‘Homophobia’ is a Flawed TermPosted: November 28, 2012
It seems to me that increasingly ‘homophobia’ is being recognised as a flawed term.
The first shift I noticed was when this tweet (not actually from Morgan Freeman) on it went viral in mid 2012:
And more recently, apparently even the massive news organisation, the Associated Press, have written into policy that the term should be avoided in their news reports and others have objected to this.
And of course, the tweet is right about fear not being a primary factor. Fear is often involved, with people perceiving homosexuals like they perceive spiders, ie a bit “icky”. But there are others people who know homosexuals and may have homosexual relatives or friends, but who still dont approve of all things homosexual even though they may be tolerant of it. In such cases, fear is not a dominant factor.
In fact fear is rarely the dominant factor. Are those who vote Democrat, Republican-phobic? Are those who vote Republican, Democrat-phobic? Are those who are on diets, sugar-phobic? Are those who oppose whaling, extinction-phobic? Fear and opposition are not the same things, and ‘homophobia’ is an abuse of the suffix.
The term is apparently most commonly attributed to clinical psychologist George Weinberg, who described it (Weinberg, 1972) as an irrational fear or “dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals”. It has been said that “Weinberg’s concept aimed to shift attention away from the question of homosexuals’ mental (ill)health towards questioning the mental health of homophobes” (Journal of Homosexuality, Vol. 52, 2006). In other words it was a politically motivated term, intended to portray any discomfort about homosexuality as being a problem on the part of those uncomfortable with it, rather than portraying homosexuality itself being the problem. Various sociologists and others have expressed dissatisfaction with the term throughout it’s existence.
What is surprising, is how the wider public adopted the language of the activists, including even academics who are supposed to use measured thinking. Conservatives who adopted the term, tended to do so by regarding it as referring to others who are less affirming of homosexuality than themselves. EG they may believe it refers to those who support the death penalty for gays, or those who are nasty about it rather than simply not approving. Gay activists on the other hand, have often chosen to regard the term to mean any disapproval of homosexuality at all, arguably taking it to extremes. The effect of these differing definitions is that some conservatives who want to be considered balanced, will express that they disapprove of ‘homophobia’ and then liberals accuse them of hypocrisy, because according to the liberal definition of the term, those same conservatives are homophobic.
I predict that the term will increasingly been seen for what it is – inaccurate, and will decrease in popularity more and more. There are many other words that can be used, which allow greater nuance and clearer communication; ie ‘tolerance’/’intolerance’, ‘acceptance’/’rejection’, ‘affirmation’/’disapproval’, ‘heterosexist’ etc etc.
Others have said that the term “marriage equality” is likewise a flawed term. But that’s kinda obvious.