By Richard Ammon
June 19, 2011

Progress or standoff? Gay Pride in UK vs Croatia: Homophobia, Changing Culture and Fear

Two news stories arrived on my computer today about two very different Gay Pride Parades, one in Oxford, England and the other in the Croatian city of Split.:
Croatia –
Oxford –

Oxford (photo right) was happy, colorful, celebratory, positive and fun with participation of parents, children, city officials and friendly policemen. There were police present for safety and security for all–spectators and marchers. There were no ugly incidents or homophobic actions.

Split, in the beautiful Adriatic country of Croatia, was violent (photo below left) with assaults on the gay marchers as well as the 200 police assigned to protect them. They were overwhelmed by the abuse, insults, thrown bottles and rocks and eggs as well as bodily attacks by the skinhead nationalists, religious fundies and a general assortment of bigots who hate gays. As a result the parade was aborted and hundreds of people were arrested.

These two extremes of behavior are bookends of modern civilizations’ reactions to the phenomenon of homosexuality, a minority proportion in every society. In some countries it creates enlightenment and compassion. In others, a firestorm of hostility, discrimination and criminalization.

Yet, societies change: it was the British who imprisoned ‘sodomists’ at the turn of the 20th century, including Oscar Wilde. Today the UK is one of the most pro-gay countries in the world. Its ambassadors to other countries are mandated to press for human and gay rights in their assigned locations.

How does such change come about? What happened in the UK that has not happened in theEastern Europe, the Middle East or Africa? How is it that famous and influential people, such as Ian McKellen in London, are much less afraid to come out while activists such as David Cato and FannyAnn Eddy are murdered in Uganda and Sierra Leone or Brian Williamson in Jamaica?

It’s easy to say that religion is the prime homophobic force (it is certainly one of them) but there are many churches, synagogues and mosques in England as well as in liberal places like Denmark and New Zealand where anti-gay sentiments do not get assaultive.

Politics as a prime haven for anti-gay bigotry? Sometimes, but there are hateful elected MPs in London as well as in liberal Berlin and Washingotn DC where gays live mostly peacefully.

Researchers have found various other forces that press against homosexuality, in addition to the obvious ones above, other influences such as education level, economic level, exposure to gay people as well as media attitudes.

Other studies of homophobia have observed, as I do here, that a fundamental homophobic force is sexuality itself. People in all cultures are attracted to and are fearful of sex. It is a twisted paradoxical force that resides in all sentient beings and causes conflicted as well as pleasurable feelings. We all feel sexual drives–gay straight or bisexual–toward a variety of people over the course of our lifetimes. Most such interactions are desirable and acceptable (syntonic) yet it’s not uncommon to feel attracted to others who are not acceptable (dystonic) and, further, to others who cause disruptive distress; we desire them anyway.

To desire what is forbidden or disliked is a tormenting experience, whether toward another man’s wife, a child or a same-sex person. Strong cravings evoke strong emotions of desire as well as oppositional inhibiting behavior.

Homophobia is based in fear and anger toward one’s own cravings. Fierce Muslim hostility to gays is rooted in deep seated desire for sex that is forbidden (despite the documented fact that many young Arab males’ first sexual experience is with another male during their teen years). Equally fierce Christian opposition to gays is rooted in the historic suppression of human sexual desire, straight and gay. The publicized pervasive priest sex scandals of recent years is only the tip of a deep desire for such forbidden fruit.

Inhibited craving, denied desire is often uncontrollable. The sexual urge is a fundamental hard-wired system in our psyche. It varies from person to person, from strong to mild–like the need to talk, to touch.

When covert desire and arousal gathers enough force it overrides sensibility, reason, integrity, common sense and human rights. Uganda’s MP David Bahati is so fiercely anti-gay that he is willing to see gays die before accepting their humanity. Jamaican MPs allow murder and beatings of LGBT people with no efforts to stop it. Malawi gladly throws gay in jail to the cheers and jeers of the populace. In America wacko right-wing pastor Phelps prays that gays will all get AIDS and die. Moscow’s mayor does not restrain goon squads who whip up hate and violence against Gay Pride marchers.

Such is the power of sexual fear, of blind irrational violence that it threatens humanitarian progress and threatens the awakening of civilizations to a higher level of social evolution. The recurring human capacity to hate and destroy other humans is truly the dark side of the soul. It has been present since time immemorial, from Kubla Khan’s marauding armies that hacked heads and bodies to the egregious slave trade out of Africa to Stalin’s pogroms agains this own people to Fred Phelps’ curses on deceased people. Such are the many forms of evil on the face of the earth perpetuated by disturbed minds trapped in fear, alienated from compassion. Hatred of homosexual people is raw fear of one’s own self.