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Homophobia hurts straight men, too

The suicide of college freshman Tyler Clementi painfully spotlights the dire consequences of homophobic bullying on gay men. But a homophobic culture that condemns male affection and emotion as "gay" hurts all men – and our culture at large.

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In the 1986 movie Stand By Me, an adult protagonist – played by Richard Dreyfuss – looks back wistfully on the friendships he formed in his youth. “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve,” he muses. “Does anyone?”

For most American men, the sad answer is “no.” In surveys, men report that they rarely sustain intimate, long-standing friendships with other males after childhood. And the reason might surprise you: According to a large body of research, they’re afraid of being seen as gay.

I thought of this research as I read about the death of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after a roommate secretly filmed Clementi’s sexual encounter with another man and posted the clip online. Clementi died by himself, but he wasn’t alone: Since the school term began in September, three other adolescent boys around the country also committed suicide following taunts from classmates about their sexual orientation.

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