Homophobia is a term for a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality and people identified or perceived as being homosexual. Definitions of the term refer variably to antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, and irrational fear. Homophobia is observable in critical and hostile behavior such as discrimination and violence on the basis of a non-heterosexual orientation. In a 1998 address, author, activist, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King stated that "Homophobia is like racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry in that it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood."
Among some more discussed forms of homophobia are institutionalized homophobia (e.g. religious homophobia and state-sponsored homophobia), lesbophobia - the intersection of homophobia and sexism directed against lesbians, and internalized homophobia - a form of homophobia among people who experience same-sex attraction regardless of whether or not they identify as LGBT.
Two words originate from homophobia: homophobic (adj.) and homophobe (n.), the latter word being a label for a person who displays homophobia or is thought to do so.
The word homophobia first appeared in print in an article written for the May 23, 1969, edition of the American tabloid Screw, in which the word was used to refer to heterosexual men's fear that others might think they are gay. Conceptualizing anti-LGBT prejudice as a social problem worthy of scholarly attention was not new. George Weinberg is credited as the first person to give this prejudice a name in speech.
In 1971, Kenneth Smith was the first person to use homophobia as a personality profile to describe the psychological aversion to homosexuality. The use was also adopted by psychologist George Weinberg in his 1972 book Society and the Healthy Homosexual, published one year before the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders. Weinberg's term became an important tool for gay and lesbian activists, advocates, and their allies. He describes the concept as a medical phobia:
[A] phobia about homosexuals….It was a fear of homosexuals which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for — home and family. It was a religious fear and it had led to great brutality as fear always does.
Researchers have proposed alternative terms to describe prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people. Some of these alternatives show more semantic transparency while others do not include -phobia:
Use of homophobia, homophobic, and homophobe has been criticized as pejorative against those with differing value positions. This opposition to the use of homophobia is based on a strict and literal interpretation of the term to mean "a fear".
Homophobia manifests in different forms, and a number of different types have been postulated, among which are internalized homophobia, social homophobia, emotional homophobia, rationalized homophobia, and others. There were also ideas to classify homophobia, racism, and sexism as an intolerant personality disorder.
Homophobia is not mentioned directly in any diseases classifications (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems). For some, homophobia is a non-clinical term.
State-sponsored homophobia includes the criminalization and penalization of homosexuality, hate speech from government figures, and other forms of discrimination, violence, persecution of LGBT people.
In China homosexual behavior was outlawed in 1740. When Mao came to power, the government thought of homosexuality as "social disgrace or a form of mental illness", and "[d]uring the cultural revolution (1966 - 76), people who were homosexual faced their worst period of persecution in Chinese history." Despite there being no law in the communist People's Republic against homosexuality, "police regularly rounded up gays and lesbians." Other laws were used to prosecute homosexual people and they were "charged with hooliganism or disturbing public order."
The Soviet Union under Vladimir Lenin decriminalized homosexuality in 1922, long before many other European countries. The Russian Communist Party effectively legalized no-fault divorce, abortion and homosexuality, when they abolished all the old Tsarist laws and the initial Soviet criminal code kept these liberal sexual policies in place. However, some left-wing figures have considered homosexuality a "bourgeois disease", a right-wing movement or a "Western disease". Lenin's emancipation was reversed a decade later by Joseph Stalin and homosexuality remained illegal under Article 121 until the Yeltsin era.
The North Korean government condemns Western gay culture as a vice caused by the decadence of capitalist society, and denounces it as promoting consumerism, classism, and promiscuity. In North Korea, "violating the rules of collective socialist life" can be punished with up to two years' imprisonment. However, according to the North Korean government, "As a country that has embraced science and rationalism, the DPRK recognizes that many individuals are born with homosexuality as a genetic trait and treats them with due respect. Homosexuals in the DPRK have never been subject to repression, as in many capitalist regimes around the world."
Robert Mugabe, the leader of Zimbabwe, has waged a violent campaign against people who are homosexual, arguing that before colonisation, Zimbabweans did not engage in homosexual acts. His first major public condemnation of homosexuality was in August 1995, during the Zimbabwe International Book Fair. He told an audience: "If you see people parading themselves as lesbians and gays, arrest them and hand them over to the police!" In September 1995, Zimbabwe's parliament introduced legislation banning homosexual acts. In 1997, a court found Canaan Banana, Mugabe's predecessor and the first President of Zimbabwe, guilty of 11 counts of sodomy and indecent assault.
