Homophobia

High school was a tough time for your typical geek. Between weekend long D&D marathons, hacking military and business computers, and being mercilessly beaten and humiliated by more popular, athletic kids, it’s a wonder they managed to find the time to go to class. Granted, only one of the above things ever actually happened to any of them, but geeks like to pretend that they were horribly victimized while in their adolescence by those of their peers with the foresight to get some exercise once in awhile.

Luckily for the geek, there’s a quick and easy way to displace all the pent up anger and humiliation that pretending to be someone else’s whipping boy: pick on someone else! As we’ve already seen, lording your geek superiority over another geek can be useful in establishing your place in the pecking order amongst other geeks, but that lacks the usefulness of an engaging us/them dynamic. Picking on the mundanes would be the natural first choice of a geek, but doing that would give the lie to their self-professed “underdog outsider” status. For the geeks there’s a group ready-made for them to despise, and that’s gays and lesbians.

It may seem surprising that geeks would gravitate towards a knee-jerk antipathy to gays and gay rights, but it’s worth remembering that American culture, as a whole, still has not become comfortable with the idea of homosexuality, and the middle-class, white, right-libertarian tendencies of the geek are well documented. There is no realistic other option for a group for them to feel superior to. Race-based antipathy is socially frowned on and would only draw attention to the overwhelming white-ness of geeks, and it’s hard to feel like an outsider when you’re essentially The Man. Gender-based antagonism only reduces the likelihood of a geek finding a woman desperate enough to have sex with him, as despite the frequent geek complaint to the contrary, chicks really don’t dig jerks.

It may also seem surprising that geeks would gravitate towards homophobia because so much anti-gay sentiment is rooted in Judeo-Christian ideology, and your typical geek is trying very hard to distance himself as much from that system of religion as possible. But in that strange, cross-over world of American politics, where people who vote Republican because Jesus loves little babies become convinced that Jesus hates climatologists who discuss global warming as well, geeks gravitate strongly towards the right-wing Libertarian ideologies of Ron Paul and Ayn Rand. They believe that technology is the answer to all problems, and that no government regulation or taxation or copyright legislation should be allowed to stand in the way of that technological utopia. And as that crowd includes a more than representative example of “natural law” thinkers and those who fear that, for example, legalizing gay marriage will create a strain on the health care industry because of the millions of straight people who will enter into fake gay marriage for insurance benefits, a good amount of only tangentially based in reality anti-gay thought creeps into the geek’s world-view.

I may be a horrifying psychopath, but at least I'm not GAY!

I may be a horrifying psychopath, but at least I'm not GAY!

The actual form that the geek’s homophobia takes can be quite varied, however. The most frequent form is the fetishization of lesbianism. To the geek, lesbians are only “real” to the extent that they are able to titillate the geek, a fact that the producers of syndicated fantasy shows such as Star Trek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are happy to exploit for an annual goose to the ratings. But almost as common is the dread of the male body that many geeks exhibit. From worrying over the suggestion of male genitalia in comic books to shifting uncomfortably in their seats anytime a male actor is unclothed in a film, the geek’s initial reaction is to loudly proclaim “Gaaaaayyyyy!” lest anyone briefly suspect that he himself is turned on by what he’s seeing. Occasionally film-makers will even go that extra step and include the snigger inducing gay joke themselves, thus saving their audience the trouble.

This sniggering response to anything that could even be remotely seen as gay is what gave rise to the unrelenting hilarity of the nonstop “Brokebat Mountain” jokes that arose on the internet after the casting of Heath Ledger as the Joker was announced before filming for The Dark Knight began. That it took the death of Ledger for geeks to realize that the jokes weren’t funny is a testament to the lengths they’re willing to go to for the sakes of maintaining their disapproval of both gays and humor. (It’s also not a little ironic that now his depiction of the Joker is considered “iconic” by fans and became the number one geek costume of last Halloween.)

