Gay bashing is an expression used to designate verbal confrontation with, denigration of, or physical violence against people thought to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered (LGBT) because of their apparent sexual orientation or gender identity. Similar terms such as "lesbian bashing" or "queer bashing" may also be formed. A "bashing" may be a specific incident, or one could also use the verb "to bash" e.g. "I was gay bashed." As there is no foolproof way to detect a person's sexual orientation, people sometimes fall victim even if they are not LGBT, should they be perceived to conform to the relevant stereotypes.
A verbal gay bashing might take place on any street corner and use sexual slurs, expletives, intimidation, or threats of violence -— or, it might take place in a political forum and include one or more common anti-gay slogans. Passionate invective fits more closely into the general idea of gay bashing than does a calm, intellectual justification for anti-LGBT attitudes or policies. However, some people would include any expression of anti-LGBT sentiment in one or another category of "bashing".
The term can also be applied to non-verbal acts of homophobia although that application is less common.
Gospel of Matthew
In Byrne Fone's book Homophobia: A History, the author explores the theory that Matthew 5:22 from the Bible contains a reference to verbal gay bashing. The word "raca" is often translated as "fool", and sometimes refers to one who deserves to be spat upon, or was sometimes used to insult homosexuals. If this is the case, then Jesus is warning of hell fire for those who engage in verbal gay bashing as part of the Sermon on the Mount, and the warning is even harsher than Jesus' pronouncement about murder in Matthew 5:21. (Fone's book, by the way, gives a global and a broad historical overview of gay bashing.)
Gay bashing was especially serious in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when many gays were forced out of government by boards set up by presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. As historian David K. Johnson explains:
The Lavender Scare helped fan the flames of the Red Scare. In popular discourse, communists and homosexuals were often conflated. Both groups were perceived as hidden subcultures with their own meeting places, literature, cultural codes, and bonds of loyalty. Both groups were thought to recruit to their ranks the psychologically weak or disturbed. And both groups were considered immoral and godless. Many people believed that the two groups were working together to undermine the government.
Johnson concludes that Senator Joe McCarthy, notorious for his attacks on alleged Communists in government, was often pressured by his allies to denounce homosexuals in government, but he resisted and did not do so. Using rumors collected by Drew Pearson one Nevada publisher wrote in 1952 that both McCarthy and his chief counsel, Roy Cohn, were homosexuals. Washington Post editor Benjamin C. Bradlee said, "There was a lot of time spent investigating" these allegations, "although no one came close to proving it." No reputable McCarthy biographer has accepted it as probable.
- University of Chicago Press: An interview with David K. Johnson
- After McCarthy called him an ex-Communist, Hank Greenspun wrote: "It is common talk among homosexuals in Milwaukee who rendezvous in the White Horse Inn that Senator Joe McCarthy has often engaged in homosexual activities." Las Vegas Sun October 25, 1952. McCarthy later explained he meant to call Greenspun an ex-convict (which was true), rather than an ex-Communist (which was false).
- The allegations are specifically rejected in Richard Rovere, Senator Joe McCarthy (1969), p. 68; see also Robert D. Dean, Imperial Brotherhood: Gender and the Making of Cold War Foreign Policy (2001) p. 149 (includes Bradlee quote); Kyle A. Cuordileone, Manhood and American Political Culture in the Cold War (2003), p. 94; Thomas Patrick Doherty, Cold War, Cool Medium: Television, McCarthyism, and American Culture, (2003), p. 228. Geoff Schumacher, Sun, Sin & Suburbia: An Essential History of Modern Las Vegas (2004), p. 144, concludes, "Greenspun descended into mud-spewing rhetoric that would make the National Enquirer blanch."
- Boswell, John. Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century (1980)
- K. A. Cuordileone, "'Politics in an Age of Anxiety': Cold War Political Culture and the Crisis in American Masculinity," Journal of American History 87.2 (2000): 515–45, in JSTOR
- John D'Emilio, "The Homosexual Menace: The Politics of Sexuality in Cold War America," in Passion and Power: Sexuality in History, ed. Kathy Peiss and Christina Simmons (Temple University Press, 1989), 226–40
- Edsall, Nicholas C. Toward Stonewall: Homosexuality and Society in the Modern Western World. U. of Virginia Press, 2003. 384 pp.
- John D'Emilio and Estelle B. Freedman. Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America (1998)
- Fone, Byrne. Homophobia: A History (2001)
- Hatheway, Jay. The Gilded Age Construction of Modern American Homophobia. Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. 232 pp.
- Valerie Jenness and Kimberly D. Richman, "Ant-Gay and Lesbian Violence and Its Discontents," in Diane Richardson, and Steven Seidman, eds. Handbook of Lesbian and Gay Studies (2002) pp 403+
- Valerie Jenness and Ryken Grattet. Making Hate a Crime: From Social Movement to Law Enforcement (2001)
- David K. Johnson, The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government (University of Chicago Press, 2004).
- Martin Kantor. Homophobia: Description, Development, and Dynamics of Gay Bashing (1998)
- Minton, Henry L. Departing from Deviance: A History of Homosexual Rights and Emancipatory Science in America. U. of Chicago Press, 2002. 344 pp.
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