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The term homophobia means fear, hatred, aversion to, prejudice or unjust discrimination against homosexual, or gay, people.

It is sometimes used to mean any sort of opposition to same sex romance or sexual activity whatsoever.

Homophobia is not a psychiatric term. There is no such thing as clinical homophobia, though the phenomenon of homophobia continues to be studied by groups like the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association and some psychiatric studies have linked deep hatred towards homosexuality to "repressed homosexual feelings". (see "internalised homophobia", below).

Homophobia has legal definitions in some countries, for example in the controversial gay panic defense, a form of insanity defense, or in hate crime legislation.

Table of contents
1 Etymology
2 Usage of the term
3 Consequences of Homophobia
4 Causes of homophobia
5 Opposition to homophobia
6 External links


The word homophobia is a neologism coined by psychologist George Weinberg in his book Society and the Healthy Homosexual in 1972. It consists of the Greek words homo meaning "the same" and phobia which means "fear". However the word combines the prefix homo- from "homosexual" with the root phobia. A precursor was homoerotophobia, coined by Dr Wainwright Churchill in Homosexual Behavior Among Males in 1967.

Usage of the term

"Homophobia" is an irrational hatred and fear of homosexuals or a similar feeling towards homosexual practices or homosexuality itself.

People who regard all opposition to homosexuality as irrationally hateful may use the word in the looser sense of "any opposition to homosexuality".

For example, gay rights activist Scott Bidstrup states in a personal essay titled Homophobia: The Fear Behind The Hatred:

"If you look up homophobia in the dictionary, it will probably tell you that it is the fear of homosexuals. While many would take issue with that definition, it is nevertheless true that in many ways, it really is a fear of homosexuality or at least homosexuals, as we will see in this essay." [1]

Niclas Berggren agrees in the Independent Gay Forum:

"It is usually not the case, for homophobic persons, that the basis of their attitudes towards homosexuality is rational reasoning, or intellectual argumentation. Such endeavors have, as a rule, been added afterwards, to try to give the homophobia a nicer and more respectable framing. However, these attempts to argue intellectually against homosexuality are utter failures." [1]

Other people tend to cavil against any use of the term homophobe. For example, Mechanical Engineering student Jarrod Carter wrote in 1995 in a letter to a student newspaper:

"I'm not homophobic, for those homosexuals out there who still use that line of drivel. You can't explain it away that easily. The word homophobic means, by popular definition, fear of homosexuals or the event of becoming homosexual. I am not afraid of either. What I am, however, is fed up with the amount of limelight that the sexually deviant are receiving in this nation. Homosexuality is not cool, it is morally incorrect." [1]

Terminologic disputes

Some campaigners against gay rights feel hurt when the term "homophobia" is applied to them, because they claim to object to homosexuality on principled or religious grounds rather than irrationally.

Some gay activists respond that it is not believing homosexuality to be wrong which constitutes homophobia, but rather specific positions and actions such as opposing equal rights and protections for gay people. This contrasts with the views of Niclas Berggren, for example, who describes attitudes as homophobic in themselves.

Indeed, many supporters of homosexuality argue that there is no rational criticims of homosexuality per se, since it is no more a matter of preference, choice or moral responsibility than being born into a particular sex or race.

Straight Supremacism

Some activists also call homophobia straight supremacism equating it to white supremacism. Anti-gay rights groups see this as an attempt to marginalize those who disapprove of homosexuality.

Consequences of Homophobia

Consequences of homophobia may include internalised homophobia, violence, and discrimination.

Internalised Homophobia

Homophobia directed against oneself, called internalised homophobia or ego-dystonic homophobia, can result in lifelong suffering of depression, low self-esteem and a stunted love life and sexuality. Some psychologists and psychiatrists attribute the much higher incidence of suicide among gay teenagers as due to this. Others believe it is due to homophobic actions against them, as described below.

Homosexuals with internalised homophobia may discriminate or be violent towards other homosexuals in the same way and to the same extent as anyone else with homophobia. Some homosexuals with internalised homophobia may repress their homosexuality, so that they are not fully aware of it. Some people claim that most homophobes are repressed homosexuals.

Homosexuals who are opposed to homosexual behaviour may suffer many of the same effects, to a lesser extent, as those with internalised homophobia. Some choose chastity in order to avoid conflict between their homosexuality and their beliefs. Others may try to become heterosexual through reparative therapy, though it is generally agreed among mental health professionals that it is impossible to change sexual orientation (see causes of sexual orientation).