Should the question of actual anti-gay discrimination come up, the geek will be the first to adopt a “blame the victim” attitude. After all, a woman who identifies as a lesbian in her gamer profile is clearly asking for it, as sexuality should have no place in video gaming. Just ask “LadiesMan69″ or “LuvsTitties.” Clearly, gays and lesbians are asking to be discriminated against. If they weren’t, why would they ever let anyone know about their failure to live up to the manly, heterosexual ideal of the geek?

A group of people more hated than themselves? Small wonder geeks LOVE Homophobia!

43 Responses

  1. Blantant gay-baiting that blames the people being discriminated against rather than cop to their own (obvious) homophobia? It’s okay if you’re a Republican, uh, I mean, geek!

  2. Excellent.

  3. Hey, the Republican bashing was uncalled for. I know plenty of ‘democrats’ who bash gays, Republicans who don’t, and vis versa. You shouldn’t put people into categories, everyone is an individual.

  4. But why are they lowercase, inverted comma ‘democrats’ then?

  5. Dead on.

  6. I don’t get it either, Allison. The writer is singling Republicans out as if they’ve made it a platform to treat gay people as subhuman or something. But everyone knows they haven’t…

    oh, right.

  7. Sorry, Allison, as an actual, bona-fide homosexual-American, I have to say that, if anything, the author of this article was too nice to Republicans.

    Go ahead, name me ONE prominent Republican politician or commentator who is not opposed to basic human rights for gays and lesbians.

    Just one.

    I’ll wait. But I won’t hold my breath.

  8. Well, somebody told me Lois Lane is a Republican…

    Oh, wait. She’s fictional. Never mind.

  9. [...] Fandom | A takedown of homophobia in “geek culture.” [Stuff Geeks Love] [...]

  10. eh the geeks i knew in high school allied with the gays… there was alot of outsider solidarity going around
    ironically this made us – the gay/geek/goth alliance- the biggest group in school

  11. And the ridiculously bullying and intolerantly incendiary non-word “homophobia” continues its march over reason. Anything even remotely opposed to homosexuality (not homosexuals as people, mind you) is immediately slapped with the label to silence and condemn. There are an awful lot of legitimate, non-biased psychological and scientific studies out there that are blatantly “homophobic”, I guess. You just don’t hear about them, much, do you? Hmmm…

  12. Oh, Hash…

    Thanks for the laugh…

  13. I don’t dislike conservatives as people, I just think the conservative ideology is morally and ethically bankrupt, utterly repugnant, intellectually stunted, and should be eliminated from the philosophical arena. Conservatives themselves are just fine, so long as they don’t either act on their conservative ideology or demand special privileges such as being able to vote.

  14. Wait, what? We’re homophobic now? I am honest-to-god surprised at this one. I’ve followed this blog for a little now. I’ve nodded sadly at seeing myself sometimes, quietly resolving to be a less obnoxious human being. Or sometimes tongue-clucked when I thought something was a bit too mean-spirited to be funny. But I swear I thought the barb would come from the other direction: We were *obnoxiously* open-minded, defending all bizzare permutations of the screw-act in our stubborn quest for individuality and already mentioned fondness for sex.

  15. There are parts of the geek-world like that, but there is definitely a very loud faction of geek homophobes. Not sure what the statistics are, but when you’ve got a bunch of young males who aren’t fully secure in their masculinity, this sort of thing happens.

  16. And remember, if you find any entry on this list that doesn’t apply to you…well, then it isn’t about you. But no, there are plenty of homophobic geeks out there. Hell, the ones who play XBox Live have made “gay” the standard expression for “bad”.

  17. “Race-based antipathy is socially frowned on and would only draw attention to the overwhelming white-ness of geeks, and it’s hard to feel like an outsider when you’re essentially The Man. Gender-based antagonism only reduces the likelihood of a geek finding a woman desperate enough to have sex with him, as despite the frequent geek complaint to the contrary, chicks really don’t dig jerks.”

    Ha, that doesn’t stop them. Surely you must know that.

  18. Hey, what about the blacks and the chinks too?

  19. Dorian, you’re obviously a geek.

  20. I’d always thought of geeks as less likely to pick on gay people in particular, and more likely to compare themselves to gay folk in order to garner oppression points, due to their sad, pasty-white lack thereof. Because, you know, growing up unpopular and middle class is pretty much like being a Polish Jew circa 1939.