In some cases, the distinction between religious homophobia and state-sponsored homophobia is not clear, a key example being territories under Islamic authority. All major Islamic sects forbid homosexuality, which is a crime under Sharia Law and treated as such in most Muslim coutries. In Afghanistan, for instance, homosexuality carried the death penalty under the Taliban. After their fall, homosexuality went from a capital crime to one punished with fines and prison sentences. The legal situation in the United Arab Emirates, however, is unclear.
In 2009, ILGA published a report entitled State Sponsored Homophobia 2009, which is based on research carried out by Daniel Ottosson at Södertörn University College, Stockholm, Sweden. This research found that of the 80 countries around the world that continue to consider homosexuality illegal:
In 2001, Al-Muhajiroun, an international organization seeking the establishment of a global Islamic caliphate, issued a fatwa declaring that all members of The Al-Fatiha Foundation (which advances the cause of gay, lesbian, and transgender Muslims) were murtadd, or apostates, and condemning them to death. Because of the threat and coming from conservative societies, many members of the foundation's site still prefer to be anonymous so as to protect their identity while continuing a tradition of secrecy.
Internalized homophobia (or egodystonic homophobia) refers to negative feeling towards oneself because of homosexuality. This term has been criticized because holding negative attitudes does not necessarily involve a phobia, and the term "internalized stigma" is sometimes used instead. It causes severe discomfort with or disapproval of one's own sexual orientation. Internalized homophobia is thus a form of cognitive dissonance; the individual cannot reconcile the conflicting conscious or unconscious sexual desires with values and tenets gained from society, religion or upbringing.
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 sexual and emotional desires. This discordance often causes clinical depression, and the unusually high suicide rate among gay teenagers (up to 30 percent of non-heterosexual youth attempt suicide) has been attributed to this phenomenon. Psychotherapy, such as gay affirmative psychotherapy, and participation in a sexual-minority affirming group can help resolve the internal conflict between a religious and a sexual identity.
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 can include extreme repression and denial coupled with forced outward displays of heteronormative behavior for the purpose of appearing or attempting to feel "normal" or "accepted". This might also include less overt behavior like 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 argue that some or most people who are homophobic have repressed their own homosexuality, but this argument is somewhat controversial. In 1996, a controlled study of 64 heterosexual men (half claimed to be homophobic by experience and self-reported orientation) at the University of Georgia found that men who were found to be homophobic (as measured by the Index of Homophobia) were considerably more likely to experience more erectile responses when exposed to homoerotic images than non-homophobic men.
The word can be used to describe the fear of a heterosexual that they will be approached romantically by someone of the same sex. It also can describe the apparently fear-based reactions of recoiling from unintentional close contact with another male or of being in close proximity to other males in certain situations such as while in the restroom. These are typically fear-based reactions, but the fear is usually that of the social stigma of being labelled homosexual.
The fear of being identified as gay can be considered as a form of social homophobia. Theorists including Calvin Thomas and Judith Butler have suggested that homophobia can be rooted in an individual's fear of being identified as gay. Homophobia in men is correlated with insecurity about masculinity.
They have argued that a person who expresses homophobic thoughts and feelings does so not only to communicate their beliefs about the class of gay people, but also to distance themselves from this class and its social status. Thus, by distancing themselves from gay people, they are reaffirming their role as a heterosexual in a heteronormative culture, thereby attempting to prevent themselves from being labeled and treated as a gay person. This interpretation alludes to the idea that a person may posit violent opposition to "the Other" as a means of establishing their own identity as part of the majority and thus gaining social validation. This concept is also recurrent in interpretations of racism and xenophobia.
Nancy J. Chodorow states that homophobia can be viewed as a method of protection of male masculinity.
Various psychoanalytic theories explain homophobia as a threat to an individual's own same-sex impulses, whether those impulses are imminent or merely hypothetical. This threat causes repression, denial or reaction formation.
Some gender theorists interpret the fact that male-to-male relationships often incite a stronger reaction in homophobic people than female-to-female (lesbian) as meaning that people who are homophobic feel more threatened by the perceived subversion of the male-superior gender paradigm. 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 accenting their male nature by distancing themselves from the threatening concept of their own potential femininity, and consequently belittling gay men, as not being real males. According to this theory, the reason male homosexuality is treated worse compared to female homosexuality is 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 necessarily degrades his own masculine status.
