At a march on Friday, March 30, honoring Daniel Zamudio’s memory, I saw a young man holding a sign that said, “Casi fui un Zamudio.” (I was almost a Zamudio.) The sign also showed a picture of him with blood and bruises on his face. A year ago, he was beaten for being gay. The young man’s friend held a sign that said, “La heterosexualidad impuesta es el Nazismo.” (Imposed heterosexuality is Nazism.) Both men wore black scarves with pink triangles tied around their foreheads. (Homosexuals were forced to wear pink triangles in Nazi concentration camps.) At that same march, various chants and random shouts called for “death to those putos Nazis.”
In the recent news headlines, Facebook and Twitter feeds, and marches lamenting the violent attack against Daniel Zamudio and his death on March 27, homophobia and neo-Nazism have, in many cases, become synonymous. Many people in Chile have struggled to understand the brutality of the assault on Zamudio, a 24-year-old Chilean man who was beaten on March 3 in a Santiago park by four men–including one neo-Nazi –only for being gay. Yet many have, in the process, latched onto the symbolism of Nazism and neo-Nazism, which connotes extreme intolerance and violence, while the nuances of homophobia (and neo-Nazism, for that matter) have become cloudy. I discussed how these ideas were linked, but also distinct, in my original post on Daniel Zamudio (click here). But I would like to be a bit more explicit about why it is important to understand this:
Homophobia and homophobic violence are not just attitudes and actions that neo-Nazis are capable of, and to lump them into the category of neo-Nazism without discretion actually does more harm than good. It doesn’t necessarily make homophobes think, “Oh, I don’t want to be like the neo-Nazis, so I will change my attitude.” It is more likely to make them think, “Well, I’m not like those crazy neo-Nazis. I just make fun of gay people/don’t think gay people should have the right to get married/think gay people are gross, going to hell, etc. I’m not intolerant; I just have my own opinions.”
And neo-Nazism is not just about homophobia. In Chile especially, neo-Nazis have posed a great threat to the Peruvian immigrant community—not just homosexuals. Neo-Nazism in Chile is about “protecting” the “raza chilena” or “Chilean race,” as I mentioned in my earlier post, and homophobia forms a part of that. And there is much more we need to learn about it.
It is important to remember, also, that only one of Zamudio’s attackers is a professed neo-Nazi. But even if all four were neo-Nazis, it still should not obscure the fact that homophobia, whether coupled with neo-Nazism or not, is dangerous in its own right. While we should, of course, be keenly aware of the problem neo-Nazism, we should also be vigilant against the homophobia that infects each of us—not just those putos Nazis.