  21. I’ve found that this trend is entirely averted for girl geeks, as the popularity of slashfic should indicate. I’ve never known a lesbian or bisexual-woman who wasn’t also a huge geek. To an extent that’s self-selecting, birds of a feather and all, but of eighteen geek girls I’ve known in high school and college whose sexualities I’ve known for sure, four were bisexuals and two were lesbians.

    Sorry for the late comment, just arrived at the blog by way of a meandering path from TVTropes. I probably won’t stick around – the blog’s not very friendly, and I don’t identify with most of these anyway.

    P.S. Watchmen sucked, mostly because of what a Antihero Sue Rorschach was. Seriously, his mommy issues were enough to cause an existential crisis in a trained criminal psychologist? That completely undermined his (Rorschach’s) character for me. The point was to show how screwed up people would have to be to become masked heroes, and eschewing straight-up sociopathy for the oldest, lamest Freudian excuse in the book (female sexuality did it!) left a horrible taste in my mouth.

    Transmetropolitan ftw.

  22. AnonaMiss: P.S. Watchmen sucked, mostly because of what a Antihero Sue Rorschach was. Seriously, his mommy issues were enough to cause an existential crisis in a trained criminal psychologist?

    While not disputing Rorschach’s Sueness, his upbringing wasn’t what turned him into his final form; it didn’t even make him put on the mask. He started crimefighting in reaction to the apathy he saw when Kitty Genovese died; he became the sort of Nietzschean monster that could Hannibal-Lecture the psychologist after he killed the child murderer who fed his victims to his dogs.

    Sure, you could argue that his mother was the root of his issues with women, but it’s certainly not his entire backstory, and it doesn’t define his entire character.

  23. Much of the geekworld homophobia grew out of being bullied by jock closet-cases, imo. It’s an over-correction in attitude as defense mechanism for a segment of society that wasn’t allowed to develop a sense of sexual security while going through puberty. The vast majority of geeks I know, once able to achieve a modicum of sexual maturity, drop the homophobia of their teens with far more ease than the “mundanes” are able.

  24. Man, what?
    This is not indicative of my experiences with the geek community generally.

  25. I see. We’re stretching the term “geek” to mean “anybody who plays a computer/video game online.” If only it really were just geeks who could get online. 1993 changed everything.

  26. This actually IS true. I mean, a great deal of geeks are heterosexual males, and lets be honest here – I doubt there are a single group of people with a bullshit sense of entitlement quite like that of a straight male.

    This is less of a problem in female-dominated corners of the internet, like fandom, where you are practically guaran-fucking-teed to find gay/bi fanfic writers around.

  27. I think it’s rather hypocritical to talk about a victim-blaming mentality when repeatedly I’ve seen the sentiment expressed here that geeks aren’t REALLY outsiders who are bullied and excluded, they just like feeling oppressed and are a bunch of whiners.

    There’s this myth that people believe, not just about geeks but a lot of other “weird” types as well (alternative sexualities included), that people who don’t fit in “just want to be (seen as) different” – that they’re perfectly normal people who woke up one day feeling masochistic and wanting to play at being a minority. I can tell you that, from at least my experience, this is a misrepresentation. It goes the other way. After years of just wanting to do your own thing as you like it, or simply exist as you are in some cases, and getting excluded, insulted and – yes – outright attacked for it, you stop wanting to belong to the mainstream that people pick on you for not fitting into. Your life is your life, and not theirs, and why try to warp yourself in order to fit into a group that has done nothing but hate you for completely arbitrary reasons? The fact that someone is picked on is not negated or made less real by the fact that that person refuses to stop being different. As comfortable as the “trying to be weird and feel oppressed” myth is to believe, it’s just that, a myth, and a particularly mean-spirited method of victim-blaming at that.

    On another note, I won’t deny that there are homophobic nerds (as seen in one of the above posts), but I think it’s overstated here, and probably only or mostly based on comments made on the internet. The internet is not a good sample, simply because of what it brings out in people – “normals” as well as “geeks” – and, conversely, the kind of people it can attract. There are homophobic geeks in real life, but, as I and a number of others here have seen, they are outnumbered by allies, if not members, of the LBQTA-etc. community.

