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What Is ‘Homophobia’ Anyway?

Homophobic until proven tolerant, it seems like we're all bigots unless we sanction and celebrate homosexuality.

Walter Hudson


February 17, 2014 - 10:00 am
There's a message we can all get behind.

There’s a message we can all get behind.

Our own Bethany Mandel highlights the contrast in expectations placed upon African-Americans versus most everyone else when it comes to homophobia. Asking “Where Is It Still Acceptable to Be Homophobic?,” she points to attitudes expressed in the hip-hop community, a demographic breakdown of election results from California’s infamous Proposition 8, and an anecdote which indicates other minority groups get a free pass when criticizing homosexuality.

While the case for hypocrisy rests, what struck me as more troubling was the use of the word “homophobic” in reference to voting for traditional marriage or refusing to associate with homosexuals. This word – homophobic – has rapidly become an acceptable way to describe anything less than enthusiastic acceptance of homosexuality, which leads me to wonder. What is “homophobia” anyway?

We can get all etymological about it and break the word down to its constituent parts. Obviously, “homo” references homosexuality. “Phobia” means fear. So I guess a strict interpretation would be fear of homosexuals.

But that doesn’t really fit its dominant usage in the culture. How many people are actually afraid of homosexuals in the phobic sense? It does not follow that a vote against gay marriage indicates fear of homosexuals.

The rhetorical weight lent to the word “homophobe” places it on a connotative par with the word “racist.” Yet we would not call a racist a “blackophobe” or some such. While the racist may fear the object of his racism, fear does not define racism. Irrational beliefs about racial determinism define racism. The racist judges his race superior to another, and limits his assessment of individuals to racial stereotypes.

Are we talking about something similar when we speak of homophobia? Does the homophobe judge himself a higher order of human being than the homosexual? Does the homophobe limit their assessment of homosexual individuals to cultural stereotypes?

Undoubtedly, there are those who think homosexuals of lesser value than heterosexuals, or who rush to stereotypical judgment against homosexuals. Such thought and conduct proves as irrational and distasteful as racism.

However, we should distinguish between those negative attitudes and the kind of moral sanction which seems increasingly necessary to ward off accusations of homophobia. It’s one thing to expect acceptance of homosexuals as equal in their humanity and worthy of individual consideration. It’s quite another to expect celebration or endorsement of homosexual activity.

If we accept the connotative equivalence of “racism” and “homophobia,” then we must conclude that it is not homophobic to deny sanction of gay marriage, or to disassociate with homosexuals, or to believe and teach that homosexuality is a sin. Indeed, the same free association argument which fuels the movement for gay marriage necessitates tolerance of countervailing conscience.

Failure to love my blackness does not make you a racist. Likewise, failure to love homosexuality should not make you a homophobe.

Walter Hudson advocates for individual rights, serving on the board of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota, and as president of the Minority Liberty Alliance. He hosts a daily podcast entitled Fightin Words, proudly hosted on Twin Cities Newstalk Podcast Network. Walter is a city council member in Albertville, MN. Follow his work via Twitter and Facebook.

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All Comments   (11)
All Comments   (11)
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Duh...fear of homos.
43 weeks ago
43 weeks ago Link To Comment
Those whip around the term homophobia are selfish. They are the products of the sexual revolution, and so believe that every sexual desire is to be fulfilled (unless it is non-consensual) and that our sexual desires are a large part of our identities.

They can't conceive that anybody would believe anything different about proper sexual conduct. They can't conceive anybody would believe in denying one's sexual desire and that sexual desire is not something to which to anchor one's identity.

To these selfish people, any critique of one's sexual behavior is a direct assault on one's identity and dignity.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment

I think they mean "Wipe out".

I've been trying for years to get people to realize that the word "homophobia" is a deliberate manipulation of the language, to frame heterosexual attitudes as some kind of "FEAR". Would the dumb-as-mud conservative and middle-of-the-road communities please recognize this please?

Thank you.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
However, we should distinguish between those negative attitudes and the kind of moral sanction which seems increasingly necessary to ward off accusations of homophobia. It’s one thing to expect acceptance of homosexuals as equal in their humanity and worthy of individual consideration. It’s quite another to expect celebration or endorsement of homosexual activity.

Exactly! I think a very substantial percentage of the population can bring itself to be tolerant of homosexuals, where toleration means that they are not physically harmed for their proclivities. But the homosexuals demand much, MUCH more than that if you want them to label you as a non-homophobe: they insist that you enthusiastically accept and endorse their lifestyle and all that goes with it. You can never say anything that could be construed as anti-gay. You have to whole-heartedly endorse the teaching of gay lifestyle and techniques in schools, gay marriage, gay adoption and everything else they do or want to do. Anything less is sufficient for you to be denounced as a homophobe.

Maybe we need to develop and implement a new word, one that indicates toleration of gays but NOT endorsement of their lifestyle and their social demands. Or grow some thicker skin and simply not care if we are labelled homophobes.

