Well today is apparently a day I should be aware of. It is International Day Against Homophobia. There is something about this that I don’t like – it is the term “homophobia.” A phobia implies an irrational fear – but most people aren’t afraid of homosexuals, they just don’t like or agree with them. I am doing my best everyday to erase those irrational fears people hold against gay people by being the gay person that people like. While awareness is always a good thing, I think as gay people we need to first of all erase the terms that encourage fear or misrepresent us. Homophobia is one of those words. “Same-Sex marriage” is another term that undermines the message.
I am always fascinated by language and a simple rephrase or choosing different words can absolutely change the tone and meaning of what is being said. For instance, I advocate for marriage equality – not same sex marriage. To include “sex” in the sentence takes the focus off of what is at stake and allows people to continue to think, “I don’t like gay sex and therefore they should not be able to marry” however when we just say marriage equality it becomes an argument about law and equal rights as humans without the ‘sex’ part. It is an important distinction.
The term homophobia allows people to justify their actions and views as a fear they can’t control. We should be calling homophobia what it is – prejudice, bigotry, religious persecution, willful ignorance. Homophobia is such a nice word. The word homophobia takes the responsibility off the person who discriminates by making it a ‘phobia’ instead of willful prejudice. To have an International day against homophobia I think does an injustice to those in other countries far less tolerant than the U.S. (and we are only starting to become more tolerant). Homosexuals in many countries are still stoned to death, hung in the town square, beaten, and ostracized. Is that homophobia or is it a form of genocide? Genocide isn’t a nice word. It is much less emotional to say homophobic isn’t it? We don’t take the word homophobia near as serious as we do other words used to describe people who hate based on behavior or genetics.
If you are against my lifestyle – you aren’t afraid of me. You just don’t like how I live my life. There isn’t a word for having an irrational fear of black people – we call that prejudice, racism, and bigotry. Maybe we should have an International Day Against Negrophobia? <—- I just made that up, but it sure sounds better than being a bigot right? I don’t hate black people – I am just scared of them. Well that’s justifiable isn’t it? We have Islamophobia too – we get to be afraid of followers of the Islamic religion. People aren’t afraid of Muslims, they are afraid of terrorism which is often associated with Muslims – but when we say Islamophobia we are saying we are scared of the religion, not the actions of the (small minority) of people who practice extremism. So why do we have phobias for gays and Muslims but not Mexicans or African Americans? We don’t have Christophobia or Mexicophobia…
I have an irrational fear of clowns. I don’t hate clowns. I just think they are evil and scary anywhere outside of a circus where they belong. I don’t try to legislate my fear of clowns. I don’t want to kill clowns or deny them rights. I am just scared of them. It makes no sense. It is irrational. I am not the only one scared of clowns. Clowns scare lots of people. Coulrophobia – is the fear of clowns. It’s a real thing. It is a genuine phobia. You know what I do because of my phobia? I avoid clowns. I don’t march against them, or hold signs saying how evil they are. I don’t want to eradicate them. I don’t want to take them away from the people who really like them, I just choose not to go places where I know clowns will be. It is an aversion, a fear – I just don’t want them near me for reasons I don’t even understand.
While I think there are many people out there with a genuine fear or aversion to homosexuals – those aren’t the people that are rallying against us. The people who are really afraid of us – they avoid us. They avoid talking about us, learning about us, or associating with us. I have never met a real homophobe. I imagine if I had, when they learned I was a homosexual – they would have left the room. I mean, that’s what I do when a clown comes in a room or place I am in… I leave their evil scary gaze. I don’t have long chats with them about their choice to be a clown, nor do I spend time trying to get others to be scared of clowns too. I avoid them. They have every right to exist and be clowns – I just don’t associate with them.
If we want to bring awareness about the injustices homosexuals face on an international scale we need to use words that convey what is actually happening. Gays aren’t being hung in other countries because people are afraid – they are being hung because God told people to hang them and that they deserve to DIE. That isn’t a phobia, it is religious persecution. It is murder. It is bigotry and intolerance and we soften that by calling it homophobia. Yes. So much nicer that word is.
So if you are one of the people who thinks that being gay is wrong – is it because you are afraid of me or is it because you do not agree with who I am? Are you a homophobe or are you a bigot? Is there something I can do to alleviate your irrational fear of me? If you are truly homophobic, I would think that you would spend less time thinking about me – not more. Could you imagine if we tried to legislate all of our fears? I would segregate clowns. They would only be allowed at the circus if I ran the world based on my irrational fears. Better yet – I wouldn’t even allow them at the circus – they could possibly escape from there and come hide under my bed in order to kill me in my sleep. Better safe than sorry.
So anyway – my international day against homophobia isn’t against those who are genuinely afraid of me (I wish there was something I could do to alleviate that), instead it is about bringing awareness to the fact that most people aren’t afraid of homosexuals – they just don’t like us and don’t think we should share this planet with them. Let’s have an international day against bigotry – that way we can raise awareness for ALL persecuted groups of people. We can ask people to determine if they are hateful or scared. There is a difference – and the distinction is important.