Decoding the "Homosexual" Frame

I just read this entry on DailyKos about how the Political Radical Right is using prejudice and bigotry against gay people to fuel their money machines. Ok, the post was about what kind of people Terry Schiavo's parents are selling their supporter list to. But what caught my attention was the use of the bigotry. But from a framing point of view, something else was also noticeable: the radical right wing extremists almost always capitalize 'Homosexuals' in their communications to their "base." Always. It's Homosexuals. Never 'homosexuals.' Even though as a matter of grammer, if the word doesn't appear at the begining of a sentence, it should not be capitalized. So the question is why is it? Is it an accident? Accidents don't happen every time. Is it just a style they use? Well, do they always write 'Women' or 'Children'? Nope, that's not it. What I believe it is is a very calculated and directed move. You see, capitalizing in written communications gives it a special effect. It's depicted like some kind of an artificial organization (all organizations, by definition are man-made, and therefore artificial), instead of a natural group of people. It's like 'Republicans' or 'Democrats' or 'Christians' or 'Al Queda' or 'Ku Klux Klan'. Capitalization is applied to a well-defined group that some people decided to put together when one did not exist naturally. This serves a purpose: reinforcing their claim that 'Homosexuals' are a crazy special interest lobby group in Washington, DC and capitols around the US and more importantly, not actually natural, normal people. Yes, of course this is misleading, but that's the point. This all serves their agenda perfectly. The radical conservative right (or the Radical Conservative Right) is in trouble if their "base" starts perceiving gay people as people. They know as well as anyone that Americans are a compassionate people, and once people start realizing that gay people are real people just like themselves who wake up in the morning, drink coffee, go to work or school, have families, care about their loved ones and are contributing members of society, there will be no place of bigotry. This happened during the women's rights movement, and more recently the civil rights movement. Americans are predisposed against injustice, and objectifying - the tactic used against both women and blacks (and really, all colored people) - is the only way the Radical Right Bigots (yup, you guessed it, the capitalization was intentional) can continue to push their agenda. In this way, they are no different from those who opposed women's sufferage (some of these wingnuts still do), or the KKK. Once you objectify, it's easy to institutionalize. So now the gay people are the 'Homosexuals' who are a lobby that is well funded and "powerful" (where the hell do they get this stuff anyway? Oh yes, as Al Franken would say, they pull it out of their butts) and are working against the beliefs of conservatives. This obscure distant lobby organization wants to dismantle the family. They want to poison your kids' minds. They are monsters who are destroying America. And the whole bashing list goes on and on and on... But, there is more to it. And this is probably more important than the written frame because talking heads are talking ALL THE TIME! Look at spoken word (as opposed to written) the word 'homosexual', which is what the right wing always uses to the complete exclusion of the term 'gay people' or the term 'LGBT' while speaking. Why? Because that use humanizes the people of minority sexual orientations, and the Radical Right's agenda is to demonize them. 'Gay', 'lesbian', 'bisexual', 'transgender' are all nutral, rather than inflamatory, terms, and all of them, in the public consciousness, differentiate but do not demonize. On the other hand the use of the word 'homosexual' (I have no problem with the term) invokes a religious and cultural connotation, a negative one - especially for the right wing base, but also for most other Americans. This is because of the sexual reference, and most people don't like the idea of homosexual sex (well duh! most people happen to be heterosexuals), and it disgusts people by triggering off the frame of sex. Therefore, it instantly makes it about the sex, and never about the people. It's also entrenched in the public consciousness - which, incidentally, the right wing has framed for 40 years - the public frame. So there you have it, decoding the 'homosexual' frame, both in written and verbal form. So the job of progressives and liberals who are interested in justice is now to (1) be aware of this frame, (2) reframe by using words like 'gay people', 'LGBT people' (always keep the focus on people), (3) once you have broken the frame of sex and got back to the frame of people, start emphasizing justice, fairness, and equality as deeply held values, and (4) turn the table on the right wing by calling them (whether in so many words is your choice) bigots, anti-justice, and yes, thereby anti-American. At least, that's my idea of it. What do you think?


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