“You’re homophobic!” exclaims the social justice warrior (SJW) on Twitter in a heated argument, as they retort against anti-gay sentiments online. Today, many of us have bore witness to a similar/same argument, either in-person or online. Especially because it does not have to be about homophobia as there’s racism, sexism, misogyny—you name it. My readers, I ask you two questions: have you ever called an individual one of the words above (or any like it)? And/or, have you ever been called one of the words above (or any like it)? Most likely, you have experienced at least one of the two, and if not, good for you! Today, I will be talking about the word and social phenomenon ‘homophobia’, and why it does not exist the way we think it is.
Definition & history
The Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th ed (DSM-V) a.k.a. psychology’s bible defines specific phobia as “marked fear or anxiety about a specific object or situation (e.g., flying, heights, animals, receiving an injection, seeing blood)” (2013, p. 235). Popular examples of specific phobias, are claustrophobia—fear of tight spaces, arachnophobia—fear of spiders, and hemophobia—fear of blood. Now, I know what you are saying, “this does not make any sense…homophobia is the discrimination, prejudice and antagonism of homosexuals” I’m sorry to burst your bubble—I’m not—but that’s a misconstrued lie.
Homophobia in the truest sense does exist, as specific phobias are irrational and therefore, some people are irrationally afraid of homosexuals. However, homophobia in the sense of prejudice, discrimination, antagonism, etc., which leads to the aversion of homosexuals, does not exist! My SJWs, I believe the word you are looking for is bigotry. Now, before you quickly head to the comments section to make your incorrect opinions known, please to stop and think about what you are going to type, and how it is invalidated by the definition above. Today, many of us are so quick to wrath online or in-person, and—arguably—oftentimes we rightfully are! And I say we because I too am a SJW, who had been guilty of the misuse and ultimate abuse of the word homophobia/phobia overall.
Emotions are tricky, and they can often transform themselves and even coincide amongst themselves. An example of this phenomenon can be found in a pious individual, who claims that they have love and fear for their God. One can argue which emotion came first or agree that they exist simultaneously. Whatever the case, I can see how homophobia’s definition was twisted. Human-beings fear what we do not understand. We live in a hetero-normative world, and even though many things outside of heterosexuality are being understood daily, there are still unknowns regarding sexuality as a whole. Therefore, it is understandable for a fear to exist. Google’s search statistics state that the word homophobia was born in the 1960s; this is around the same time as the Gay Rights Movement in the US, (Levy, 2019). Over the decades, the word had gained traction and as of the 2010s, it had skyrocketed in usage.
With buggery laws still in effect and the church’s influence high, homosexuals were legendary Pokémon—you heard of them, but never knew one nor saw what they looked like. And then when you add the HIV/AIDS scare during that time as well, there was a lot of fear to go around, especially in the US. Note, I am mentioning the US because apparently, they are the centre of the (western) world. So, can you imagine being in a Christian society, and there exist these “beings who bugger each other and transmit the deadly HIV/AIDS virus?” It was only natural for a hetero-normative society to view homosexuals negatively and as such, this fear transformed itself into something new: hate.
The implications of phobia’s misuse
After being used to the word homophobia for quite some time, to desist from its misuse is not something that happens overnight; honestly, it took me a while to remove it from my lexicon. However, it must be done, and I will get into why shortly. Other words that misuse phobia are ‘fatphobia’, ‘transphobia’, ‘Islamophobia’, and ‘xenophobia’, just to name a few. There is more because lord knows, there is something to be mad about online every day. I will note that the latter two words do largely incorporates the true meaning of phobia at their core. With anti-Islam propaganda pushed by the US, which is enforced by crimes against humanity done by extremist Muslim groups, it is easy to be afraid of Muslims and their religion Islam. The same goes for being afraid of foreigners, which is xenophobia. But excluding that context of those two words, all of words above and the others like them, do not have any meanings of phobia in them. They are, yet again, the unfortunate misconstructions by well-intentioned and sometimes well-argued, social justice warriors.
Has the thought ever occurred to you, that by misusing and abusing these words, you add fuel to the fire that you are trying to extinguish? It is one thing to describe someone, especially when they know it themselves to be true. But imagine doing the same, except this time, the shoe does not fit? Sadly, actual ‘homophobes’ know the meaning of homophobia, than SJW’s themselves; a common defence used is “I’m not homophobic, because I’m not afraid of gays!” Which is true! They are in fact, not homophobes; but they are bigots! Similar to how there are movements on removing labelling in forensic and correctional psychology (Willis, 2018), there needs to be some desistance and shift from the misuse of phobia. When one looks at the definition—which is and always will be psychological—it is almost a disrespect, to misconstrue its definition. Specific phobias debilitate due to the crippling fear and anxiety that causes them.
My readers when we call out injustice, let us do it right, with the correct words. One cannot be fighting the good fight, and be doing it incorrectly—no, no. For an SJW, our words and arguments are the swords by which, we slay the beasts known as bigotry, injustice, inequality, and inequity. When engaging in these discussions/arguments, the opponent is already trying to find ways to reject our points, so why should we give them more? This also detracts the focus of the argument, as the opponent is trying to attack the wrong name-calling, instead of focusing on the issue at hand—their bigotry towards homosexuals; their shaming and discontent of fat people; their bigotry towards trans individuals; their bigotry towards Muslims and foreigners, etc. It is possible that homophobia and anti-gay bigotry can exist simultaneously with one another. Social justice can be a rocky and complex landscape to navigate at times, so as I said earlier, it is understandable how these two concepts became intertwined with one another. The same logic can be applied for racism, sexism, misogyny, and many other ‘isms’ as well; but that is for another post.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. (5th Ed.) Arlington: VA. American Psychiatric Association.
Levy, M. (2019, June 20). Gay rights movement. Retrieved from Encyclopaedia Britannica: https://www.britannica.com/topic/gay-rights-movement.
Willis, G. M. (2018, January 8). Why call someone by what we don’t want them to be? The ethics of labeling in forensic/correctional psychology. Psychology, Crime & Law, 24(7), 727-743. doi:10.1080/1068316X.2017.1421640