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Phobia at your fingertips

The problem wspeakingout_lgith the term “homophobia” is that we have in it an epithet in search of a condition. Beyond its ideological uses, it has no existence. It will be found nowhere in the clinical lexicon. 

––  The Uses Of Homophobia, First Things Editorial.

Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once commented that a good catchphrase could stop thinking for 50 years. The term “homophobia” and its first cousin “homophobic bigot” are perfect examples of what Holmes was referring to.

But what is homophobia anyway? It is used to describe the “condition” of anyone who expresses any kind of objection
to homosexuality.

Objectors are apparently not only wrong but mentally ill, and that is supposed to be the end of the matter.

Whilst the origin of the word might have a scientific ring, it is anything but. The homo in homophobia is from the Greek meaning “the same” (as in homogenous). Homophobia is therefore, literally, a persistent and irrational fear of the same. That should settle how scientific the term is.

Regardless of this, it has proved to be a wildly effective tool in silencing any objections with respect to homosexuality. This is not coincidence, but strategy.

At a 1995 homosexual conference titled Winning The Culture War, activist Kevin Jennings explained: “In Massachusetts the effective reframing of this issue was the key to the success of the Governor’s Commission On Gay And Lesbian Youth. We immediately seized upon the opponent’s calling card –– safety –– and explained how homophobia represents a threat to students’ safety by creating a climate where violence, name-calling, health problems, and suicide are common.

“Titling our report Making Schools Safe For Gay And Lesbian Youth, we automatically threw our opponents
on to the defensive and stole their best line of attack.”

Another reference would convey this strategy in plainer (but more vulgar) language; so this will have to do for now.

Another phobia –– “Islamophobia” –– has also emerged and serves the same purpose, albeit for a different demographic. Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at the University of Kent, explains the trend: “This successful linking of a hostile attitude towards gays with the emotional disorder that is ‘phobia’ has encouraged others to define themselves as the victims of phobia, too. The coining of the term ‘Islamophobia’ is the most successful recent attempt
to customize the homophobia tag for a new group of people: Muslims.”

Credit where it is due; it is working. Why bother engaging with an argument when you have such a powerful ad hominem device at your disposal?

One can therefore assume that anyone objecting to ABC’s Two Mums, One Dad, Two Babies Make One Big Happy Polyamorous Family will be branded a “polyphobic” bigot.


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