  28. “For the geeks there’s a group ready-made for them to despise, and that’s gays and lesbians.”

    And girls in general, whether they’re hot chicks (whether geeky themselves or not) who dare to not put out for them on demand or not-hot chicks (whether geeky themselves or not) who dare to enter their field of vision instead of staying out of public.

  29. So THAT’s what all these insecure guys who try to be manly in spite of being the opposite are. I hadn’t quite made the geek link with all these dipshit teenage homophobes yet, but it makes total sense.

    Although frankly I don’t think in this case it’s JUST geeks. It’s the entire western culture, in which homosexuality is subtly or not so subtly seen as a taint of weakness that men try to avoid. Because they’ll be seen as weak. And they want to be tough.

    I never got that anyway though. The lot on this planet are well…. humans. Humans are laughably weak per default. Humans got skin as fragile as tissue paper compared to other species and a proper ape could rip a human limb from limb with ease. Even if the ape was sickly and elderly and the human was a top athlete. If you are a human you’re weak per definition. Humans would be long extinct if they hadn’t invented tools, because without it the species might as well be called ‘convenient really easy to kill leopard snack’, instead of ‘human’. They’d all have been eaten long ago if it wasn’t for the fact that even homo erectus, not even the current model of human, already showed evidence of making fire.

    So why do human not just lay back, and not try to be tough? Because your average decent-size domestic dog could kill the toughest human if it sufficiently wanted too, I propose this whole tough manliness thing is a JOKE for such pitifully fragily and feeble creatures as humans, and is summarily abolished.

    That way everyone can stop trying to be tough, and people can finally stop picking on the gays already. Because at least in the west people seem to be rational enough to finally give up on religious nonsense en masse. So THAT won’t be a motivation anymore. (Although seriously, if a gay person ever where to blow up a full megachurch I would say they DID have it coming. I mean they’re put through THE most crap of any minority, and in many places they STILL get picked on, even though just about all other minorities have gotten some protections against it. I mean sheesh… It’s a miracle you don’t hear stories about gay people hunting down gaybashers and killing them in some horror story way, because I could totally see it. Heck, I’d say if one ever did, don’t prosecute them, considering! I mean you know the muslims would do both these things, so it’s not even that farfetched.)

  30. Where are you located geographically? I spent most of my life in the Northeast, and in my experience geeks were *less* homophobic than the rest of the crowd.

    I am assuming you’re American…maybe this is a regional thing?

  31. “Race-based antipathy is socially frowned on and would only draw attention to the overwhelming white-ness of geeks, and it’s hard to feel like an outsider when you’re essentially The Man. Gender-based antagonism only reduces the likelihood of a geek finding a woman desperate enough to have sex with him, as despite the frequent geek complaint to the contrary, chicks really don’t dig jerks.”

    “Ha, that doesn’t stop them. Surely you must know that.”

    Bingo:

    http://bullyscomics.blogspot.com/2008/08/serious-note.html

    http://www.metafilter.com/79224/Playing-together-shouldnt-hurt

  32. You forgot about slash fic fans, a subset of geek who tends to have the opposite problem: seeing everyone who doesn’t like a certain gay pairing as homophobic, whether or not they actually are.

  33. …Oh, yeah, and something I forgot, I hang out at TV Tropes a lot, and very few people there seem homophobic. In fact, if anything, I’d say we tropers have more LGBTQ people than the general population.

  34. “Go ahead, name me ONE prominent Republican politician or commentator who is not opposed to basic human rights for gays and lesbians.

    Just one.

    I’ll wait. But I won’t hold my breath.”

    I’m surprised that, in the year since this man made his snarky post, no one has bothered to mention Andrew Sullivan to prove Dorian wrong.

    Well, if no one else will, then I shall!

    The man is an openly gay Catholic and a strong conservative. He’s also an activist for LGBT rights and writes for The Atlantic.

