This post follows what I was writing about last week, where those who seek to oppres equality chose the words “homosexual” and “homosexuality” intentionally instead of talking about gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans folk. By trying to focus on homosexuality, they seek to portray it as a disease or a condition-= one way they use to other people who do not conform to their notion of acceptability. The linked story is about a town outside of Palm Springs, where an openly gay man ran and won a city council race.

The quote below is troubling for several reasons.

City Council candidate Scott Hines won his election last night by just 11 votes, beating back anti-gay attacks that referred to openly gay candidates as “infecting” the city.

The linked blog picks up on one, which is a relationship to AIDS. Hines spoke to this saying:

“I am very saddened for many of my friends in this valley who live with HIV and that someone would make light of (their condition), or say if you are friends with a gay person, you infect others,” Hines told the Sun this week.

There are 2 implications here. First, that all gay men have AIDS, or as he puts it, that
AIDS can be transmitted simply by knowing someone who is gay. But I don’t believe either of these capture the real meaning of the attack.

The attack is equating being gay itself as a disease, not with AIDS specifically, and making an insinuation about how gays invade and take over. This positions the conservative/ family values types as the victims and the invasive infection homosexuals as the perpetrators.

This tactic of turning the tables to make the oppressors out to be the victims isn’t really new, but it is being used with greater frequency, and accomplishes two things. It deflects attention away from their own horrific behavior, as well as frames the issue so that they seem like the vulnerable and hurting ones.

But perhaps more importantly, is this notion of infection. Bacteria, viruses, and other “bugs that can’t be seen” cause infection. By framing it as an infection, it amplifies the fear to be provoked. Remember the level of hysteria surrounding NIHI? However, this is truly offensive. It would be bad enough for the conservatives to bad mouth Scott Hines and his politics. But to treat him as less than human- as if he were a disease itself, is horrific.

A good exploration of the language of disease is Susan Sontag’s books, AIDS and Its Metaphors, and Illness as Metaphor. » Anti-gay campaign fails in city council race.

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