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Homophobia (from Greek homós: one and the same; phóbos: fear, phobia) is defined as an "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals", or individuals perceived to be homosexual; it is also defined as "unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality", "fear of or contempt for lesbians and gay men", as well as "behavior based on such a feeling". For the European Parliament "homophobia can be defined as an irrational fear of and aversion to homosexuality and to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people based on prejudice and similar to racism, xenophobia, anti-semitism and sexism". It is defined by behavior (such as discrimination) as well as motivation (such as fear, antipathy or contempt). Homophobic is the adjective form of this term used to describe the qualities of these characteristics, while homophobe is the noun form given as a title to individuals labeled with homophobic characteristics. Homophobia was first used with its modern meaning in 1971, although it was coined in the mid-1950s. Use of the word has been criticized as pejorative against those with differing value positions, with several researchers proposing alternative words to describe prejudice and discrimination against gay and lesbian people. The term "internalized homophobia" is used to describe a prejudice against one's own homosexuality.

Etymology and usage

Kenneth Smith in 1971 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 and gay activist 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:

Conceptualizing prejudice against people who are gay or lesbian as a social problem worthy of scholarly attention was not new, but Weinberg was the first to give it a name.

The construction of the word is comparable to xenophobia, a much older term referring to individual or cultural hostility to foreigners or outsiders. Tracing the origin of the word to the Greek 'homos' fails to make sense etymologically, because 'homo' means 'the same', which would render 'homophobia' to mean a fear of things that are the same. Gay historian Boswell criticised the word on this basis, suggesting "homosexophobia" instead. This interpretation of etymology has been challenged by arguing that as “homo” is derogatory slang for gay people, most people will tend to see the “homo” in homophobia as referring to "homosexuals"; "a reasonable interpretation of homophobia is fear of 'homos,' that is, homosexuals".

The word homophobia was also used early in the 20th century, albeit rarely. It then had the meaning of "fear or hatred of the male sex or humankind." In this use, the word derived from the Latin root homo (Latin, "man" or "human") with the Greek ending -phobia ("fear").

Despite its general shortcomings etymologically, 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 word first appeared in print in an article written for the May 23, 1969, edition of the American tabloid Screw, using the word to refer to straight men's fear that others might think they are gay. A possible etymological precursor was homoerotophobia, coined by Wainwright Churchill in Homosexual Behavior Among Males in 1967.

It was first formally used in its modern sense in the press in 1981, when the The New York Times reported that the General Synod of the Church of England voted to refuse to condemn homosexuality.

The term homophobia is likened to and used alongside other terms denoting bigotry and discrimination. In a 1998 address, Coretta Scott King asserted 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." Likewise, George Yancey, writing in Christian Ethics Today associates "sexism, racism, class distinctions, or homophobia" with one another and views them all as "varieties of discrimination," although he argues that they are not identical.

Criticism of the term

Homonegativity is based on the term "homonegativism" used by Hudson and Ricketts in a 1980 paper; they coined the term for their research in order to avoid "homophobia", which they regarded as being unscientific in its presumption of motivation. Other terms, such as heterosexism, have been proposed as alternatives that are more morphologically parallel, and which do not have the association with phobia. Heterosexism refers to the presumption that all people are heterosexual and/or to the privileging of heterosexuality over homosexuality. Gregory M. Herek, a researcher at the University of California, Davismarker, compared several related terms: "homophobia", "heterosexism", and "sexual prejudice". In preferring the third term, he noted that "homophobia" was "probably more widely used and more often criticized", and observed that "Its critics note that homophobia implicitly suggests that antigay attitudes are best understood as an irrational fear and that they represent a form of individual psychopathology rather than a socially reinforced prejudice." He preferred "sexual prejudice" as being descriptive and free of presumptions about motivations, and lacking in value judgments as to the irrationality or immorality of those so labeled.

In 1993, behavioral scientists William O'Donohue and Christine Caselles concluded that the usage of the term "as it is usually used, makes an illegitimately pejorative evaluation of certain open and debatable value positions, much like the former disease construct of homosexuality" itself, arguing that the term may be used as an ad hominem argument against those who advocate values or positions of which the speaker does not approve. The social construct of masculinity is not defined by attraction to females alone but also by negative attraction to males. The implication of a fear of something unmasculine, given the term's scientific etymology, may be used illegitimately to imply that anyone with a different opinion is unmasculine. A group of psychologists from the University of Arkansas conducted research that showed that participants responses were not fear-based but reflected a disapproval of homosexuality that was due to other factors, such as disgust.

