I play basketball at noon with some UofA faculty and employees Mondays and Fridays. It is a motley crew. I'm usually the youngest one there.
The banter on the sidelines usually covers harmless ground: what the men's team is doing, who should guard whom, jokes about guys that used to play. It's not a place for intellectual debate, although the gym is in the middle of a major college campus.
Matt, a person some call "Snake" because he is an expert in snakes (and no doubt a biologist), said on the sidelines something along the lines of "We'll see if I my daughter ends up being an athlete. She's big for her age." Matt is a rather large person. Then he said, "You know, I wouldn't care if she didn't do sports, either. I try to play dolls with her, too." The mention of dolls piqued the interested of Stevie, an older African-American, who plays the point, and well. "That's good that you do that. You don't want girls getting confused." To this, Matt said something along the lines of, "Huh?"
Stevie's theory, as it were, is that young girls too interested in sports will end up being "homosexuals." The reason is because they become "confused" because they do not know "balance." I don't know how this conversation went this way, But Stevie ended up saying, "It's a choice." He meant, it's a choice to be gay or lesbian. The conversation flickered a bit. Matt said, "I just need to give her my love. I don't care if she's gay." To which Stevie responded, "You go to church?" And Matt said, "No," with a puzzled brow. Then Stevie promptly left to go shoot some baskets. Matt and Tom, an old, slow guy, continued talking about the issue in a decidedly culturally liberal way.
This episode showed me some interesting things about a topic that one of my students in my one class of English 102 (research and rhetoric) has chosen: African-Americans and homophobia. She herself is Af-Am, and will be arguing that racism and homophobia are similar phenomena. The episode showed me that churchgoing Af-Ams are probably as homophobic as the old retirees that attend my mom's church back home in Harlan, Iowa. The designation of homosexuality as a "choice" is central, because that prevents the racism/homophobia comparison. Further, and this is what is funny as I think back on it, people that believe in God in such a way as to disbelieve in evolution are likely to be homophobic. This is because God, in their view, made men to fuck women--just that simple. This point, which Stevie alluded to, was especially ironic in that Matt is a scientist. I don't know whether he's got just an MA or a PhD, probably the latter, but let me say that for some of the guys that play ball, knowledge that Matt is a snake expert does not translate into the fact that he is probably a biologist, and likely to scoff at the animistic arguments of creationism.
I haven't really gotten to why Af-Ams are surprisingly homophobic given their history of oppression because of being who they are. But I don't think I can make assertions on that point, because this is mere anecdote. Let me say this: my respect level for Stevie, who I thought a somewhat judicious personage, has dropped, tho' I still think him a good baller. And giving out oppression can be something for the (formerly) oppressed. (But I doubt any Af-Am people have not had to deal with racism.) And I know that homophobia and all other forms of hatred or fear burn and consume the heart like a disease, a constant burn that rots the inside with distrust of others.