Unlearning Homophobia with Billy Korinko

 

BY MICHELLE PONCELET

 

In what he called a “facilitated conversation,” Billy Korinko led participants at the Cassandra Voss Center on the subject of homophobia on Thursday, March 13. Korinko was a St. Norbert grad of ‘09 and is a current lecturer and PhD candidate at the University of Kentucky for Gender and Women’s Studies.

Korinko began by remarking on the Cassandra Voss Center itself, as he knew Cassandra Voss herself personally.

“Being in this space is really exciting for me,” he said, “This space makes sense to a lot of people.”

Korinko’s primary goal for the evening was to start thinking about “what we can do individually to bring about change” and to start “a concrete conversation about homophobia at SNC.”

However, he wanted to stress that these issues are not unique to SNC and that his goal was not in any way to “vilify SNC.”

Korinko started by telling the journey of his own understanding of homophobia. Talking about the moment when he first realized his brother was gay, Korinko talked about his awareness and that he had some “really deep seated things in my mind that I had to exorcise out.”

The problem with homophobia, said Korinko, is that it’s “…easy to talk as if it exists halfway around the globe. It’s an easy temptation to deflect to conversation away from what’s going on here.”

According to Korinko, the problem particularly lies in the term “homophobia itself,” which should mean a fear of homosexuality, but our understanding of it isn’t at all about fear.

Thinking of homophobia as a system in which “tiny moments” make “heterosexual privilege evident,” Korinko had participants talk to their neighbors about such moments they had experienced or heard about at SNC.

When meeting as a large group, participants talked about many factors to homophobia, such as some troubling experiences where someone was derogatively called “queer” or when fellow students refuse to open conversation about homosexuality, when students are considered “straight until proven otherwise” or when there are instances of “No Homo anxiety.”

At the end of the talk, Korinko referenced his “invisible knapsack of privilege,” certain characteristics that he benefits from without doing anything.

“Conversation about homophobia is good,” but to Korinko, the subject needs to be discussed for a series: “We can’t check the box on the homophobia conversation.”

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