started school, young boys were observed holding hands on their way to class, or hugging each other at recess. By the age of 10 — when epithets such as queer and faggot were starting to creep in — they were mock-punching each other and high-fiving instead. By the time they were teenagers, the amount of anti-gay slurs had reached a peak. Boys would go to cinemas together but sit separately, in case they were seen as gay.

Even now, in Brisbane, it’s common for me to get on a bus and see boys sitting with the entire aisle between them, in case people get the wrong idea. Homophobia, as I told the crowd, doesn’t just affect gay people. If “gay” is still one of the worst things you can be in the schoolyard, that inevitably affects the way we behave and interact. We stop listening to certain music, in case it’s gay. We stop playing certain sports, in case it’s gay. We stop talking to each other in certain ways — and avoid making friends with certain people — in case it’s gay.

As counter-intuitive as it sounds, straight people get the raw end of homophobia too.

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