As a final-year student of History, my project fieldwork was set in my village. So I had to travel down there to get the work done.
I got home after dark, and went to put my things away in my room. There wasn’t any power, so I had to use the torchlight to find my way about the room.
Then I saw it! Upon first gaze, it looked like that spider that Hogwarts’ Professor Moody engorged to practice the three Unforgivable Curses on in the Harry Potter movie, Goblet of Fire. Then I looked closer, as close as I could get away with from the distance I’d involuntarily put between us, and I took note of its weird pincer-like features and the gradual movement of its multitudinous limbs on the wall. There was something suddenly unnerving about the spider.
I watched it move from the side of my bed toward my open wardrobe. Its locomotion was a slow scramble. I waited till it was halfway into the wardrobe and then slammed the door shut, effectively crushing it against the door jamb.
Good riddance, I thought, satisfied with elimination of the enemy.
The next morning, Mother came to my room. We were conversing, when I told her about the spider. I went to open my wardrobe, to show her what I hoped was going to be the creature’s cadaver. It was however not to be so, for the spider was surprisingly still alive. It wriggled a bit right there on the floor, a defiant statement to me of its aliveness. That intrigued me. For one short moment, the fact that it was still alive made me want to pick it up and put it away outside, hoping Nature help with its survival.
But that short moment passed when Mother promptly instructed me to get it into a bag and squash the life out of it. She picked up a small nylon bag from among my things on the bed and waved it at me to get the job over and done with. I mean, we couldn’t just have these pests alive and well in our house, could we? So I did her bidding, and moments later, the spider was well and truly dead.
It was on my way to the trash, that an epiphany dawned on me. I’d killed a spider. The reasons for this dawned on me like a light bulb snapping on in my head. I’d killed a spider for two reasons. There was FEAR. I’d been afraid of how dangerous it would be to let such a potentially poisonous insect wander about in my room. I was afraid of what would happen if I let the spider be. I was afraid because I didn’t know enough about spiders to simply let this one be. And then, there was PRESSURE. I’d wanted to let it live, but Mother had urged me to kill it properly. And in spite of myself, I did.
This incident gave me an understanding I didn’t have before.
I killed a spider. And at last, I understood the Homophobe. I killed that spider, and finally understood Homophobia. The prevailing human sentiment in the face of the unknown or that which is different is not curiosity. It is fear – stark and naked. Our survival instincts kick in once we are faced with the unknown, driven by a fear for its perceived unpredictability. And we react in tandem with our primordial instincts – either run from it or kill it. Most of the time, to assuage that fear, we tend toward the latter as a way of proving our strength and superiority over that which we don’t know. This is the real reason behind homophobia.
The LGBT community constitutes a very minimal percentage of the average society. And in it is a varied mix of sexual orientations, all of which come together to make up a community that time and stern bylaws have created no real understanding for. Time and these bylaws are the factors that govern the average society, that moulds and conditions it and its citizenry. And then, into the light comes this as-yet insignificant community perceived as an anomaly by the general population. In the face of the perceived invasion, the primordial instinct kicks in. Either run from it or kill it. But then, why run, when it is just a small part of the population? Why run when we are superior to them? Why run when we have the backing of our traditions and cultures and beliefs? Why run when we have everything and they have nothing?
So the homophobe kills instead. He knows fear in the face of the threat and he kills.
But sometimes, the fear is not enough. Sometimes, there’s the pressure to do what he must. Even when one has no leaning toward being adversarial, there is oftentimes a push to be so from his environment. Curiosity and a propensity for understanding get erased in the face of capitulation to the demand of the prevailing community. In their place comes the desire to do that which has been mandated. And the man who may have harboured love for his neighbour or the woman who may have listened to the plight of her colleague get turned into zombies, kowtowing to the will of the society.
And so the homophobe kills. He feels pressure from his environment in the face of the threat and he kills.
I believe homophobia won’t know any end, until mankind learns to give up its adversarial disposition toward that which it neither knows nor understands, toward that which is different. Hate is not inborn. Hate is something we learn as we grow to be the appropriate reaction to the unknown, and as such, is something we have to unlearn. Perhaps, the answer to the prayer in this write-up lies in making people see that difference is not to be feared but understood, not to be killed but encouraged, not to be stifled but allowed to thrive. After all, variety, they say, is the spice of life. Variations exist in nature and the LGBT community is one of such magnificent variations. Maybe teaching people this will help. I don’t know for sure. I can only hope.
I’m learning too. I began learning when I killed a spider.
Written by Mitch