September 16, 2006

Wedding Bells in the Spanish Air Force

Posted at 10:36 am (Pacific Time)

Yesterday marked an historic milestone in Spain. Two male soldiers were married in a civil ceremony presided over by the mayor of Seville. According to the Associated Press, “the Defense Ministry has said it considers the wedding a personal matter and the men will be allowed to continue with their careers.”

The Spanish military’s response makes sense. As documented in several reports by the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at UC Santa Barbara, openly gay and lesbian personnel have been successfully integrated into the militaries of England, Canada, Australia, and other countries without major problems. Similar conclusions were reached in a 1993 study by the RAND Corporation.

The wedding in Spain is a reminder that a national government can successfully grant equal marriage rights and allow sexual minorities to serve in its armed forces if it chooses to do so. The 4500 same-sex couples who have wed in Spain during the past year don’t pose a threat to the marriages of heterosexual Spaniards, And although some of the newly wedded soldiers’ comrades in arms might not like the fact that they’re married (or gay), their personal disapproval won’t make the Spanish military less able to accomplish its mission.

Copyright © 2006 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.

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September 15, 2006

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Redux

Posted at 3:12 pm (Pacific Time)

Yesterday the New York Times reported on renewed efforts to repeal the US military’s ban on openly gay and lesbian personnel (“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” or DADT).

Despite strong public support for allowing sexual minorities to serve, and even though most of our allies no longer restrict service in their militaries on the basis of sexual orientation, the Department of Defense (DoD) continues to argue that DADT is necessary. As in the past, its current justification for the policy is that the presence of openly gay and lesbian personnel would interfere with the military’s ability to accomplish its mission.

The essence of the DoD’s rationale is that the problem isn’t really about homosexual personnel. Rather, it’s heterosexual servicemembers and military leadership. Heterosexuals have so much antipathy for gay people, so the Pentagon believes, that they’d be unable and unwilling to serve alongside them. Moreover, the DoD claims it is powerless to prevent this hostility from interfering with the military mission. Read the rest of this entry »

Copyright © 2006 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.

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September 14, 2006

Beyond Homophobia

Posted at 5:17 pm (Pacific Time)

Welcome to Beyond Homophobia, a blog by Gregory Herek. I’ll be commenting here on recent news events and public policy related to sexual orientation, with a focus on how research from the social and behavioral sciences can inform current debates and discussions in this arena.

Why “Beyond Homophobia”? Homophobia was coined in the 1960s by psychologist George Weinberg. The term proved to be tremendously influential in reframing society’s thinking about sexual orientation. It helped many people to articulate their newfound understanding that homosexuality wasn’t the problem; rather, the real problem was prejudice against those who aren’t heterosexual.

Despite its importance, homophobia has serious limitations as a term and a concept. Primary among these are the assumptions it conveys. Homophobia implies that hostility toward sexual minorities is a disease rather than a form of prejudice, and that its ultimate source is irrational fear (a “phobia”). Although fear can play a role in prejudice, many other emotions are involved as well. And prejudice is not purely a matter of emotion. It can reflect deeply felt values and belief systems, as well as power struggles and conflicts among groups in the larger culture.

Today, four decades after the creation of homophobia, we need a new way of thinking about the prejudice and stigma that are still directed at sexual minorities. In my own writings, I have begun to utilize the terms sexual prejudice and sexual stigma to describe these phenomena. I’m not crusading to have these terms replace homophobia in popular discourse, but I believe they can be useful in pushing us to think about the problem of hostility against sexual minorities in new ways.

I plan to use this weblog to share my thoughts about sexual prejudice and its relationship to cultural events and public policy. I will also report interesting findings from behavioral and social science research — my own and that of others — in a way that I hope nonresearchers will find informative and useful. I hope my comments here can contribute to the work of advocates and activists who are trying to eradicate sexual prejudice.

Please stay tuned!

Copyright © 2006 by Gregory M. Herek. All rights reserved.

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