Homophobia on the Global Level

The International Studies Public Forum welcomed guest speaker Professor Michael Bosia to speak on the concept of global homophobia on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 in Social Sciences Plaza A. The lecture was titled, “Threat Level Pink: State Homophobia and the Invention of an LGBT Menace.”

Patrick Herrin | Photo Intern

Patrick Herrin | Photo Intern

 

An associate professor of political science at St. Michael’s College, Bosia is also the author of “Global Homophobia: States, Movements and the Politics of Political Oppression.” The book describes homophobia as a “distinct configuration of repressive state-sponsored policies and practices with their own causes, explanations and effects on how sexualities are understood and experienced in a variety of national contexts.” In other words, “homophobia” is defined and created by politics and varies between nations.

Bosia opened the lecture summarizing countries that have anti-gay laws. “This wave of homophobia is reflected in a variety of different things. You have people convicted of engaging in homosexuality, primarily sex between men, in Iran. It’s a capitol offense and is punishable by hanging.” He also touched on Russia’s most recent anti-gay policy, which was a bill signed this past June by President Vladimir Putin. It bans the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors.”

Bosia then looked at the roots of homophobia in different countries around the world, with politics often being the source. “Political homophobia,” the primary reason for homophobia, “is a personal manifestation authorized by the state.”

He then explained this trend with the term heteronormativity, which is when the “government promotes heterosexual ideals like marriage and opens them to gays.” Therefore many laws and campaigns by governments targeting the LGBT community are part of a social engineering program by state governments.

Bosia shared some stories and information about the fieldwork he did with his husband in Uganda pertaining to his book. He explained how the government and the media target the LGBT community there.

“The National Enquirer is the only form of the press. It is always outing gay people. Uganda essentially uses homophobia to support the mission of the state.”

Despite the anti-gay sentiments of the Ugandan government, many citizens actually express the complete opposite.

Bosia stressed, “It’s not an oppressive homophobic environment. These state leaders are working different from the actual society. They’re autocrats so what they’re doing doesn’t reflect what people think but rather what they want people to think.”

He exemplified this with a whimsical anecdote, in which he noted that when he and his husband were walking down a road in Uganda, citizens were shouting, “Muzunga!” This means “white person.” The people were in fact more entertained by the fact that they were white rather than gay.