    He’s also created a number of mocking awards (similar to The Razzies) for exceptionally terrible actions in politics or the media. Two of them specifically deal with liberal and left-wingers (the Michael Moore award and Paul Begala).

    On that note, I’d like to say that people like Dave Lartigue (“conservatives should not be given the ‘special privelidge’ of voting”) are has disturbing to me as any homophobic redneck. Especially considering the United States (from I ASSUME Dave hails) was founded on ideals that very much are the opposite of his idea of “how things should be.”

    There’s very little difference in Lartigue’s attitude and the attitudes of a homophobe. The only difference is the group they choose to hate.

  35. [...] of certain attitudes which can tilt that way, and the prevalent ANYTHING BUT BUMSEX! tone of much geek discourse is very much an example of the latter. [...]

  36. Geeks are struggling with sexual fetishes, kinks or quirks themselves anyway. The stereotypical geek is caught in their parents’ home attic or basement all night, staring at anime hentai of some disturbing kind (except to them). To get laughed at for an attraction to feet, furries, robots or preggos (i.e. female cartoon characters have big bellies), can teach them geeks a lesson to not poke fun of others.

  37. I’m actually a little offended at the blatant wrongness of this article. Politics aside, neither I nor any of my geeky friends are least bit homophobic. Quite the opposite in fact.

  38. I think this article is right – to a degree. As someone pointed out earlier, the female geek population tends to be much less homophobic than the male geek population (not that women can’t be homophobic), perhaps because lesbianism isn’t always seen as an affront to their femininity the way male homosexuality “emasculates” men. Also, I think if you asked a good deal of the geek homophobes, a lot of them would genuinely consider themselves non-homophobic, because they somehow don’t realize that things like using the “gay” as an insult or considering lesbianism good only if it’s for male entertainment are, in fact, 100% homophobic.

    That being said, many (if not most) geeks are very stridently anti-homophobic. The LGBT group at my old school was populated almost entirely by geeks, both male and female, and my old nerd camp has a wonderful discussion group called GLOW (for Gay Lesbian Or Whatever).

    In the end, I think the problem described here comes not from Geek culture itself, which is often very welcoming to outsiders of all kinds, but rather from the overall cultural pressure on males to assert their masculinity. You’ll often find that jocks and “tough guys” are just as homophobic as the stereotypical geek, and I would argue that they are all homophobic for the exact same reason, namely the need to establish just how manly and heterosexual they are.

  39. While I identify with all TWO* of the other atricles I read, I guess I hang out in different internet circles then you. I haven’t seen that many homophobic geeks out there. Then again, I’m a bisexual geek myself, and of course I am not low on the geeky pecking order. Surely thesre’s SOME lowlier human being than me, like perhaps-
    Homophobic geeks.
    *Umm, actually, It’s “Both”. Not “All Two”.

  40. I find funny trying to blame a group of peoples that is usually met with hostility of being hostile toward another group of peoples. Like bashing those wacky, racist jews.
    Debbie Schlussel would be so proud of you.

  41. I’m a geek and I like gay people. If only because I could make a huge list of the AWESOME gays and bis there have been. Stephen Fry, Oscar Wilde, Andy Warhol, Alan Turing, NPH, Alexander the Great, Bret Easton Elis, Bowie, Lou Reed, Foucault, Wittgenstein, Plato and, erm, Lindsey Lohan…

    Homophobia is silly, but so’s saying geeks are homophobic. Some are, sure. But I imagine most aren’t.

  42. As a nerd, I could less what one’s sexuality is….as long as you don’t go around shoving it my face & telling me how I should feel about it. BTW I agree with the nerd. Seriously, no ones wants to see 2 dudes f***ing each other in the a***. That’s just gross. We don’t all agree with homosexuality & you’re just gonna have to deal with it

    Homosexuals are like hipsters. Their entire world revolves around irony. LOL Actually that’s the reasons most hipsters are homosexuals, & why nobody like them.

  43. Sorry, but this article is bollocks. There are obviously homophobic geeks, but there are homophobes in almost every culture. Maybe your only experience with people saying things are “gay” are on online forums, but when I was in high school, people who’d never dream of reading a comic book or playing an RPG were doing it as well.

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