Homophobia: What is it, really?

"I'm not against homosexuals.  I'm against homosexuality"

Have you ever heard this?  A quick online search will find it on many web sites.  And from some religious sites it includes the notion "Hate the sin, but don't hate the sinner."  Further,  some of those opposed to homosexuality and homosexual marriage have stated a favorable view toward homosexuals, themselves, adding that this proves they are not homophobic.

  Hmmmm...what's say we take a closer look at this thing called "homophobia."

The usual definition: We did an online search and found homophobia defined as fear of BOTH homosexuals and homosexuality, at in the definitions we found.   For example:

Wikipedia tells us:  Homophobia is a term used to refer to a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards lesbian, gay and in some cases bisexual, transgender people and behavior, although these are usually covered under other terms such as biphobia and transphobia. Definitions refer to irrational fear, with the implication of antipathy, contempt, prejudice, and aversion. 

Dictionary.com defines it as: unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality.

Here's what we think

Like most everyone, we see homophobia as an unreasoning FEAR.  That's pretty much what all phobias are. 

But the crucial question is: Fear of what?

We think it's fear of homosexuality, a fear of arousal by the same sex.  And, as the graphic on the left below suggests, it may include an insecurity about being heterosexual.


As we noted above, the definition of homophobia includes the fear of homosexuals.  And while believe that fear of homosexuals does exist, we think homophobia is primarily the fear of homosexuality, itself, fear of sexual arousal by the same sex.  And it is the fear of homosexuality itself that can and often, but not always, leads to the fear of homosexuals.  


We think this means there are people who feel insecure about their heterosexuality.  They need to tell themselves that heterosexuality is a biological imperative, while homosexuality is a "choice" which they wouldn't want to make.  The notion of sexual activity with the same sex makes their skin crawl.



So what?

Why did we bring this up?  Because there are lots who deny homophobia by saying they have no problem with homosexuals (as in, "Some of my best friends are queer").  Or, as we put at the top of this page, "I'm not against homosexual; I'm against homosexuality."  They offer their acceptance of homosexuals as proof they are not homophobic.  And we want to point out that not being afraid of homosexuals isn't the same thing as not being afraid of homosexuality.  In terms of logical fallacies, this could be called a "false equivalence" (not afraid of homosexuals = not afraid of homosexuality).

Here's more of what we think:

We think there are lots of folks who have, over time and with the changing social climate, come to accept the fact there are homosexuals in their midst.  They have come to feel OK about that and to even have friendly relationships with homosexuals.

But they can still be homophobic, whether they know it, or not.  They find the notion of homosexuality, the very act of sexual interaction with the same sex, to be repellent, distressing, aversive, and downright unpleasant.  So there is still an underlying, perhaps rather preconscious, or even unconscious homophobia in them


We're not condemning any such homophobia, any more than we would condemn ANY phobia of any sort (such as., acrophobia, arachnophobia, claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and so on), we just want to point out that even those who claim to be OK with homosexuals can still harbor negative feelings about homosexuality itself.   They can still be homophobic.

Now, being homophobic may be OK, depending on how it influences their behavior toward homosexuals, but we still think it desirable to uncover this potential underlying reality--that is, after all, what this web site is all about.

Also, if there is a phobia about homosexuality, there can be a phobia about heterosexuality (heterophobia, if you will), and we have, in fact, met a homosexual who has heterophobia.

Finally, we want to steer you toward an online essay that does more complete treatment of this topic:


To read "Homophobia: The fear behind the hatred" by Scot Bidstrup


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