The word homophobia comes from the Greek ‘homo’ (meaning ‘same’) and ‘phobia’ (meaning ‘fear’). It is used to describe a fear or a negative attitude towards gay people.
Homophobia is the irrational hatred, intolerance, and fear of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people (LGBT).
These negative feelings fuel the myths, stereotypes, and discrimination that can lead to violence against LGBT community.
LGBT individuals brought up in a homophobic society can often internalize these negative stereotypes and develop varying degrees of low self-esteem and self-hatred, which is often described as ‘internalized homophobia’.
Lesbophobia is the fear, hatred, intolerance for lesbians, or the fear a woman has of loving another woman. It is also the case with prejudice against lesbians, although not transvestites and transsexuals, dress, act, and talk like men. It is a phenomenon that encompasses both sexual orientations as gender identity.
Heterosexism can have more than one definition; however, the general meanin is that people usually assume that other people are heterosexual, unless they fit some popular stereotype. Today’s society tends to assume that everyone is, or wants to be, heterosexual. This is known as heterosexism. It is the basic premise that heterosexuality is normal whilst homosexuality/lesbianism is abnormal. This is not an issue of fear, but supremacy. Some people continue to believe that it is a choice and that we can be persuaded into heterosexuality. By assuming heterosexuality, society gives rise to the dilemma for those who know they are gay of whether to hide their sexuality or to come out.
Homophobia is not confined to any one segment of society, as it can be found in people from all walks of life. Organized hate groups have viciously attacked homosexuals and have used extremely violent language in attempting to persecute and intimidate them.
Discrimination against homosexuals comes in many forms. At times homophobic beliefs lead people toward prejudiced actions at work, at schools, at clubs, and in many other areas as well. Prejudiced views directed at homosexuals often stem from the perception that homosexual activity is immoral. Homophobia makes some people think that they are superior to homosexuals. In fact, studies show that anti-gay bias is far more accepted among large numbers of Americans than bias against other minorities.
There’s an International Day Against Homophobia every May 17th.
One in five lesbian and gay people have experienced a homophobic hate crime or incident. *
75% of lesbian and gay people experiencing hate crimes or incidents did not report them to the police. *
How to Identify?
The homophobic expression can occur in many different ways. In some cases discrimination can be discreet and subtle, but prejudice is often evident through verbal, physical, and moral aggression. Whatever the form of discrimination, is important the victim report the incident. Sexual orientation should not, under any circumstances, be a reason for degrading treatment of a human being.
- The abuser often uses offensive words to address the victim or the LGBT community as a whole;
- Often the abuser does not recognize their prejudice and treats discrimination as joke;
- It is common for the perpetrator to make use of verbal and moral offenses when referring to sexual minorities;
- Physical aggression caused by homophobia is common and involves attitudes that cause more serious actions such as beatings;
- The aggressor usually despises the victim’s behavior, considering the deviant normality;
- Homophobia is usually aimed at the victim as if they were inferior, disgusting, degrading and, outside the normal range;
- Homophobic accusations of sexual minorities threaten the moral and ethical values of society
- The aggressor often becomes more aggressive to see explicit sexual or amorous demonstrations beyond the heteronormative; standard (e.g. holding hands, kissing, and caressing);
- The abuser often denies service, promotion, employment, and equal treatment for victims.
Often bullying in schools shows up fertile ground for homophobia. Children and adolescents should be doubly preserved such prejudice. Psychological help in such cases is essential because discrimination constitutes a hate crime, as it represents a form of attack on the rights of the child and adolescents.
What can parents do?
Parents and care-givers can play an important role in tackling homophobic bullying, says Stonewall’s Chris Gibbons.
Talk to your child. Ask how they are feeling and if everything is OK at school, rather than if they are being bullied. They may be embarrassed and worried that you will think they are gay, so they might choose to stay silent.
Remember that homophobic bullying can affect any young person, regardless of their sexual orientation. Just because your child is experiencing homophobic bullying does not necessarily mean that he or she is lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Be supportive. Your child needs to know that if they do decide to talk to you about bullying that you will listen and that they can trust you with what they tell you. Let them tell you in their own time, and ask them how they want to proceed. Preferably approach the school together.
Check with the schools on what procedures they have in place for dealing with bullying and in particular, homophobic bullying. Involve your child in any decisions that are taken on how to tackle bullying. If you are not satisfied with how your child’s teacher responds, then talk to the head teacher or bring it to the attention of the school administrators… include your child at every stage.
Sue Allen, of FFLAG, advises that you check that the school has a separate anti-homophobic bullying policy and not something tacked on to their general bullying policy. Ask to see it, and if they do not have one, ask why not and insist that it is remedied.
Go into the school and challenge them. They have a duty of care to all children. Research shows that in schools where children are explicitly taught that homophobic bullying is wrong. Rates of such bullying are dramatically reduced and pupils feel safer.
If the bullying doesn’t stop, go to your Local Education Authority and demand action. Changing schools can work in some cases, but often a child that is vulnerable will be vulnerable no matter where they go.
In society: Homophobia is a fear that is present in many people. The level of this fear can determine the response people have toward people they know or perceive to be gay. Gay and bisexual people live with the knowledge that whenever their homosexuality is disclosed, people may react negatively. This can and does take many different forms, including violence;possibly to the point of murder.
In the workplace: Particularly if a co-worker uses homophobic language, gay and bisexual people will usually interpret that as an indication that they are in an unsafe environment. Their feelings might be that it is best to remain ‘in the closet.’ For example, if a gay male army recruit hears his training instructor say, “OK LADIES, you’re performing like a bunch of faggots,” he will perceive his unit as inherently unsafe.
Those that are in protest: It should be noted that homophobia is not characteristic only of some heterosexual people. Some of the most homophobic people in society are those who experience homosexual attraction to a greater or lesser degree, Being they may be bothered by this, they display a high level of homophobia in order to convince themselves and/or others that they are not homosexual.
*according to a recent report by Stonewall.
Authored by Xiluva Costa, edited by Jocy Rowe
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