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Main article: Homosexuality (attitudes toward)]

The word homophobia means fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. It can also mean hatred of and disparagement of homosexual people, their lifestyle, their sexual behavior, or culture, and is generally used to assert bigotry[1]. Opposition to same-sex activism on religious, moral, or political grounds is also generally referred to as "homophobic".


According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word homophobia in the meaning "fear or hatred of homosexuals and homosexuality" was first used in print in the American magazine Time in 1969. It was coined by clinical psychologist George Weinberg, who claims to have first thought of it while speaking at a homophile group in 1965 [2] and popularized by his book Society and the Healthy Homosexual in 1971. It combines the Greek terms phobos, meaning "fear" or "panic", and homos, which means "the same". The "homo" in homophobia is abbreviated from the word homosexual, which in turn derives from the Greek homo, meaning "same". A possible etymological precursor was homoerotophobia, coined by Dr Wainwright Churchill in Homosexual Behavior Among Males in 1967.

Dual associations and usage controversy

Most people who discuss discrimination and hatred against gay, lesbian, and bisexual people use the term "homophobia" as a parallel to racism or sexism (which refers to racial discrimination and hatred or sexual discrimination and hatred). However, "homophobia" should be understood as the parallel to xenophobia (which refers to racial fear and prejudice).

Sexism, sexualism, heterosexism, heterosexualism, and homosexualism have been proposed as alternatives which are more morphologically parallel, and which do not have the association with phobia. Sexism refers to sexual discrimination and hatred and may be extended to include discrimination and hatred based on both sex and sexuality (sexual-identity/sexual-orientation/hypersexuality). Sexualism refers to hatred against homosexuals (gays/lesbians) and bisexuals. Heterosexism refers to hatred against people who are not heterosexual. Heterosexualism is an ambiguous term which is used either as a synomym for heterosexuality or heterosexism. The term "homosexualism" is a rarely-used synonym of homosexuality. Queer Theory and critical theory use the terms heterocentric and heteronormativity to refer to similar ontological assumptions.

Homophobia as a clinically diagnosed medical condition (see phobia) is quite uncommon, especially compared to the prevalence of political, personal, or moral disapproval of homosexuality in general. Clinical homophobia (see homosexual panic) is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As behaviors and thoughts that are frequently considered homophobic are often not fear based but instead reflect a disapproval of homosexuality, recent psychological literature has favored the term homonegativity.

Just as some people use the term "homophobia" to stress the association between prejudice and a fear or medical disorder, others criticize it as being an unnecessarily or even maliciously loaded with those associations, and may avoid using it as a result.

There is also considerable debate over the term's usage as a label for opponents of certain categories of social policy, with the debate centering upon the question of whether such opposition is a legitimate moral stance or indefensible discrimination, and whether or not there are reasons other than fear and misunderstanding that might justify such positions. As in cases such as the Santorum controversy, many have alleged that the term is often used as a means of demonizing and silencing political opponents without regard to their actual motives; those on the other side of the debate argue that the motives in such cases are always connected with bigotry or fear.

Internalized homophobia

Internalized homophobia (or ego-dystonic homophobia) usually refers to homophobia as a prejudice carried by homosexuals against themselves and others like them. It includes a discomfort with or disapproval of one's own sexual orientation.

Such a situation may cause extreme repression of homosexual desires. In other cases, a conscious internal struggle may occur for some time, often pitting deeply held religious or social beliefs against strong emotional desires and needs. This discordance often causes clinical depression, and the unusually high suicide rate among homosexual teenagers may be partly attributed to this phenomenon (the opinions and actions of others may also be a factor).

Many people in this situation attempt to resolve it, at least for a period of time, through chastity. This is an attractive option because many belief systems are neutral or only mildly disapprove of, for example, homosexual feelings, but strongly disapprove of acting on those feelings. Advocates of the ex-gay movement believe that in addition to behavior, sexual orientation is a malleable attribute, and advocate attempting to change it (this is highly controversial, and many mental health professionals warn that such therapies have not been proven to be effective, and that they may be psychologically harmful).