Frankly, I'm sick to death of pandering to the gays and pretending I agree with their entire agenda. I'm just about ready to tell the whole lot to go to h*ll.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
It's just a lie, really. Homosexuality used to be considered a mental illness. The campaign was to reverse everything -- so that homosexuality is normal and equal and failure to accept this is a mental illness, abnormal and wrong.

Most people want to seem open-minded and in tune with the times. Homosexuality made itself the norm, the standard, and everything else is now judged against that.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I seem to recall something similar in the '70's: homosexuality was a choice and since the politics of choice was just raising it's head, it served a useful purpose I suppose to claim that people "chose" the lifestyle. Until some preacher decided if it was a "choice" that could be reprogrammed, the AIDS epidemic started to decimate the homosexual community...then suddenly it was no longer a choice but an unavoidable condition, they were born this way, discriminated against daily, 10% of population was homosexual, etc. We were told it's a normal human condition, right? I don't know what the right answer is - probably a little of both.

Walter has it right: we have moved past tolerance into moral sanction of the homosexual lifestyle, in many cases they are characterized as operating on a higher moral plane than mere hetero's. I accept and love my extended family members who are homosexual, but I don't feel compelled to celebrate or congratulate them for being "gay".
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
I read an interesting article a couple of years ago - cited by someone here at PJM I think - that explained how homosexuality had been removed from the DSM (diagnostic guide used by doctors) in the early 1970s via some kind of stealth group within the medical profession at the convention where the profession chooses which changes to endorse in the DSM. It was quite eye-opening in the way that any detailed article reveals information that totally changes your understanding of an event. I wish I had bookmarked that.....
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
The term "x"-phobia stems, I think, from "xenophobia", a term that applies to a fear of and a distaste for outsiders.
Through much of human history, indeed much of animal history, the "outsider" has been more threat than hope. Those of the clan could be trusted, usually, and those outside the clan only rarely.
The term "phobia" as a fear may not apply well to attitudes toward people who are homosexual, Moslem, or of foreign birth. And there are aspects of Islam that can create a rational fear: when the leading scholars and preachers of a religion demand that you convert, be subjugated, or be killed, it can create a real barrier to happy acceptance.
The term "phobia" in common usage has come to mean a poorly-founded distaste for whatever went in front. That's sloppy use of language but at least the meaning is pretty clear.
The border between well-reasoned moral rejection of a sin, rejection of the one seen as a sinner, and just "ick" factor can be hard to find. I read only this morning of a snake-handler who died shortly after being bitten for the ninth time (family estimated). Snake-handling has a big "ick" factor for me, plus it has obvious medical hazards. Am I phobic for not embracing this form of worship enthusiastically?
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment

I spent some of my college daze studying Psychology back in the last mid-70s. If I remember correctly, the American Psychological (or was it Psychiatric) Association "voted" (in perhaps a precursor of climate warming/changing/whatevering science) to remove homosexuality from its diagnostic manual. This, in my opinion, foundational bit of change, was in an era when the members of that illustrious guild were also much enjoying a behavioral theory then described as "I'm okay; you're okay.". Now some will say that many members of that particular guild do tend to be involved with homosexuality on many different levels, but, as we have come to realize, a vote by scientists can be nothing else but the best of all possible sciences.

What I have always found interesting about the word "homophobia" is the missing bit. To my mind, that would be "sex". Now, I can certainly admit that "homophobia" with its repetitive "o" sounds, does kind of roll right off the tongue but, besides the obvious personal put-down, the removal of "sex" from the conversation, like the use of "gay" in lieu of "homosexual", does serve a significant propagandistic purpose. You see, it's the homosex, that serious sexual dysfunction that's the crux of the problem to be examined by members of society including what we have for scientists these days, that's to be the new "terra incognito". And certainly, that is what homo(sexo)philiacs want very much to prevent.

"Homophobiophobia" or fear of being or being called a "homphobe" is the lesson to be learned in our social betters' opinion. Homosex, and its related activities should not be examined in the light of "glory holes", bathhouses, HIV/AIDS, or its other social and medical manifestations but rather as nothing more than a diverse and multicultural syndrome to which only the most small-minded and vindictive among us would object. And if it takes a generation or two to get that message properly inculcated, well relentlessness is certainly the answer to that.

But, I guess that does leave me wondering about when "homophobia" will show up in the diagnostic manual.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
Some years ago when my wife and I were (foolishly) still attending a liberal Lutheran church, the bishop insisted on having "welcoming to gays" discussions. After repeated admonitions to avoid "homophobia" by one of our pastors, my attorney wife (who rarely opines publicly in church) finally had had enough: "I'm not 'afraid' of homosexuals, Pastor; I just know the Scriptures teach that it is sinful." Shut him right up.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
If only that approach would work today.... Nothing shuts the homosexual activists up. Nothing at all.

If I didn't know better, I'd be sure that Putin's treatment of gays is far and away the most important issue facing the world today.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
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