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Template:Fix bunching Template:Discrimination sidebar Template:Fix bunching Homophobia is a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and in some cases transgender and intersex people. Definitions refer variably to antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, and irrational fear.[1][2][3] Homophobia is observable in critical and hostile behavior such as discrimination[1][2] and violence on the basis of a perceived 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."[4]

Among more discussed forms are institutionalized homophobia (e.g. religious and state-sponsored[5]), 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 term homophobia was formed like the names for many other phobias (e.g. chemophobia) from a shortened version of what is feared, disliked, or discriminated against, in this case homosexuals, and the word phobia.[6][7][8]

First documented uses

George Weinberg is credited as the first person to have used the term in speech.[9] 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.[9]

Conceptualizing anti-LGBT prejudice as a social problem worthy of scholarly attention was not new. In 1971, Kenneth Smith was the first person to use homophobia as a personality profile to describe the psychological aversion to homosexuality.[10] George Weinberg, a psychologist, also used it this way in his 1972 book Society and the Healthy Homosexual,[11] published one year before the American Psychiatric Association voted to remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.[12][13] Weinberg's term became an important tool for gay and lesbian activists, advocates, and their allies.[9] He describes the concept as a medical phobia:[11]

[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.[9]

In 1982, homophobia was used for the first time in The New York Times to report that the General Synod of the Church of England voted to refuse to condemn homosexuality.[14]

Criticism of meaning and purpose

Distinctions and proposed alternatives

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:

  • Homoerotophobia, being a possible precursor term to homophobia, was coined by Wainwright Churchill and documented in Homosexual Behavior Among Males in 1967.
  • The specious etymology of homophobia citing the union of homos and phobos is the basis for LGBT historian Boswell's criticism of the term and for his suggestion of the alternative homosexophobia.[15]
  • 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.[16]
  • Heterosexism refers to a system of negative attitudes, bias, and discrimination in favor of opposite-sex sexual orientation and relationships.[17] p. 13 It can include the presumption that everyone is heterosexual or that opposite-sex attractions and relationships are the only norm[18] and therefore superior.
  • Sexual prejudice – Researcher at the University of California, Davis Gregory M. Herek preferred sexual prejudice as being descriptive, free of presumptions about motivations, and lacking value judgments as to the irrationality or immorality of those so labeled.[19][20] He compared homophobia, heterosexism, and sexual prejudice, and, in preferring the third term, noted that homophobia was "probably more widely used and more often criticized." He also 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."


Use of homophobia, homophobic, and homophobe has been criticized as pejorative against those with differing value positions.

  • 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.[21]
  • 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".[22]
  • 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.'"[23]


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.[24] There were also ideas to classify homophobia, racism, and sexism as an intolerant personality disorder.[25]

Homophobia has never been listed as part of a clinical taxonomy of phobias, neither in DSM or ICD; homophobia is usually used in a non-clinical sense.[26]

Institutionalized homophobia

Religious homophobia

Several world religions contain anti-homosexual teachings, while other religions have varying degrees of ambivalence, neutrality, or incorporate teachings regarding homosexuals as third gender. Even within some religions which generally discourage homosexuality, there are also people who view homosexuality positively, and some religious denominations may go so far as to bless same-sex marriages. There also exist so-called Queer religions, dedicated to serving the spiritual needs of LGBTQI persons. Queer theology seeks to provide a counter-point to religious homophobia.[27]

State-sponsored homophobia

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.[citation needed]

Past regimes

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."[28]

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.[29] However, some left-wing figures have considered homosexuality a "bourgeois disease", a right-wing movement or a "Western disease".[30] Lenin's emancipation was reversed a decade later by Joseph Stalin and homosexuality remained illegal under Article 121 until the Yeltsin era.

Current governments

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.[31] In North Korea, "violating the rules of collective socialist life" can be punished with up to two years' imprisonment.[32] 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.[33] His first major public condemnation of homosexuality was in August 1995, during the Zimbabwe International Book Fair.[34] He told an audience: "If you see people parading themselves as lesbians and gays, arrest them and hand them over to the police!"[35] In September 1995, Zimbabwe's parliament introduced legislation banning homosexual acts.[34] 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.[36][37]

Overlapping homophobias

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,[38] 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:[39][40]

  • Five carry the death penalty for homosexual activity: Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen.[41] Since the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, the Iranian government has executed more than 4,000 people charged with homosexual acts.[42] 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.[43]

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.[44]

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

Internalized homophobia

Internalized homophobia (or egodystonic homophobia) refers to negative feeling towards oneself because of homosexuality.[45][46] This term has been criticized because holding negative attitudes does not necessarily involve a phobia, and the term "internalized stigma" is sometimes used instead.[45] It causes severe discomfort with or disapproval of one's own sexual orientation.

Such a situation may cause extreme repression of homosexual desires.[47] 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.[48] 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.[45]

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.

Some argue that some or most people who are homophobic have repressed their own homosexuality. 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)[49] were considerably more likely to experience more erectile responses when exposed to homoerotic images than non-homophobic men.[47]

Social homophobia

The word can be used to describe the fear of a heterosexual that they will be approached romantically by someone of the same sex.

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.[50][51] For this reason, allegedly homophobia is rampant in sports, and in the subculture of its supporters, that are considered stereotypically "male", like football (rugby).[52]

These theorists 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.

Nancy J. Chodorow states that homophobia can be viewed as a method of protection of male masculinity.[53]

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.[54]

Precursor to a climate of prejudice

Sexist beliefs

File:Victoria Pride-Homophobia is so gay.jpg

An anti-homophobia protester at a demonstration in Canada, 2009

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

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File:Fig. 148 - How do you feel about gays and lesbians.JPG


Template:Fix bunching 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.[55]

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[56][57] has also been identified by Michael Kimmel as an example of homophobia.[58] 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.[59] Homophobic bullying is also very common in schools in the United Kingdom.[60]

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.[61]

In some cases, the works of authors who merely have the word "Gay" in their name (Gay Talese, Peter Gay) or works about things also contain the name (Enola Gay) have been destroyed because of a perceived pro-homosexual bias.[62]

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.[63]

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",[64] 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.[65]

Social constructs and culture can perpetuate homophobic attitudes. Such cultural sources in the black community include:

Sources of homophobia in the white community include:

  • The Arts
Films and literature that project negative gay stereotypes.[citation needed]

Professional sports in many countries involves homophobic expressions by star athletes and by fans. Incidents in the United States have included:

  • 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.[72]
  • 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.”[73]

However, the major professional sports leagues do not advocate homophobia, and regard the LGBT community as a very important marketing base.[74][75][76]

Efforts to combat homophobia

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File:SOS Homophobie.JPG

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

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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.[77] In March 2010, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted a recommendation on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity, described by CoE Secretary General as the first legal instrument in the world dealing specifically with one of the most long-lasting and difficult forms of discrimination to combat.[78]

To combat homophobia, the LGBT community uses events such as gay pride parades and political activism (See gay pride). This is criticized by some[who?] 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),[79] first celebrated May 17, 2005 in related activities in more than 40 countries.[80] The four largest countries of Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia) developed mass media campaigns against homophobia since 2002.[81]

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.

Successful preventative strategies against homophobic prejudice and bullying in schools have included teaching pupils about historical figures who were gay, or who suffered discrimination because of their sexuality.[82]

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.[83] 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.

See also


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External links

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