Sometimes homosexuals who are opposed to homosexual behaviour, particularly politicians, are forcibly outed by campaign groups or newspapers. It is claimed that opposing homosexual behaviour while being homosexual is hypocritical and should be exposed. This is a controversial tactic.


Main article: gay-bashing

Extreme cases of homophobia have resulted in cases of murder in the United States (see hate crime) in which a person was killed because someone thought they were homosexual. In some of these cases, the defendant argued that their action was due to a moment of panic because they believed the victim was "coming on to them". This phenomenon is generally referred to as the "gay panic defense".

Murder is the most extreme manifestation of homophobia, and occurs relatively infrequently. Much more common are cases of non-fatal beatings, shootings, stabbings, and other assaults, including verbal assaults and bullying. Fear of physical violence is widespread among homosexuals, and many of them migrate to urban areas both for the safety and cultural advantages large gay communities offer them. Even urban environments are not always safe, as it is not unknown for gangs of youths to travel into gay communities in search of targets.


Most often, homophobia manifests itself in discrimination. Up until very recently, discrimination against homosexuals was a function of government in Western countries. The passage of many notable non-discrimination laws and the voluntary changing of policy by many employers has, to a certain extent, improved the situation for homosexuals. However, some anti-gay rights groups contend that many of these laws and policies have, in fact, discriminated against heterosexuals. Gay rights activists don't believe these claims and further state that there are still a great deal of subtle forms of anti-homosexual discrimination. Because of this, homosexuals still talk about their fear being fired from their jobs, denied housing, or harassed in various ways. (See fruit machine.)

Homosexuals were one of the groups persecuted under the Nazi regime. As many as 600 000 homosexuals died in the Holocaust. See Homosexuals in Nazi Germany, pink triangle, black triangle.

Effects on straight people

Homophobia also harms non-gay people as well. Warren J. Blumenfeld argues that the following side effects of homophobia harm heterosexuals: Extremist far-right conservative and religious groups use anti-gay bias to further their political goals. Anti-gay bias leads everyone compromise their morals and treat others badly. Anti-gay bias causes everyone to avoid or have trouble forming close relationships with friends of the same sex. Everyone's behaviour is restricted to rigid gender-roles or punished for variance by anti-gay bias. Even if people are in actuality straight, they may be silenced or ridiculed into not fulfilling their potential by avoided the creative fulliling but stigmatized activity. Anti-gay bias causes young people to engage in sexual behaviour earlier in order to prove that they are straight. Anti-gay bias contributed signifigantly to the spread of the AIDS epedemic. Anti-gay bias inhibits the ability of schools to create effective honest sexual education programs that would save children's lives and prevent STDs

Causes of homophobia

The cause of homophobia in society has been widely debated. Homophobic beliefs and attitudes can be held by people independent of their sexual orientation.

Some gender theorists interpret the fact that male/male activities or relationships often incite a stronger reaction in a homophobic person than female/female (lesbian) activities or relationships, as meaning that the homophobic person feels threatened by the perceived subversion of the gender paradigm in male/male sexual activity.

Psychoanalytic theory has long held that homophobia was the result of repressed homosexual desires. In a recent experiment, a group of homophobic heterosexual men showed more signs of sexual arousal from being shown images of homosexual sex than a control group of non-homophobic heterosexual men; however, anxiety in the former group may explain part of the difference [1]. Similarly, so-called ex-gays, who claim to have "walked away from homosexuality, have often used strong language to condemn the practice (and some have later returned to it). The group most likely to manifest homophobia is adolescent males.

Some groups or individuals have voiced disapproval of homosexuality, or actively oppose it, because of religious principles. These self-proclaimed principled advocates typically condemn violence toward homosexuals but vary in their opinion about the legal status of homosexuals. Some people believe that these approaches foster homophobia. See Religion and homosexuality.

Some laws have been seen to encourage or legitimise homophobia, as in sodomy laws, Section 28, and differing ages of consent for homosexuals and heterosexuals.

Opposition to homophobia

To combat homophobia, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community uses events such as pride parades and political activism. See gay pride.

Many religious organizations and denominations support gay rights and oppose homophobia. See Religion and homosexuality.

Some laws have been made to oppose homophobia, as in hate speech, hate crime, and laws against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Changes to the law are often made in response to pressure from the gay rights movement.

See also: Transphobia, Xenophobia, Heterosexism, Heteronormativity, List of sexual slurs

External links