Homophobia is the extreme fear of feeling love for members of the same sex or fear of homosexuals. The word is derived from Greek homos meaning ‘same’ and phobos meaning fear or aversion.
Many countries and cultures have accepted homosexuality today and some have even legalized same-sex marriages. However, others remain firm in their beliefs that sexual contact between men (or between women) is sick, immoral and even nonexistent. Naturally, Homophobia can be categorized into different types, namely personal or interpersonal. Personal Homophobia is internalized Homophobia which is characterized by a personal belief that lesbians, gays and bisexuals are incomplete men and women having sick or deranged minds. Thus, anyone can be a homophobe irrespective of their sexual orientation or preference. Interpersonal homophobia is a result of personal homophobia that may lead to telling hurtful jokes or name calling or even physical assault due to an assailant’s homophobia. In this guide, we will be sticking to personal homophobia or the intense dislike or fear of homosexuals.
The word Homophobia was unknown until the early 1970s, but today it affects hundreds of thousands of men and women all across the world. This phobia can affect one’s day to day life based on the severity of their symptoms and their own sexual orientation.
How afraid are you?
Causes of fear of homosexuals
- Personal Homophobia also stems from the same reasons as sexism or racism. People are usually taught to become Homophobic. Children learn the fear or hatred of homosexuals from their parents. Rarely are they given adequate information about LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer or Questioning). Homophobic adults generally carry the stereotypes they have picked up in their childhood.
- Some religious organizations also teach this prejudice and hatred of homosexuals. They promote lies about lesbians, gays and bisexuals – that they spread diseases like HIV or are sick and deranged people.
- Many victims of rape, sexual assault or an abusive childhood are likely to develop a fear of homosexuals all their life.
- Psychological factors also come into play: people who are afraid of their own sexual preferences or orientation feel threatened, embarrassed or ashamed about their feelings. They tend to be more rigid about others who feel the same way and try to reinforce, push or punish other LGBTQ people.
- Institutional homophobia includes prejudice at the workplace which could stem from the same societal prejudices as those against Jews, or African Americans that lead societies to blame these groups for socio-economic problems.
- Culturally too, we have certain norms about “what is and isn’t correct”. As society represses any other intercourse (other than what is necessary for giving birth and continuing the race) same sex sexuality is feared or damned.
Symptoms of Homophobia
Homophobia is a disease which affects the entire society. Though the American Psychological Association has proclaimed that it is no more abnormal to be gay or lesbian than it is to be left-handed, people are still fearful about it. Common symptoms include:
- Homophobes try to avoid people have same sex preferences.
- Being around them brings out a fear or disgust response in the phobics: shaking, sweating, and the desire to flee or even anger or hatred. Many homophobes display violence towards these people. They feel such men and women are either abnormal (sick) or immoral (sinful).
- People who are themselves LGBTQs try to change their sexual orientation or desperately try to deny or change what they feel. Many end up committing suicide due extreme fear.
- Homophobia thus hurts the entire society by suppressing creativity and expression –it only locks people into rigid gender based roles. It can stigmatize families, children and those who have and haven’t come out about their orientation. It can keep vital information away from children and teenagers-information which is necessary in this age of HIV and AIDS.
- The phobic often drives a person to marry heterosexuals which then adds to the stress. Such a marriage is not only traumatic for the homosexual but also to their kids and spouses.
- The prejudice or fear of homosexuals demeans these people while making the society unsafe for everyone.
Treatment for Homophobia
Man is a product of society; therefore, societies must collectively change their attitudes and get rid of Homophobia once and for all. The first step naturally starts with admitting to the phobia and changing one’s behavior and attitudes. One must learn to accept one’s choices.
How old are you?
The main problem lies not in homosexuality but the fear of homosexuals. By speaking about this fear with colleagues, or even with ones’ children, one can better understand the fear and deal with it collectively.
If needed, one could talk to LGBTQs and learn about their concerns. One could try and actively support campaigns or causes that take up issues of homosexuals and stop violence and prejudice against them.
Misinformation regarding homosexuals also comes from the Bible – which is actually widely misinterpreted. First of all, no Biblical text contains the word homosexuals in any form. Cornithians and Timothy have used it but it is mainly in the context of male prostitutes who are hired by both men and women. Many contemporary scholars have studied these texts and concluded that the Holy Book has never condemned homosexuality.
What is your gender?
As a society, we must all challenge Homophobia in order to create a society that is not only safe for LGBTQ but also accepts and celebrates the differences in all of us.