"A black woman once said to me in a workshop, `When I fought for Civil Rights, I always had my family and community to fall back on even when they didn't fully understand or accept what I was doing. I don't know if I could have borne losing them. And you people don't have either with you. It takes my breath away." - Suzanne Pharr, "Homophobia and Sexism"
It truly is amazing what the gay and lesbian and bisexual individual has to endure: the lack of family and community support, the violence that society condones and the general blame and taboo placed upon their lifestyles. At least minorities and women were not called "wrong" to be what they were. It is a scary world for homosexuals, because of rampant ignorance and the pervasive fear with being associated with them.
A good friend of mine is a lesbian and a cross-dresser. She received endless amounts of taunting, posturing, name-calling, and threats, simply because she chose the look and dress of a traditional masculine style. At one point in my life, while I was working in a stuffy kitchen in a restaurant that reached over 100 degrees every day, I decided to shave off my hair. I was in a supportive enough community for it: other women in the restaurant had done the same for the same reasons, although some had done it as a statement. But when I ventured outside of my politically-progressive community, I was taunted - people had more audacity with me than when I had longer hair. They were threatened by the change, by a sense of ambiguousness. Children would ask their mothers: is that a boy or a girl? Women would be horrified when I entered the bathroom. My stint looking asexual was short-lived: at times I couldn't stand the pressure, so I would wear dresses and hats. My boyfriend thought the attention was ridiculous because, as he put it, I "still had a woman's body." But my boyfriend missed the point. Whether I had a "woman's" body, a "man's" body, or some body along the continuum, there is no reason for anyone to feel threatened by ambiguousness.
The real issue is the dualistic paradigm this society lives under. It's them or us, black or white, good or evil. Therefore, heterosexuals are "good", homosexuals "evil." As Lisa Deboer writes in her essay, "Living My Life: Thoughts on Sexual Identity", "Because bisexuality is not a polar opposite, like heterosexuality and homosexuality, it's harder to define." Society is threatened by something they cannot label. Society is threatened by "other."
Unfortunately, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans-gendered people are mistreated as "lepers" - to associate with them is to "become one" of them. Many are afraid of being labeled "gay" or "lesbian", "dyke" or "faggot", even if their sexual orientation is heterosexual. Those weaker-minded act (or react) on this fear by bullying homosexuals. It is their way of asserting that they are not associated with them, though they act on a deeply internalized fear that they might be homosexual as well.