Miller's view implies that only the receptive or submissive role in a homosexual act is regarded as emasculating, as is the case in many cultures. His specific claim that male heterosexuality does not require a "desire for women" seems to preclude the possibility of asexuality or bisexuality. It is not made clear why heterosexual men would "need" to fear gay people in order to affirm maleness – unless they perceived that their sexuality was already threatened by another factor.
Other theories of the difference in homophobic reactions to male-male rather than female-female homosexual relationships simply have to do with a common sexual desire. A heterosexual man desires women. For a woman to desire women is thus more understandable than for a man to desire men, as a heterosexual man and homosexual woman share the same desire for women, but a heterosexual man cannot understand or identify with the attraction of one man to another man. Similarly, homosexual men desire men, and thus for a man to desire men is understandable to a woman who has the same desires.
Disapproval of homosexuality and of gay people is not evenly distributed throughout society, but is more or less pronounced according to age, ethnicity, geographic location, race, sex, social class, education, partisan identification and religious status. According to UK HIV/AIDS charity AVERT, lack of homosexual feelings or experiences, religious views, and lack of interaction with gay people are strongly associated with such views.
The anxiety of heterosexual individuals (particularly adolescents whose construction of heterosexual masculinity is based in part on not being seen as gay) that others may identify them as gay has also been identified by Michael Kimmel as an example of homophobia. The taunting of boys seen as eccentric (and who are not usually gay) is claimed to be endemic in rural and suburban American schools, and has been associated with risk-taking behavior and outbursts of violence (such as a spate of school shootings) by boys seeking revenge or trying to assert their masculinity.
In the United States, attitudes about people who are homosexual may vary on the basis of partisan identification. Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to have negative attitudes about people who are gay and lesbian, according to surveys conducted by the National Election Studies in 2000 through 2004.
The disparity is shown in the graph on the right, which is from a book published in 2008 by Joseph Fried. It should be noted that the tendency of Republicans to view gay and lesbian people negatively could be based on homophobia, religious beliefs, or conservatism with respect to the traditional family.
One study of white adolescent males conducted at the University of Cincinnati by Janet Baker has been used to argue that negative feelings towards gay people are also associated with other discriminatory behaviors. The study claims to have found that hatred of gay people, anti-Semitism and racism are "likely companions", suggesting it is an abuse of power. A study performed in 2007 in the UK for the charity Stonewall reports that 90 percent of the population support anti-discrimination laws protecting gay and lesbian people.
Social constructs and culture can perpetuate homophobic attitudes. Such cultural sources in the black community include:
Sources of homophobia in the white community include:
Professional sports in many countries involves homophobic expressions by star athletes and by fans, and has happened even in the United States at least twice:
Most international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, condemn laws that make homosexual relations between consenting adults a crime. Since 1994, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has also ruled that such laws violated the right to privacy guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In 2008, the Roman Catholic Church issued a statement which "urges States to do away with criminal penalties against [homosexual persons]." The statement, however, was addressed to reject a resolution by the UN Assembly that would have precisely called for an end of penalties against homosexuals in the world.
To combat homophobia, the LGBT community uses events such as gay pride parades and political activism (See gay pride). This is criticized by some as counter-productive though, as gay pride parades showcase what could be seen as more "extreme" sexuality: fetish-based and gender-variant aspects of LGBT culture. One form of organized resistance to homophobia is the International Day Against Homophobia (or IDAHO), first celebrated May 17, 2005 in related activities in more than 40 countries. The four largest countries of Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia) developed mass media campaigns against homophobia since 2002.
In addition to public expression, legislation has been designed, controversially, 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 and goes 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 right-wing conservatives and fundamentalist 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 behavior earlier in order to prove that they are straight. Anti-gay bias contributed significantly to the spread of the AIDS epidemic. Anti-gay bias prevents the ability of schools to create effective honest sexual education programs that would save children's lives and prevent STDs.
Homophobia, anti-gay fear or hatred
Homophobia is the fear or poor treatment of homosexuals. The word was created in the 1960s by a psychologist named George Weinberg. There are events to stop homophobia, like the "gay pride parades" and "International Day Against Homophobia". In some places, it is illegal to treat homosexuals badly, and it is a hate crime to hurt them. Against such discriminations, the Declaration of Montreal and the Yogyakarta Principles were adopted in 2006.