This meme I saw today reminds me of my dislike for the derogatory label, “homophobia”. Mostly because it fails the ideological turing test so badly. Can you accurately describe your opponents point of view? If your description is of a phobia, then you can’t.
We all know that a phobia is an irrational fear of something, homophobia must then be the irrational fear of homosexuals. I don’t think it is irrational in the normal sense of the word, and I don’t think it’s fear.
Fear first. Yeah, sure you’ll hear some conservative on Facebook ranting about how gays going to take over the planet. That’s fear but it’s not representative. Exclude him and look at the typical anti-gay person. They run into a male-male kiss at the supermarket, do they respond in any way with the kind of fear that other phobias incite? Nope. They go the other way and grumble to themselves about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket. They might say “ew”, but that’s disgust, not fear.
When the typical anti-gay person runs into a statistic proclaiming the popularity of homosexuality, they aren’t afraid of them taking over, making everyone else gay, and worrying about how we’re going to keep the earth populated. They’re sometimes angry, sometimes despairing, and sometimes self-justifying, but they don’t show the kind of response an arachnophobe shows to spiders.
I think about my objection to the “irrational” part of homophobia a lot more.
The truth is that homophobia is technically irrational. A (good) reason can’t be given for being anti-gay, but in the same way that all moral intuitions are irrational. What seems to be triggered in the “homophobe” is the moral disgust feeling that lots of people have about lots of things. Brother and sister sex is morally disgusting to lots of people. The example I like to compare anti-gay moral disgust to is moral disgust toward the destruction of nature. What is triggered in the anti-gay person at the sight of a homosexual kiss is the exact same feeling someone else has when they think of a forest being leveled by bulldozers.
Moral disgust is often rationalized into care for harm – they’ll say that these morally disgusting things are causing pain to life and that’s the real problem. But when you suggest scenarios which try to adjust for care for harm the moral objection persists.
That’s why homophobia comes off to me as derogatory and slurish. It’s just a bad name you give to people who disagree with you. It means you’re sick with irrationality and fear. It has become common enough that some people use it more neutrally now, but the term still doesn’t accurately capture their opponents beliefs.
I don’t share moral disgust for homosexuality or the destruction of nature by the way.