That Curious Word, “Homophobia”

I’ve never liked the word “homophobia.” It implies fear, and I honestly don’t think most people who are anti-gay fear us. They don’t jump when they see us like we’re a bee or spider. Their hearts don’t pound and their palms don’t get clammy. We don’t evoke the same response as flashing lights in the mirror.

I think the people that suffer actual homophobia are gay people themselves — early on when they first recognize feelings and attractions, when they’re unwilling to accept this, and when they’re afraid others will find out. That’s fear. That’s gnawing anxiety. It’s sad because they’re actually afraid of themselves. I remember all too well.

What’s popularly called “homophobia” is actually prejudice in its milder form and hatred in its stronger form. It’s an “ism” like racism, not a “phobia.” We need a better word. Homoism? Would an anti-gay bigot be a homoist?

I don’t know. That sounds weird. I don’t have a good word to suggest. Any ideas?

I just know that “homophobia” misses the mark. It sugar-coats the hatred and almost makes the hater the victim. The poor person, they’re scared. The reality is that hating LGBT people, supporting restrictions on our rights, complaining about us — it’s all on a par with racism, sexism, misogyny and the like.

Title image: tereza ferreira/

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