The Social Construction of Homophobia

Topics: Gender, Homosexuality, Sexual orientation Pages: 6 (1951 words) Published: October 22, 2013
Sanny Zhou
Women’s Studies 1020E
Prof. Mary Bunch
Jen Lasachuk
April 2 2012

The Social Construction of Homophobia

George Weinberg first coined the term “homophobia” in 1967 (Britton 1) as “a fear of homosexuals which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for—home and family” (Herek 7). Regardless of particular standpoints that individuals may hold, society as a whole shares the understanding that homosexual desires are taboo and subordinate to heterosexuality. Generally speaking, women tend to be less homophobic than men and I hypothesize believe that it is simply because women are considered the inferior sex and are therefore hold less power in society. Since females have little power to begin with, they feel less threatened by those that who may attempt to expose or humiliate them for not being feminine enough. Therefore, the majority of homophobia occurs between men and is a result of their fears of being emasculated and deemed weak. Homophobia is socially constructed and its prevalence or decline is determined by the reformation of rigid masculinity ideals enforced by the Western culture. If the prefix homo- is traced back to its Latin roots, the word homophobia translates literally into “fear of man” rather than fear of “the same” (Herek 9). Presently, the widely accepted definition today is the latter. The categorization of this term as a phobia naturalizes the hatred of homosexuals by declaring this fear as a psychologically unavoidable reaction found in every human being. But at the same time, it shifts the “blame” of homosexuality to heterosexuals who are intolerant of same-sex relationships by suggesting that they are mentally disturbed and diagnosing them with a “‘phobia”’. Regardless, negative behaviour towards same-sex love is rarely ever irrational. It is produced through complex interactions between gender, class and racial inequalities that stem from colonialism and the binary construction of gender and sexuality (Murray 6). An early psychiatric concept called “homosexual panic” described cases where men developed uncontrollable homosexual desires when placed in intensively same-sex environments (Murray 23). This “disorder” was eventually perceived by the general public as a surface manifestation of homophobia, which contributed to the naturalization of homophobic tendencies. However, if the concept of “homosexual panic” were to be perceived in the context of racism or sexism, it would not make sense or be accepted. For example, if a White supremacist murdered an African-American for no reason, “race-phobia” would certainly not be an acceptable excuse to explain this behaviour. On the basis of these given examples and contrary to popular belief, the fact that homophobia even exists implies that hatred of homosexuals is in fact more public and typical than discrimination against any other minority group (Murray 24). In my opinion, it is easy for many people to justify homophobia because it is not an equal-opportunity concept like racism or sexism is so it appears to be “normal” and inevitable to human nature. Unlike many other oppressed groups, one cannot immediately identify whether or not someone is homosexual or not. As a result, “one way to protect one’s heterosexual credentials and privilege is to put down lesbians and gay men at every turn, to make as large a gulf as possible between “we” and “they”” (Smith 100). Personally, I feel that homophobia is largely a result of sexist views that have been implemented in Western culture for hundreds of years now. Furthermore, if homophobia is a social problem rather than a pathological one that means it must originate from feelings of disgust and contempt, not fear or anxiety. Therefore, in order to eliminate homophobia, sexism must be eradicated, which will require intensive attitude reformation. In our culture, the first question that any parent is asked about their newborn child is most...

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