The Other Definition of Homophobia

Me and my big mouth!

I’ve reminded myself once again of the dangers of blogging in a pre-caffeinated state of mind.  Something strikes you as funny and insightful, but then you look at it later and go, “Why did I think that was a good idea?”

Early this morning, I posted a picture from Facebook that defines Homophobia as “the fear that gay men will treat you the way you treat women.”  That was seriously not cool of me.

In a much-read blog post from last week, I wrote that people of all ideological stripes should be conducting their conversations about this issue “in a spirit that is consistent with our highest shared values.”  Posting that image was not consistent with those values.  Nobody called me on it or prompted me to write this.  It’s just one of those moments for honest self-reflection and confession.

I want to appeal to the best in all of us, not the worst.

The picture made me chuckle a little when I first read it because I agree that our society’s historic prejudice against LGBT people is ultimately rooted in our longstanding degradation of women.  Hence, we attach hurtful labels like “butch” and “sissy” to those people who don’t conform to our culturally-formed preconceived notions about gender roles and behavior.  In that sense, the picture makes a point.  But I think there might be ways of communicating that truth that don’t resort to bumpersticker slogans and uncivil language that continues to lower the bar of mutual degradation.

So, with all of this in mind, I’d like to offer another definition of the term Homophobia.

Literally speaking, phobia means “fear” and homo means “same.”  Hence, I would define homophobia as “fear of the same.”  Beneath the labels by which we identify, the categories by which we organize, and the shibboleths by which we exclude one another, we are all humans who have to share this planet.  Last night, I was listening to a sermon by Desmond Tutu where he proclaims that we are all “God-bearers.”  He asks the congregation repeatedly, “What if we really believed that?!”

This, the deepest truth about us as beings, is common to all in equal portions.  As we draw up our ideological battle lines and develop our conservative/liberal conspiracy theories out of this demonic paranoia, we are all bowing down to the spirit of homophobia: fear of the same.  We are choosing to fear those who are fundamentally the same as us: fellow children of God and co-bearers of the divine image.

We can do better than that.  I can do better than that.  I want to do better than that.

3 thoughts on “The Other Definition of Homophobia

  1. brotherbob1949

    My brother, I also remember that in a true dialogue, there is a need for both sides to keep a sense of humor as well as a sense of affection for the “other” so I was not offended or put off. But thank you for your ready and rapid apology!

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