The label of internalized homophobia is sometimes applied to conscious or unconscious behaviors which an observer feels the need to promote or conform to the expectations of heteronormativity or heterosexism. This might include making assumptions about the gender of a person's romantic partner, or about gender roles. Some also apply this label to LGBT persons who support "compromise" policies, such as those that find civil unions an acceptable alternative to same-sex marriage. Whether this is a tactical judgement call or the result of some kind of internal prejudice (whether in a cause-and-effect fashion, or definitionally) is a matter of some debate.

Some claim (including Sigmund Freud in his psychoanalytic theory) that some or most homophobics are repressed homosexuals, but this claim is somewhat controversial. In 1996, a controlled study of 64 heterosexual (half claimed to be homophobic by experience and self-reported orientation) men at the University of Georgia [3] found that the allegedly homophobic men (as measured by the Index of Homophobia [4]) were considerably more likely to experience more erectile responses when exposed to homoerotic images than non-homophobic men.

However, the homophobic men also tended to report more negative emotions in response to those particular images (not sexual arousal), and the researchers noted that general anxiety has been shown to enhance erectile response. There was no significant difference in results on the Aggression Questionnaire. The group recommended further research.

Fear of being identified as a homosexual

A component considered to play into homophobia, as considered by some theorists, such as Calvin Thomas and Judith Butler, is an individual's fear of being identified as homosexual him or herself.

This notion suggests that when expressing homophobic viewpoints and emotions, the individual who does so is not only expressing his thoughts as to homosexuals, but also actively attempting to distance himself from this category and attributed social status. Therefore, by distancing him or herself from the people in question, he/she is reaffirming his/her role as a heterosexual, within heteronormativity, and contributing to the avoidance of his/her potential labeling and consequent treatment as a homosexual.

This interpretation plays into notions of violent opposition to "the Other" as a means of establishing one's identity as part of the majority and therefore, validated by society. This concept is also recurrent in interpretations of racism and xenophobia.

Homophobia as leading to a climate of prejudice

Whether viewed as unfounded prejudices or legitimate moral opinions, attitudes frowning on LGBT orientations and lifestyles have been reflected in legislation and these attitudes have had a profound impact on political debates over LGBT civil rights in general. Some look at people holding negative attitudes about LGBT people and assign blame to them for a creating or perpetuating a climate of prejudice that has resulted in violence against LGBT people, by individuals, states or other organizations.

Many social and religious attitudes toward homosexuality are negative, which some might describe as a form of prejudice. See Societal attitudes towards homosexuality and Religion and homosexuality.

Psychology researchers have used measures such as the Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) and Right Wing Authoritarianism (RWA) to predict homophobic attitudes. These measures are traditionally used to measure other forms of prejudice.

Sexist beliefs

Some gender theorists interpret the fact that male-to-male relationships often incite a stronger reaction in a homophobic person than female-to-female (lesbian) as meaning that the homophobic person feels threatened by the perceived subversion of the gender paradigm in male-to-male sexual activity. According to such theorists as D.A. Miller, male heterosexuality is defined not only by the desire for women but also, and more importantly, by the denial of desire for men. Therefore, expressions of homophobia serve as a means of limiting those who they view as displaced in heteronormativity, and also of accenting their male nature, by isolating the threatening concept of their own potential feminity in gay men, and consequently belittling them, as not real males. They regard the reason male homosexuality is treated worse compared to female homosexuality as sexist in its underlying belief that men are superior to women and therefore for a man to "replace" a woman during intercourse with another man is his own subjection to (non-male) inferiority.

However, this view would imply that only the receptive male partner in homosexual acts would be thought of as "offensive", which is the case in many cultures. Miller's specific claim that male heterosexuality does not require "desire for women" would seem to preclude the possibility of asexuality or bisexuality. Nor is it clear why male heterosexuals would "need" or even fear homosexuals in order to affirm maleness – unless their sexuality was already experienced as threatened by some other cause.

