Homophobia

Homophobia is defined as "irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals." Homosexuality, whether believed to be an inherent quality that one is born with or a lifestyle choice, elicits strong emotions in some individuals. This reaction can be driven by fear, uncertainty, ignorance, or - as the definition states - it is very often merely irrational. Homophobia is an aversion that affects people of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Transexual) community in many ways by restricting their rights (Proposition 8) or denying opportunity based on sexual preference.

The emotional effects of homophobia are extremely damaging. While growing up, children are very impressionable and are influenced by almost everything around them: friends, family, television, celebrities, etc. At school, stereotypes that are perpetuated by peers can cause considerable damage to a developing young person. A young individual who is questioning their sexuality can feel threatened, disgusted, or fearful of himself or herself because of the homophobia perpetuated on the playground. Terms like "faggot," "gay," "homo" are substituted all too frequently for words like "lame," "stupid," or "dumb." Boys who do not play football or basketball, or do not participate in stereotypical gender role assigned behaviors are often criticized and called girly or a wimp. It's this association that perpetuates the hate that fuels homophobia. If not stopped at an early age, this behavior and mentality continue and often get worse with age.

Homophobia during adolescence often started in childhood. High school aged individuals and older are often set in their beliefs and mind set. If their homophobia is strong enough, violence may be the next logical step in their mind to retaliate against the feared homosexuals. Hate crimes are directly related to severe cases of homophobia, and show that homophobia is still prevalent in our country today. One of the most prominent hate crimes of our time is the case of Matthew Shepard, who was an openly gay college student attending the University of Wyoming. He was tied to the side of the road, severelybeaten, and left for dead in 1998. His aggressors attacked him because they felt that Shepard had made sexual advances on them and their reaction was violence towards the supposed homosexual acts. This hate crime is still viewed today as a prime example of the extent that homophobia is instilled in in today's culture.

Despite laws protecting the rights and safety of LGBT people, the law often still has a base on some type of homophobiaSodomy laws are very problematic because they put restrictions on certain sexual behaviors. There are certain laws regarding oral sex and/or anal intercourse which are directly associated with some of the choices of homosexual males. There are also certain laws banning gay men from donating blood due to the AIDS outbreak; these laws were put in place in the late 1980's but are still in effect despite our medical progression. Homophobia in law enforcement dates back to before the origin of the gay rights movement with the Stonewall riots, which are an iconic moment in the history of the LGBT community. The Stonewall riots were in response to a police raid on a gay bar and in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City back in 1969. The raids of gay bars were common, but the police in this specific raid lost control of the situation and fights and racketeering ensued. America was still very homophobic in nature, but this specific riot gave gays and lesbians in the community confidence to stand up for themselves and fight for equality and their rights.

The existence of homophobia is damaging and threatening to those affected. Gays of all ages feel the presence of homophobia, no matter whether it's on the playground, in school, on television, or reflected in the law. The gay rights movement has continued to do a lot to move our country in a positive direction while trying to erase the hate. But a change as big as this takes time. Everyone can do something, big or small, to help eradicate homophobia from our society. Help change the hate.

There are many few different scales of homosexuality. The most common being Kinsey's scale that defines zero as totally heterosexual and six as exclusively homosexual, leaving a whole range in between that could be considered bisexual. Although continuum scales have been made, it is important not to distinguish bisexuality as a middle ground between homosexuality and heterosexuality. Bisexuality is its own gender identity/sexual orientations completely independent from other identities/orientations within the LGBTQ community. 

People who are bisexual, while included under the LGBTQ acronym, often face much discrimination from both heterosexuals and people within the LGBTQ community. Biphobia is the irrational fear of or discrimination against anyone who self- identifies as bisexual. Some common stereotypes made about the bisexual community are that they are confused, promiscuous, or swingers (defined as people who may have sex with others outside of their intimate partner relationship). The phrases “on the fence” or  “in denial of being fully gay” are often used to perpetuate discrimination against people who identify as bisexual. Many people blame individuals who are bisexual for spreading sexual transmitted infections between the heterosexual and LGBTQ communities due to the fact they are perceived to be more sexually promiscuous.

Even when a person who identifies as bisexual is in a relationship with someone of the same sex they still self-identify as bisexual, while others may see them as gay or lesbian. It is important to allow an individual to state their own identities and relationships rather than place a label on another person’s relationship or identity. Also, a common fear is that many people who are gay or lesbian and have entered a relationship with someone who is bisexual may be left for someone of the opposite sex.

Another false stereotype held against members of the bisexual community is that they are sexually promiscuous and therefore are hypersexualized. Heterosexuals who are in a relationship with a person who is bisexual often worry their partner will cheat on them and contract a sexually transmitted infection such as HIV. This claim is not true because numerous studies have shown that people within the bisexual community do not have significantly more sex and are not more sexually promiscuous than people within other communities.

Despite many false stereotypes or the way a community may be portrayed through the media, it is imperative to overcome these false claims and make the effort to educate oneself about bisexuality. It is important for everyone to become active allies to support members of the bisexual community as they face constant discrimination from a variety of societal forces.

Last Updated 02 February 2012. 

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