Graphic by Christopher Ikonomou (Xe/He)
*This article is a modern analysis of the themes and content of “Sleeping With The Homophobe“ (Fall 2000), the tenth installment of our From The Archive series.*
So, really, how gay is California?
Jordan, the author of the initial article “Sleeping with the Homophobe” from 2000, is a homosexual man who was looking forward to moving out of the Bible belt and going to liberal SoCal for college, where he could be out and himself in an accepting space. So he enrolled at Pepperdine University, where he made the unfortunate discovery many queer people coming to California do: it’s not the giant, liberal, hippie state where all the gays come to congregate. Acceptance for queer people is few and far between, even in liberal California. Jordan luckily found out that Westwood is one of the mostly-safe havens for the LGBTQ+ community and visited for his social life outside of his studies at Pepperdine. Thankfully, Jordan found his outlet, but his story illustrates the wake-up call a lot of people go through when they find out that even in some of the “gayest” of California cities — Los Angeles and San Francisco — we still sleep with the homophobes.
Though not as homophobic as the Deep South, I grew up in a city on the outskirts of the San Francisco Bay Area, and throughout my childhood and teenage years, I heard the same rhetoric Jordan’s roommate used. It mostly came from classmates, talking about how they could not believe a fag was running for class president while carving swastikas into their desks, amongst other hateful things. Fortunately, these classmates weren’t also my roommates, so I wasn’t sleeping with the homophobe. Rather, I was using them as study motivation to get out of that city. I told myself if I studied hard enough, I could get out of that hateful place, and I’d never have to hear about how my sexuality goes against the Bible again. Like Jordan, I believed that if I studied in Southern California, I could be as homosexual as I wanted.
So I did it, I studied hard and got out, now I’m living in Westwood and walking around in sneakers that have QUEER written their sides. Jordan would probably be happy to know that the campus has grown a lot more tolerant, and I never get crap for my shoes. However, I do feel the same kind of duty for my hometown and high school that Jordan felt for Pepperdine — I left to save myself, but what about the people I left behind? I know that I could’ve done more for the LGBTQ+ community while living in my hometown, but I was more focused on escape than anything else. Maybe, had I stayed and tried to spread awareness and host events to help my community, I could’ve combatted the homophobia at school, but just the thought of dealing with the homophobes makes me tired, let alone trying to change their minds.
Jordan’s bigot roommate is not a rare occurrence in California; these bigots realized their opinions have fallen out of popular thought and learned how to hide so they wouldn’t become outcasts and labeled as hateful. They aren’t rare and still exist, but their hatred is saved for later, they keep as a treat. They would never tell you they think your lifestyle is wrong right off the bat, but they would tell you about finding Jesus after you and your same-sex partner split ways. In a way, since Jordan’s time, the roles have reversed but not the power dynamics. Now, in California, we have hidden homophobes, they hide their hatred for the sake of maintaining appearances, but when they go to the voting booths, they vote for the senator promising to “bring back traditional values” and ban queer books. The hidden homophobe knows that they can’t be as vocal about their hatred as they used to, so now they keep their opinions “in the closet” while waiting for the time when their hatred is tolerated in California public opinion once again. The hidden homophobe loves places like my California hometown, a place where they know there are enough of them to get away with their homophobia, but also know that they would face repercussions the moment they talked like that outside of that place.
So maybe Jordan and I could have done more to change our conservative California cities, but how do you address the hidden homophobe? The one who befriends you and later betrays you, tells you about how they love the person but hate the sin, the one who didn’t encourage your classmates to say the slurs but secretly agreed with them instead. In Jordan’s time, the hidden homophobe was rarer because the homophobe was popular and had fewer consequences to fear in the 2000s. Back then, the homophobe could be loud and would be applauded, but now, in most parts of California, the homophobe would be booed.
But the booing doesn’t always change the homophobe’s mind. Sometimes it pushes the homophobe into a corner where they seek out their own internet niche full of other people who think like them, getting caught in an echo chamber full of hatred. The homophobe has learned how to hide and how to do it well.
Jordan’s article really makes me wonder which people have actually changed their attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community and which hidden homophobes went back into their own closet.
Author: Mia Riedel (She/Her)
Artist: Christopher Ikonomou (Xe/He)
Copy Editor: Bella (She/They)