Opposition to homophobia

To combat homophobia, the LGBT community uses events such as pride parades and political activism (See gay pride). Some parts of the festivities are criticized for reinforcing stereotypes about LGBT people (e.g. Dykes on Bikes, the prominence of cross-dressing, a gay male fascination with musicals, the colour pink, a sex-positive atmosphere that may seem to give endorsement to a promiscuous lifestyle which in turn relates to the problem of AIDS, etc). Other portions tend to challenge stereotypes, including the presence of religious organizations who support gay rights and oppose homophobia (See Religion and homosexuality), the families of LGBT people, and LGBT people with children. Much of the colour, glamour, and noise of pride parades can also be seen as a simple celebration of LGBT culture, or of life in general.

One form of organized resistance to homophobia is the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO), [5] first celebrated May 17, 2005 in related activities in more than 40 countries. [6]

Some activists also call homophobia straight supremacism equating it to white supremacism. Anti-gay groups see this as an attempt to marginalize those who disapprove of homosexuality.

Besides public expression, specific laws have been made to oppose homophobia, as in hate speech, hate crime, and laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Some argue that anti-LGBT prejudice is immoral or unwise above and beyond the effects on that class of people. Warren J. Blumenfeld argues that this emotion gains a dimension beyond itself, as a tool for extreme far-right conservative and religious groups and as a restricting factor on gender-relations as to the weight associated with performing each role accordingly. Furthermore, Blumenfeld in particular claimed:

Anti-gay bias causes young people to engage in sexual behaviour earlier in order to prove that they are straight. Anti-gay bias contributed significantly to the spread of the AIDS epidemic. Anti-gay bias inhibits the ability of schools to create effective honest sexual education programs that would save children's lives and prevent STDs. [7]

"Homophobia" as applied to political figures

The term "homophobe" has also been used to describe opponents of laws considered favorable to gay rights causes. [dubious] Opponents of same sex marriage legalization, child adoption by same-sex couples, and anti-gay hate crime laws are often accused of homophobia for not supporting this legislation.

The Concerned Women for America, a conservative lobby group, issued a press release following the Rick Santorum affair because they claimed that

"The Rick Santorum controversy has illuminated a serious problem in the Republican Party: Its leaders seem woefully ill-prepared to defend the pro-family position on homosexuality."

in their advice to "fellow Republicans," they issued several points, including #3...

"expose the deceptive terms, such as "sexual orientation," diversity and "homophobia," which are used by pro-"gay" proponents to confuse the issue and control the debate. This requires nothing but making them define their terms at the start of argument, then focusing the debate on clarifying the definitions and exposing their illogic and hypocrisy. "

The press release goes on to say ...

"Ask them to identify some examples of non-homophobic opposition to homosexuality. They can't do it because they define all opposition as "homophobic." Do they really believe that disapproval of sodomy/rimming/fisting/sadism is irrational bigotry? You get the idea. You'll find that this technique derails virtually every pro-"gay" argument because each one relies on deceptive rhetoric." [8]

Senator Rick Santorum was accused of homophobia by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association [9], for making a declaration that he believed consenting adults do not have a constitutional right to privacy with respect to sexual acts. Santorum described the ability to regulate homosexual acts as comparable to the states' ability to regulate other sexual behaviors. (See Santorum controversy)

Alan Keyes was accused of homophobia by Washington Blade correspondent Steve Koval in reference to Keyes' comments about Vice President Cheney's lesbian daughter when Keyes was running for the U.S. Senate. [10]

Excerpts from discussions of the term

Gay rights supporter Scott Bidstrup, in a personal essay titled Homophobia: The Fear Behind The Hatred, emphasizes the association between prejudice and fear:

If you look up homophobia in the dictionary, it will probably tell you that it is the fear of homosexuals. While many would take issue with that definition, it is nevertheless true that in many ways, it really is a fear of homosexuality or at least homosexuals.[11]

Niclas Berggren, writing in the Independent Gay Forum, argues that "homophobic" opinions are irrational:

It is usually not the case, for homophobic persons, that the basis of their attitudes towards homosexuality is rational reasoning, or intellectual argumentation. Such endeavors have, as a rule, been added afterwards, to try to give the homophobia a nicer and more respectable framing. However, these attempts to argue intellectually against homosexuality are utter failures. [12]

