I am writing this because I am so often accused of homophobia, no sorry, of promoting homophobic beliefs that I am begining to doubt if anyone knows what the word even means. Here is what I have discovered it to mean*.
Homphobia implies a phobic condition that the accused most likely does not really have. A phobia according to the Diognostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, is defined as “an irrational fear or dread of an object or activity leading to a significant avoidance of the dreaded object”.
In the comedy movie what about Bob? a psychiatric patient is beset with phobias, claustrophobia being one of them. When approaching a small space, such as an elevator or crowded bus, he psychs himself up, mutters under his breath and tries to endure being in a small space for a short period of time.
Assuming that homosexuality is the object or activity that homophobes dread shouldn’t we all be like Bob? When seeing a homosexual, if truely homophobic shouldn’t we have to psych ourselves up, muttering under our breath and barely enduring the prescence of a homosexual even for a short period of time?
Yet we don’t. The Christian man or woman who speaks to homosexuals, works alongside them, or relates to them in anyway, could hardly be said to have a ‘phobic responce’. Their feelings towards homosexuals may be negative but that in itself does not constitute phobia.
There also seems to be a premature assumption that negative reactions to homosexuality are phobias. I have come to believe that negative reactions to homosexuals stem from two sources: prejudices or convictions.
Webster defines prejudice as: “an opinion about something without adequate basis”. By that definition there is a great deal of prejudice against homosexuals. But it is not phobia it is a sin.
By contrast conviction according to Webster “is a state of being convicted: a strong belief”. It is entirely possible to have a strong belief about homosexuality without prejudice or phobia. That, I beleive, is the case with most Christians. Even Mel White, who throughout his book condemns homophobia in the church agrees that “thoughtful students of the Scriptures may disagree on the subject of homosexuality”. Andrew Sullivan, the well-known gay journalist goes even further, “Perhaps the most depressing and fruitless debate about homosexuality is to treat all version of this [conservative Christian] argument as the equivilant of bigotry. They are not. At its most serious, it [the Christian prohibition against homosexuality] is not a phobia; its an argument.
In truth, the term homophobia can be used accuratly in very few cases. Rather, prejudice describes unfounded negative attitudes towards homosexuals, while conviction describes the beliefs of people holding the conservative view on homosexuality.
* Dallas, J.The Gay Gospel? (2007) Harvest House Publishers, Oregon.