Despite the hard work of gay activists, the evidence of science, and the new visibility of gays and lesbians, homophobic stereotypes persist. Fearsome and terrible notions of homosexuality still seize the popular imagination. They find continual expression in popular culture, politics and the law. Every queer person is forced to live with the knowledge that homosexuality is much more than the ordinary, enduring fact of same-sex sexual preference. Our difference is also a cultural construction that gathers a bewildering complex of allusions and associations. We can refuse these meanings. We can advocate for ordinariness, and look to the normalization of homosexuality for safety to live our mundane lives in peace. Or we can amplify the symbolic resonance of queer identities, explore and expand our capacities, and use these gifts to transform the culture that would confine us.
Contents of the Dictionary
This dictionary focuses on 35 Figures and Attributes that can be described as recognizable homophobic stereotypes. An image and a short text under each entry explore its symbolic content. Through links and the search function, each symbol can be studied in greater depth. Figures and attributes are listed alphabetically at right.
The system of symbolic meanings history has constellated around homosexuality cannot be explained away and disposed of. Symbols are illogical, unreasonable, and tremendously powerful. In the language of images, there are no equivalents. There is no “this” or “that” which can define an archetype. Attending to symbols uses our intuition and evokes our creativity, because symbols work through rhythm, rhyme, and paradox.
stereotypes link a gay man with EFFEMINACY,
and simultaneously represent him as man doubled, and hence more fearsome
than other men, potentially a PREDATOR
or PEDOPHILE. A lesbian
is seen as a WITCH who
represents women’s power and sexuality in ANGRY
opposition to the patriarchal order. Yet through this very process she
is seen as MASCULINE. Homosexuals
are often represented as SUFFERING,
and conversely we are described as CLOWNS.
We are called UNNATURAL
and also castigated as ANIMAL
and WILD. All profound
symbols have this quality of paradox; they simultaneously grasp
opposites and refer to an interconnected whole.
Attending to symbols, we enter the illogical realm of unintentional content. Here the deepest insights cannot be thought up or deciphered. They must grow into the air from forgotten depths, nourished by fluidity and connectedness.