What is Homophobia?

The Skeptical Enquirer

The Skeptic

“What,” he asks, “is Homophobia?”

He is answered with, “Fear of homosexuals.”

“Oh, how so? Where did that come from?”

“More than anything else, it derives from the practices of twentieth-century psychology and thought, which encourages the attribution of motive, which in turn is likely the most pestilential habit in America today, one born of the American Academy, especially the law schools.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Before I answer, please consider these two definitions: homo and phobia. Homo means of or about mankind; that is, human beings, pure and simple. Phobia means irrational fear, again, pure and simple. Yet parsing these in association with each other changes everything. It changes their meaning, which is in practice what lawyers always do. To more rational minds, the pairing of these words can only mean an irrational fear of mankind, no more, no less, right?

“Well, yes, at least on the surface.”

“Surface?  What do you mean, surface?”

“Well, there are other meanings, of course, right?”

“No, that’s not right, but that is where legal thinking muddies the waters, and again, as born by that most pestilential habit aforementioned: the imputing of motivations. Homo means human beings. Phobia means an irrational fear. How is it possible for homophobia to mean anything other than irrational fear of human beings? Man? How do we go from that to fear of homosexuals specifically and, more to the point, who decides? Who is the arbiter and why should we agree with that arbiter’s assigned meaning? Moreover, why on earth do we tend to defer in so much so often to the so-called legal expert community? Lawyers? When did they become masters of language and all its meanings? Are they grammarians and makers of all communicative rules?”

“Well still, homophobia means fear of homosexuals. That’s what they teach in schools today, isn’t it?”

“Yes, and that’s a problem, too. You start with two words, each with precise meanings, combine them and bang! Out of the blue, you have created an entirely new meaning, and one wholly at odds with the meanings to the root words. How can 1 + 1 = 3 when 1 + 1 is always 2? For one thing, it is a matter of instilling fear and guilt; and the minting of new, socially prohibited beliefs rather than an age-old aversion, which tends to disgust at such distastefully repellant behavior. I don’t fear homosexuals. Do you? Why should I fear homosexuality? After all, it is simply a mental disorder, much like schizophrenia. In psychiatric parlance, it is defined as gender dysphoria, which has in recent years been evermore cast as ‘a life choice.’  Why isn’t schizophrenia and manifold other mental disorders merely matters of choice, too?  Yes, this has become the province of lawyers[i], and therein lies the road to barbarism.”

“Barbarism?”

Why yes, most certainly.  Where else can this lead? Consider, for example, our outgoing president’s so-called transgender  ‘guidance’, a form of advocacy driven by an impulsive schadenfreude so intoxicating to he and his ilk: forcing people to agree with him by making it a social offense to criticize; to castigate; to even mention homosexuality as out of the ordinary; by making it taboo in discussion. What nonsense! A mental disorder ought to be treated, not accepted and mainstreamed as socially acceptable behavior.”

“Slow down. You’re going too fast! I can’t keep up!”

“What other reasonable purposes can be given for such widespread advocacy for such a tiny, tiny, tiny grouping of people? Does it advance their mental health by normalizing their mental disorder? You might try to pick up a copy of The Conceptual Evolution of DSM-5. Read it cover to cover. It isn’t difficult.  It isn’t rocket science! You don’t have to be a physician to understand it, no, not at all. More importantly, and more to the point, you don’t need any legal training to make reasoned judgments concerning such mental disorders; such aberrant behavior. My word! Not even psychiatrists are expert in this field!”

“Are you a religious nut, then?  Are you condemning homosexuality?”

“Yes and no. Yes, I am religious, which means I consider the transcendent, not only the immanent. No, Homosexuality is not criminal nor should it be wantonly punished, but it is an abnormality afflicting a tiny, tiny percentage of the population, and it ought to be confronted, just as we do with other mental disorders, like schizophrenia, which is one reason I have studied history all of my adult life.”

“Why do you bring that up; the study of history?”

“Because its purpose is the reduction of untruth, which is why it is so very important to every one of us, and its denigration in the American Academy today, unintentionally or otherwise, is somber. Most importantly, it tells us what others have discovered that tend to truth, at least in the west, and this reaching back 3500 years and more: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam forbid homosexuality. Why is this so? And why, pray tell, is homosexuality now being touted as a socially acceptable lifestyle?”

“I’m not a bigot. I suspect you are. I say this because I do not tolerate any racist, sexist or homophobic behavior, but it seems that you do.”

“Nonsense. How about schizophrenia? After all, that’s a mental disorder too. Should we not mainstream it? Why not? Why not accept schizophrenia as a life choice, too? Anyway, if you insist on so-called experts, why not go to the Center for Disease Control and see what they say rather than lawyers who tend to talk about probabilities and plausible arguments that involve no knowledge concerning truth, but trial and disputation and wrangling conflict and contentiousness and everything of that sort.”


This sort of back and forth interplay and discussion continues to this day, and I suspect it will continue onward for some time to come…


[i] “Why is it that our common language, so easy for any other use, becomes obscure and unintelligible in contracts and wills, and that a man who expresses himself so clearly, whatever he says or writes, finds in this [the legal] field no way of speaking his mind that does not fall into doubt and contradiction? Unless it is that the princes of this art [lawyers], applying themselves with particular attention to picking out solemn words and contriving artificial phrases, have so weighed every syllable, so minutely examined every sort of combination, that they are at last entangled and embroiled in the endless number of figures and in such minute partitions that they can no longer fall under any rule or prescription or any certain interpretation.” ― The Complete ESSAYS OF MONTAIGNE, Translated by Donald M. Frame, Stanford University Press, Stanford, California; Copyright 1943 by Donald M. Frame, renewed 1971.  Copyright © 1948, 1957, and 1958 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, Page 816.

About Michael

Retired military officer; retired Air Force civil servant; retired executive, DS Information Systems Corporation; writer; researcher; reader and avid yachtsman.
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