Regardless of the recent outpour of positive LGBT media exposure, homophobia is still prevalent in many areas of the nation and the world. When we speak of homophobia, we tend to picture extreme southern religious groups holding up signs stating, “God hates fags” or “fags are going to hell.” Today, many researchers are still unsure of the initial root of homophobia. However, they are able to predict homophobia in people with certain traits and experiences.
What is Homophobia?
Before we try to understand the origin of homophobia, or those who can be identified as homophobic, we must understand the meaning of homophobia. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, homophobia is the “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuals and homosexuality.” But from what I have experienced, “homophobia” is more than just a fear of gay people. I agree with Suzanne Pharr’s definition. In her article “Homophobia: A Weapon of Sexism,” homophobia is defined as “the irrational fear and hatred of those who love and sexually desire the same sex,” especially when same-sex acts are introduced. Is homophobia, not also acts of violence?
“God Hates Fags!”
When not examined intelligently and critically, religion can have an enormous impact on groups’ views on homosexuality. It assists in the creation of anti-gay policies and introduces fear. For instance, in Uganda, nearly 80% of Ugandans believe that homosexual behavior is morally wrong. This idea largely originated from American Christians who preached to the Ugandans about demon possession, especially in terms of homosexuality and abortion. A Pew poll found that in Uganda, nearly half the population has witnessed demons or evil spirits being driven out of a person. Exploiting this ignorance, and linking it to homosexuality, is the reason for Ugandans’ and other Africans’ great homophobia. The fear of having demons and/or living with people who have these “demons” not only creates a great fear toward these so-called “demon-possessed groups,” but also a great hatred that may at times result in violence.
This year, Uganda’s president signed an infamous anti-gay bill that would place someone attracted to the same-sex in prison with a life sentence. Uganda’s position is not a surprising one when it comes to African politics. “Homosexuality” is illegal in more than 35 African countries. It stems from the anti-gay British “sodomy law” that was introduced to Uganda while still a British colony. But due to religion, this anti-gay belief spread throughout the continent like wild fire. It made homophobia nothing less, but a hop, skip, and jump away.
The Homophobic Atheist
Religious groups defend their views on homosexuality using their beliefs. “Don’t blame me. God says it is a sin, therefore it is wrong.”
But is religion the sole reason for homophobia?
If we eliminate religious reasons as the foundation of homophobia, we would be left with people fighting to protect gender norms. This is when we get comments such as, “It is unnatural” or the simple “It is gross.” When an atheist disapproves of homosexuality, they are making a conscious choice. The incentive for the disapproval is a selfish and often sexist one. It assumes that the personal opinion of a majority should be in charge of individual rights. I believe this is part of the reason we still see anti-gay policies in the United States today. And although, many homophobic atheists claim to take no part in religious groups, some homophobic atheists team up with religious groups, because religion is a convenient and often unchallenged justification to mask behind.
Studies show Multifaceted Origins
In most patriarchal societies, homophobia seems to intensify. Many people even blame patriarchy as the lone reason for homophobia, but I disagree. If patriarchy were eliminated homophobia would still exist. There is no such thing as “a root” of homophobia. Homophobia is more than a product of religion, patriarchy, and/or fear; it stems from physiological, social, and demographic variables that seem almost impossible to measure. The best way to measure these roots is by identifying the traits of those who are homophobic.
According to George Herek’s, article, Beyond “homophobia”: A social psychological perspective on attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, homophobia is apt to occur in persons that:
- are less likely to have had personal contact with lesbians or gays;
- are less likely to report having engaged in homosexual behaviors, or to identify themselves as lesbian or gay;
- are more likely to perceive their peers as manifesting negative attitudes, especially if the respondents are males;
- are more likely to have resided in areas where negative attitudes are the norm, especially during adolescence;
- are likely to be older and less well educated;
- are more likely to be religious, to attend church frequently, and to subscribe to a conservative religious ideology;
- are more likely to express traditional, restrictive attitudes about sex roles;
- are less permissive sexually or manifest more guilt or negativity about sexuality
- are more likely to manifest high levels of authoritarianism and related personality characteristics.
From what I have experienced, I agree with George Herek. These persons are at greater risk of becoming homophobic. I have met some of these persons. But is there something we can do to lessen the risk?
Fortunately, I am in a generation that has been experiencing changes and a decrease in homophobic practices in the United States. The risk of people from my generation becoming homophobic is significantly lower than 10 years ago, but as we still see places around the world and in the United States holding on to homophobic pride we go on a hunt for solutions.
How can we eliminate homophobia once and for all?
Do we need to recommend people to hang out with LGBT people?
Do we need to work on improving our education?
Do we need to stop attending church?
Perhaps, the only Solution
When I think of a solution to homophobia, I think of the TV show Grey’s Anatomy and the episode “Catherine Avery gave April advice.”
“This is the way the world changes. Good people raising their babies right.”