The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, an organization affiliated with the ex-gay movement, describes the term homophobia as being "often used inaccurately to describe any person who objects to homosexual behavior on either moral, psychological or medical grounds." They claim that, "Technically, however, the terms actually denotes a person who has a phobia — or irrational fear — of homosexuality. Principled disagreement, therefore, cannot be labeled 'homophobia.'"

Mormons have criticized the use of the term when used to describe people as 'homophobic', as they see this as a slur against those who disagree with homosexuality.

Classification



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.

David Hall contrasts homophobia with heterosexism, which he describes as a belief that heterosexuality is better than homosexuality, and deserving of distinct rights and privileges: "A phobia is an irrational fear. When you have a phobia, you either flee what you fear or attack and attempt to destroy what you fear", and cites Matthew Shepard and Lawrence King as victims of this. He explains that also, "people who are fired from their jobs for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender are victims of homophobia."

Internalized homophobia

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 or an ex-gay 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 Georgiamarker 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.

Social homophobia

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.

Political ideology



The Soviet Unionmarker 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.

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 Communist regime in Cubamarker persecuted homosexual people throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but has taken a more tolerant position in recent years.

The North Koreanmarker 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 Zimbabwemarker, 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.

Precursor to a climate of prejudice

Sexist beliefs

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.

Distribution of attitudes in the UK and US



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.

Homophobia also varies by region, statistics show that the Southern United States has more reports of anti-gay prejudice than any other region in the US.

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 Cincinnatimarker 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 UKmarker for the charity Stonewall reports that 90 percent of the population support anti-discrimination laws protecting gay and lesbian people.

Social institutions can perpetuate homophobic attitudes. Such institutional sources in the black community include:

Sources of homophobia in the white community include:
  • Churches
Pastor John Hagee said in 2006, "I believe that New Orleansmarker had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that. The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came." This view was echoed by Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, who promote the view that virtually all wars and natural disasters affecting America are God's punishment for tolerating homosexuality. The parade mentioned above was due to take place in the French Quarter of New Orleans, an area which escaped the terrible effects of Hurricane Katrina.


Professional sports in many countries involves homophobic expressions by star athletes and by fans. Examples in the United States include:
  • Hockey fans
The homophobic chants and attitudes of certain fans, for example the labelling of one fan who frequently dances at games as "Homo Larry", have been protested by attendees of New York Rangers games and by New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.


  • Basketball players
All-Star National Basketball Association player Tim Hardaway drew criticism after he said on the "790 the Ticket" radio show, "Well, you know, I hate gay people. I let it be known I don’t like gay people. I don’t like to be around gay people. I’m homophobic. I don’t like it, it shouldn’t be in the world, in the United States, I don’t like it.”


However, the major professional sports leagues do not advocate homophobia, and regard the LGBT community a very important marketing base.

Combating homophobia

An anti-homophobia protester at a demonstration in Paris, in 2005


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:

Contemporary death penalty

In 2009, ILGA published a report 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, five carry the death penalty for homosexual activity, and two do in some regions of the country. In the report, this is described as "State sponsored homophobia" This happens in Islamic states, or in two cases regions under Islamic authority.

  • Countries that carry the death penalty:
    • Iran
    • Mauritania
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Sudan
    • Yemen


  • Countries where death penalty applies in some areas:
    • Nigeria
    • Somalia


In countries where homosexual activity carries the death penalty, it is enacted under Sharia Law; under which Islam forbids homosexuality, and it is treated as a crime in most Islamic countries. All major Islamic sects disapprove of homosexuality. Homosexuality carried the death penalty in Afghanistanmarker under the Taliban. The legal situation in the United Arab Emiratesmarker is unclear. In Saudi Arabia, the maximum punishment for homosexuality is public execution, but the government will use other punishments - e.g., fines, jail time, and whipping - as alternatives, unless it feels that people engaging in homosexual activity are challenging state authority by engaging in LGBT social movements. Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, the Iranian government has executed more than 4,000 people charged with homosexual acts. In Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, homosexuality went from a capital crime to one that it punished with fines and prison sentence.

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]."

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.

See also: Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, Arsham Parsi, Irshad Manji

See also





References

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  3. and
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