Christian commentator Gregory Koukl, in a personal essay titled Heterosexism, objects to the medicalization of a moral position:

The word homophobia has come to describe any kind of opposition to homosexuality of any sort, but its interesting that part of their (homosexuals') goal was to shift the emphasis from what many perceived to be a homosexual problem, away from the homosexual activity itself, and towards the attitude people have about homosexuality... They purposely did this to change the focus of the discussion from the morality of their activity and the social appropriateness of their lifestyle to the attitudinal bias of those who would judge them. [13]

Homophobia in popular culture

  • Eminem garnered a lot of controversy as he rose to success, because of what were seen as highly homophobic lyrics, which ultimately led to GLAAD actively receiving hate-mail from his fans. This led to a number of reactions against him, in the forms of public manifestations and even a commercial specifically filmed for the night he played at the 2001 Grammys, with the mother of a homosexual teenager, Matthew Shepard, who was beaten to death, speaking out to the general public as to the use of homophobic terms. Ironically, Eminem performed with openly gay artist Elton John that very night.
  • In 2004 the reggae artist Sizzla cancelled his tours of the United Kingdom and France after protests over his anti-gay lyrics (popularly referred to as "homophobic"), and at one point the British government considered banning him from entry into the country. [14]
  • In 2001 the Russian pop-band Chugunnyi Skorokhod (Russian "Чугунный Скороход") (literally, "The fast-walker of pig-iron") released a song Pidory idut! (Russian "Пидоры идут"!) ("Fags are marching!"). The song is about how it is hard for a straight man to live in a world where gays rule (particularly, in fields of TV, show business, etc.). It contains lines like "You were born a man - you're trapped! There's no way if you are straight!" "Any hairdresser or stylist must be a homosexual! How can a straight man work, if gays want him immediately?" The reaction in the Russian society was mixed: while some gay magazines and web sites accused the authors of fascism, many people accepted it quite warmly.


  1. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary 2006 and 11th Collegiate Dictionary, 2005, American Heritage Dictionary.
  2. "George Weinberg: Love is Conspiratorial, Deviant & Magical"
  3. "Is Homophobia Associated With Homosexual Arousal?" by Henry E. Adams, Ph.D., Lester W. Wright, Jr., Ph.D. and Bethany A. Lohr, University of Georgia (Athens), Department of Psychology. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol. 105, No. 3, pp 440-445. Abstract at PubMed. Summarized in an American Psychological Association press release, August 1996: "New Study Links Homophobia with Homosexual Arousal".
  4. Index of Homophobia: W. W. Hudson and W. A. Ricketts, 1980.
  5. "Towards an international Day against Homophobia", April 10, 2004
  6. "1st Annual International Day Against Homophobia to be Celebrated in over 40 Countries on May 17", May 12, 2005
  7. Blumenfield, Warren J., "Homophobia: How we all pay the price" (1992).
  8. "Santorum Crisis Exposes Republican Weakness", Scott Lively, April 30, 2003
  9. "GLMA Joins LGBT Civil Rights Groups in Condemning Homophobic Remarks by Santorum", Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, April 22, 2003
  10. "Blade outs Maya Keyes"
  11. Bidstrup, Scott, "Homophobia: The Fear Behind The Hatred". An essay on the origin and nature of homophobia.
  12. Berggren, Niclas, "Independent Gay Forum".
  13. Koukl, Gregory,"Stand to Reason" (radio program); "Heterosexism".
  14. "Ban threat aborts Sizzla UK tour", Bishop, Tom, November 4, 2004

See also

LGBT rights
Gay flag.svg
 Around the world · By country 
History · Groups · Activists
Same-sex relationships
Opposition · Persecution

External links

ar:رهاب المثلية br:Homofobiezh bg:Хомофобия da:Homofobi de:Heterosexismus es:Homofobia fr:Homophobie he:הומופוביה ka:ჰომოფობია mk:Хомофобија nl:Homofobie no:Homofobi pt:Homofobia ro:Homofobie ru:Гомофобия fi:Homofobia sv:Homofobi zh:同性恋恐惧症

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