Homophobia, Why the term should be used sparingly

Submitted by david.reagan on Mon, 01/11/2010 - 21:00

So, a friend of mine recently came out of the closet, and has been trying to convince me that homosexuality is ok. I guess that is why he invited me to the International Day Against Homophobia. So I went to the event page and read the description. And was subsequently annoyed. Here's what it said:

International Day Against Homophobia is all about raising awareness that being a homosexual is okay. And that being a homosexual doesn't mean you're unlike anyone else, that you should be accepted just as everyone else is. Homosexuality is not a sickness, and it's not contagious: spread the word. Allow homosexuals to feel accepted, to be themselves as everyone else is. Help end homophobia. also: its been decided that everyone whos attending should wear a plain black shirt, to silently protest the pain homophobes can cause. and, if you can, write "gay rights are human rights" on your arm, iron it on your black shirt, make it a hat, a poster, etc. if you have any questions post it on the board, id be happy to answer them. and please, please, pleaseeee: if you dont agree with what this event stands for then simply dont attend, theres no need for hateful words or unkind actions on here.

So, if you have a rudementry understanding of grammar, you know that 'phobia' means something like 'unreasoning fear of'. Thus, an international day against homophobia should be about stopping unreasonable fear of homosexuality. The people who beat up homosexuals because they are homosexual, the people who hate homosexuals, the people who actually think that homosexuals are dangerous, and other unreasonable fears. Dictionary.com's definition agrees with this:

ho⋅mo⋅pho⋅bi⋅a   /ˌhoʊməˈfoʊbiə/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [hoh-muh-foh-bee-uh] –noun unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality. Origin: 1955–60; homo(sexual) + -phobia Related forms: ho⋅mo⋅pho⋅bic, adjective

Thus, the event's description is not accurate at all. It really is an event about all about affirming homosexuality. If it had been about teaching people not to be afraid of homosexuals, and not to be violent towards them, I would have had no problem with the event. I probably would not have attended, but it would have been out of disagreement with the reason for the event. As it is, I cannot affirm someones choice to do something that is bad for them.

This brings me to my main point. The homosexual community is misusing the word 'homophobia' and it's dervitatives. And it does so nearly all the time. I have seen 'homophobic' used many times, and most of those times it's used wrongly, generally as a label for anyone who does not accept the homosexual lifestyle. Using it that way is bad, both for the people called homophobic, and for the homosexual community in general.

Here is why. First, on my side of the issue, I don't want to be called homophobic. If I am accused of that, then I am being called unreasonable and scared. I am obviously none of those things, I am still friends with my friend, thus, not scared. I have researched homosexuality to a certain extent and used reason to form my beliefs, so I am not unreasonable. But, in spite of all that, if I express my disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle, most people will label me as homophobic. Thus, I have a certain reluctance that I have to overcome in order to speak freely. Calling someone homophobic is a form of intimidation, and has no place in a civilized society.

Now, here are some of the reasons it is bad for the homosexual community to use the term. It is a stereotypical label. Just like saying someone is a 'typical blonde', or 'he's a ghetto kid.' That kind of language is not something that should be used. Also, as I explained above, it is an intimidation tactic, whether they mean it that way or not. And then it is misused so often that most of the time people who use the term make themselves look unintelligent.

So, if you consider yourself a homosexual or someone who supports them, don't use the term 'homophobia' or it's derivatives. If you aren't part of that group, be careful to make sure the term is being use correctly when you see it, and don't let it intimidate you if want to speak against homosexuality.