Homophobia and Oppression
I probably would have never known about “Pink Triangles”, a documentary about homophobia and oppression had I not met someone who worked on the film which is part of Cambridge Documentary Films. This is an educational film that was produced by nine men and women, health workers, social workers, historians, people from the media and art straight and gay and their aim here is to explore and examine the roots of oppression of people who are marginalized; not part of mainstream society. This was one of the earliest and one of the first to look seriously at the growth of homophobia in America and it makes us aware of the dangers of “scapegoating” and how it can cause violence.
Things have changed since the film was made and keeping in mind that it was made in Cambridge, Massachusetts where homophobia was not a major issue does not make it any less significant. It is a valuable resource and teaching tool for places not as diverse and free as Massachusetts and after living in Arkansas, I can certainly see how it could help the situation there. Interestingly enough, few Arkansans will admit to being homophobic or that homophobia actually exists in the state and they simply do not understand that subliminal messages are just as dangerous and hurtful as verbal. Unfortunately, as long as there is humankind, there will be hate, intolerance and prejudice and while learning about it will not make it go away, it opens our eyes and hopefully makes us think enough before we engage in any form of hateful behavior.
While the film addresses homophobia specifically, it is likewise a careful look at discrimination and oppression. It examines the historical and contemporary patterns of hatred and persecution and does so with regard to race, religion, politics and sexuality and especially to those who have been called out as “different”, “abnormal” and “inferior”. These are the usual victims of “scapegoating”.
Some of the ideas looked at in the film include:
- The research of a German born historian who escaped the Nazi imprisonment of homosexuals and returned to investigate the plight of many thousands who suffered in the concentration camps wearing the Nazi insignia for gay men — the pink triangle.
- Discussions with mental health and health care providers who are struggling to change institutional biases against lesbians and gay men.
- Historical material from the McCarthy hearings and the pontifications of the “Christian Right.”
- Perspectives of parents who have confronted their feelings about their children’s homosexuality.
- Ideas of educators, authors and activists concerning the political motivation for homophobic attitudes and the enforcement of rigid sex roles in our culture.
- A Gay Speakers Bureau discussion about sexuality with a group of high school students.