What's homophobia? Is it really a phobia?
Homophobia may be the fear and hatred of homosexuality and homosexual people. It's bigotry aimed at gays, lesbians, and bisexuals for who they are and what they represent.
Homophobes target people they assume to become homosexual, however they also fear and despise any character trait or behavior that deviates using their idea of the heterosexual standard. One doesn't have to be gay to become a target of homophobia.
A real phobia is an irrational fear that results in avoidance; but homophobia is not always irrational, and neither does a homophobe always go away. On the contrary, these haters sometimes pursue and physically attack those whose experience of living upsets them.
Younger, highly educated and higher-income Americans are more likely to say that homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal.
A majority of Americans say:
- there is more discrimination against gays and lesbians than any other group
- violence against gays and lesbians is a serious problem and that homosexuals should be covered under hate crime laws
- the government should treat homosexuals and heterosexuals equally
- school boards should not have the right to fire homosexual teachers
“A Nation Divided?” Public Agenda +vww.publicagenda.org> (February 5, 2002).
The percentage of people who say they have a gay friend or acquaintance rose from 24% in I983 to 62% in 2000.
Gallup Poll, 1983, and Koiser family foundation Poll, 2000.
Why isn't homophobia always irrational?
Sometimes homophobia is a psychological-emotional response without formal reasoning. At other times homophobia emerges like a reaction to a perceived problem. That does not mean that there are necessarily 2 kinds of homophobes, the emotional ones and also the cerebral ones. Human attitudes and behaviors are products of both feeling and thinking.
A typical notion-applied particularly to men-is that homophobia is prompted with a fear of your own repressed homosexuality. (One provocative study found that over half the men in a homophobic group were aroused by gay erotic videos, some perhaps as a result of anxiety rather than desire.) Although it may be true occasionally that a vocal homophobe is indeed a "closet case," that explanation is simplistic and really should not be generalized.
- 67% believe in teaching their children that gay people are just like other people
- 56% believe that prejudice and discrimination against gays are morally wrong
- 56% favor allowing school groups to promote tolerance and prevent discrimination against gay and lesbian students.
Horizons Foundation and Lake Snell Perry & Associates Poll, February 200 I.
More commonly, homophobes are distressed by those who remind them of their own insecurities about their gender role. It's not that they're worried they might be gay, but that they might not be person enough.
Our culture's requirements for membership in a gender category can be very rigid and unforgiving, particularly for males and boys. The maintenance of one's masculine "credentials" can be difficult and often dangerous. So it is no surprise that males engage in a homophobic study of themselves and other males, rejecting any qualities viewed as "feminine."
The problems for women and girls, on the other hand, typically focus on their physical bodies. For instance, their weight, breast size, and sexual appetite are tyrannically scrutinized and self-monitored, but they're generally allowed more latitude in gender expression, dress, and same-gender intimacy than males are.
Nevertheless, girls can become suspect if they excel in traditionally male pursuits like competitive sports or when they aspire to power. Female athletes happen to be instructed to compensate for their skills by "femming up" their appearance off the field.
Some think that both men and women heterosexuals are more negative toward homosexuals that belongs to them gender. Being near lesbians continues to be recognized to make straight-identified women uncomfortable. If, as some psychologists believe, women are more likely than men to possess a bisexual capacity, lesbians could evoke in heterosexual women a fear of what they've repressed.
In the final analysis, however, heterosexual men generally have more negative attitudes toward homosexuality than heterosexual women do.
How is homophobia related to sexism?
One is uncomfortable with or frightened by homosexuality because it threatens one's knowledge of self and society and jeopardizes one's position in the power hierarchy of gender. Since patriarchy-the predominance in men over women-is the prevailing gender system throughout most of the world, homophobia can't be explained without examining sexism.
Disdain for that feminine as well as for what is viewed as feminine in men reaches the root of male homophobia. Homophobic men describe themselves as less feminine and more assertive and independent than do more tolerant men. They also want others to understand they conform to male norms of heterosexuality. Masculinity must be demonstrated over and over in a repeated repudiation of effeminacy/ homosexuality.
Opinions about gender role are related to attitudes toward homosexuality. Both men and women who show traits that are inconsistent with cultural gender norms are assumed to be homosexual until they demonstrate otherwise. The idea that homosexuality is the same as gender inversion has persisted for over one century. People commonly assume that self-identified gays and lesbians actually want to be the "opposite"gender.
Those who uphold traditional gender roles for males and women are more homophobic than are the ones who accept flexible gender roles.
Victims of the homophobic code could be gay, however they may also be straight.