Monday, January 2, 2012

Why the Term "Homophobic" is Bogus



The goal of this entry is not to debate the merits or demerits of the homosexual lifestyle; rather it is to dispute the term that is so often associated with it. I am not here to defend those who would undermine the dignity of any human being, including those who describe themselves as homosexual.  What I am defending is the English language and the notion that our words should correspond to our ideas.

The first problem I have with this term is that it doesn't mean what it claims to mean. Translated literally, it means "fear of the same", which is clearly not what the individual using it is intending to communicate.Whenever someone is called "homophobic," it is generally because; a) they have made some insensitive remarks regarding homosexuality and/or b) they are making threats to someone who identifies themselves as homosexual. Once again, I do not endorse either the physical or verbal intimidation of anyone- however, neither do I endorse misleading vocabulary. Call the person insensitive, or even offensive if you like, but do not ascribe a psychological disorder to them simply because they are illiberal. I am all for reprehending people who bully another person, but I draw the line at calling them mentally deficient. If you go that route, you may just as well retroactively institutionalize every major civilization that has gone before us. Every society has had some form of homosexuality, but no society, to my knowledge, has ever gone so far as to declare anyone mentally unstable who declared homosexuality immoral.

My second complaint has to do with the meaning of the word "phobia". A phobia is by definition an irrational fear of something. Such a definition implies that there may be instances where one might have a reasonable fear of the thing in question. Subsequently, if I have arachnophobia, then I have an irrational fear of spiders. Is it irrational to fear spiders in some circumstances? Of course not; there are any number of good reasons for fearing spiders, and one of those is possible death. However, if I imagine that spiders are crawling all over my body (assuming they are not), then I might need to approach a physician. Likewise, in the case of claustrophobia, it is not irrational for me to fear the idea of being buried alive, though I might need to seek further counseling if I regard my own living room as a kind of narrow crawlspace.

If we were to apply this same standard to the term homophobia, then what we wind up saying is something like; "This man has an irrational fear of homosexuals; for though there may be at times good reasons for fearing homosexuality, this man takes it to the extreme!" Or put another way, "It is reasonable to fear that homosexuals are a threat to the general welfare of society, however, it goes a little bit far to imply that homosexuality is the root cause of every imaginable evil in the world." Is this what individual's mean when they utter this word? I think not.

In any case, this attempt to castigate everyone who criticizes homosexuality is not exactly served by this kind of psychobabble. To the contrary, it comes across as a desperate attempt to undermine another man's credibility- much like the individual who blithely refers to their opponent as Hitler. Might I suggest a more fool-proof and intellectually honest way of defending homosexuals. Do not place all of the emphasis on who the individual is or isn't attracted to. In other words, don't say: "I am defending you because your homosexuality has been insulted"; say, "I am defending you because you are made in the image and likeness of God, and are therefore worthy of being treated with the utmost respect and dignity." By reducing a man to the level of his affections, you do not exalt him, rather you reduce him to the level of a sentiment.


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