Decode: Homophobia


1. Fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men.
2. Behavior based on such a feeling.

History: Coined by clinical psychologist George Weinberg, the word “homophobia” first appeared in Time magazine in 1969. Weinberg later popularized the term in his book Society and the Healthy Homosexual, published in 1971, using it to characterize those who either feared or hated homosexuals and homosexuality. Soon thereafter, the word was taken up by the Gay Liberation Movement in its push to recast homosexuality, a onetime psychopathology in most psychiatrists’ books, as an inborn trait comparable to left-handedness. Once homosexuality was normalized, which came with its removal from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (the official guide to psychological disorders), gay rights advocates then attempted to characterize homophobia as the true pathology, it being an “irrational” response to a supposedly natural human attribute. Currently, homophobia is not listed in the DSM, though more and more people each day are buying into the view that it is a mindset in need of some serious psychotherapeutic treatment.

Etymology: “Homophobia” is a difficult word to unpack. The immediate temptation is to break it down into “homo,” which is of course the genus that includes human beings, and “phobia,” meaning an uncontrollable, irrational, and persistent fear. What you end up with, however, is a “fear of humans,” which is a pretty far cry from the intended definition. An alternative is to read “homo” as “homos,” which means “sameness.” But while such an interpretation may work well with “homosexual,” it leaves us in this case with “a fear of sameness,” which doesn’t quite hit the mark either. Then there is the problem with “phobia,” a term typically associated with a sort of knee-jerk panic or terror. The issue here is that those typically accused of homophobia exhibit not so much a fear of homosexuals as a disapproval of their lifestyle, and they do so not rashly or in an automatic fashion but because of a reasoned belief that the practice is unnatural in the same way that pedophilia, incest, or bestiality is unnatural.

Effect: The ambiguity inherent in the term “homophobia” is reflected in its haphazard diagnosis. The word is a catch-all label that encompasses a wide range of attitudes and behaviors, from those who would assault or kill homosexuals to those who speak about homosexuality in a derogatory manner to those who merely hold opinions about homosexual issues that run counter to the gay establishment. Consequently, it has also become a method by which to immediately silence critics—whether scholars, journalists, or policy makers—of the gay agenda. No one wants to be associated with homophobia and the image it conjures of redneck lynchings or other violent expressions of prejudice. And so it is somewhat ironic that the indiscriminate connotations of “homophobia” are of precisely the same sort as those used to characterize previous social victims. Since the tag “homophobe” stereotypes its target as dangerous and depraved, in other words, it’s not all that different from calling a Jew a usurer or a black a rapist. Ultimately, the classification is as intolerant and misleading as the hateful viewpoint it purports to describe.

Article first appeared in Salvo issue 1

6 thoughts on “Decode: Homophobia

  1. “homo” as in “homosexual” does not come from “homo = man” but from “homo = same” as opposed to “hetero = other”. Etymologically, “homophobe” would mean hatred of the same!
    Elise B.

  2. In a blog post where I linked to a Salvo article, I suggested that since making up disorders and diagnosing people who disagree with you is in in vogue, we should coin some of our own. I can up with fetalphobia (pro-aborts), successophobia (tax lovers), and others.

  3. What might be sad—and what might be our future…is for “disageeophobia” to spread…
    — where adults dare not touch certain “hot topics” because they could get in trouble with the law–if they do not speak with the proper shade of political correct thought speak.
    Or, where adults carefully choose to risk their free standing if they choose to respectfully disagree with the increasingly militant and powerful status quo. They speak to bring hope to persons trapped in bad situations, but they do so knowing they risk their own free standing.
    I’m remembering an old story I heared about Stalin…He got an incredibly long ovation to his speech at the former Soviet Union’s one party session at their governing body, the Duma…Everyone was so afraid of being the first one to stop clapping that it went on and on…Not even sure how it ended!
    I’m also remembering your recent link to “humpty dumpty” and the old Nursery Rhymes. Didn’t some of the rhymes “like George Porgie” come from persons who wanted to speak politically but had to disguise it?

  4. Having read his letter Mr Macdonald needs to regconise the difference between Political Correctness and Discrimination Law.Political Correctness would require you not to call Homosexual Men a bunch of Poofs! Discrimination Law will criminalise you should you refuse Homosexuals to use your guesthouse. That’s because it is illegal not just about being insensitive.Discrimination Laws along with most of UK and European Laws have come about or have been based on biblical teachings:When asked which is the greatest commandment, Jesus replied, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. [Matt22:37-40]Now maybe I have misunderstood this one but to me that would suggest it is against one of God’s commandments to discriminate.

  5. Oh no. I clicked the link. I read the mceomnts. Why did I do that? Why didn’t I take the quote above as a social barometer reading of the page? To be fair, there ARE some sensible mceomnts there, but they’re being drowned out by the idiots.Apparently homosexuality is destroying family values and degrading society. So Karen Matthews, Ian Huntley, Amanda Knox, Harold Shipman, Fred West, the gangs of hoody-kids who hang around in my town centre and make anyone over the age of 40 wary of going out after dark, the drug-dealers who’ve been stabbing each other to death over in Oxford, the politicians skimming money to pay for non-essential items, the religious fundamentalists killing civilians and the politicians starting full-blown wars over oil on the backs of those fundamentalist atrocities… they must all be homosexuals.Down with this sort of thing, indeed.(And yes, I’m aware that I should probably register over at the BBC and post it there, but at least here I know people will READ the post).

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