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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Phobia vs. -phobia; Homophobia, Transphobia, Denial, Repression, and Uncertainty

Phobia vs. -phobia;
Homophobia, Transphobia,
Denial, Repression, and Uncertainty,
by Liviana (Giovanna L.)

Lately, the author has noticed a reply to charges of homophobia (and/or transphobia) having seemingly become popular among those who are, in fact, homophobic (and/or transphobic) to a greater or lesser degree, and the reply in question is an attempt to attack the very designation "homophobia" (or "transphobia") on the grounds that a phobia is a fear and they are not afraid of Gay people (or Trans people) so they can't be homophobic (or transphobic).  The author is inclined to suspect that this rhetoric is derived from a common source, as she has noticed it more and more, and only of late.  The source, however, is irrelevant for the purposes of the present discussion, which will focus on the actual semantics of the terminology, rather than its source, and will go on to provide references defining and explaining homophobia and transphobia, as well as references which suggest another sort of explanation (not of meanings, but of causes).

The rhetoric in question ignores both common usage found in descriptive vocabularies as well as technical usage found in psychological, psychiatric, and sociological sources (and even sources concerned with more "physical" medicine), in which the suffix "-phobia" is not restricted to a meaning of "fear" only, much less only "irrational fear."

Witness common usage of the word defined:

and medical usage of both the word and the suffix defined:

The reader will note that, even in the first link, which describes common usage, the definition plainly states:
an extremely strong dislike or fear of someone or something
(Emphasis added.)

In the second link, the medical definition of the suffix is given as:
noun combining form  -pho·bia  \ˈfō-bē-ə\
Medical Definition of -phobia
:  abnormal fear of <acrophobia>
:  intolerance or aversion for <photophobia>

For those who are unaware, photophobia is a medical (physical) condition (or symptom of some other [physical] condition):
Photophobia is eye discomfort in bright light.
--  Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia | U.S. National Library of Medicine | National Institutes of Health

Gay Pride Flag

More specifically, here are definitions and explanations of "homophobia" and "transphobia":

Definition of homophobia
:  irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals
--  Merriam-Webster

Lesbian Pride Flag

Definition of homophobia in English:
Dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people.
--  Oxford Dictionaries

Bisexual Moon Symbol

The Oxford Online Dictionaries also give:
Definition of transphobia in English:
Intense dislike of or prejudice against transsexual or transgender people:
'more than 120 complaints concerning transphobia in the media were made'
--  Oxford Dictionaries

Transgender Pride Flag by Jennifer Pellinen

What is Homophobia

Understanding Homophobia/Heterosexism

Transphobia - RationalWiki

Transphobia has been defined by the Crown Prosecution Service as “the fear of or a dislike directed towards trans people, or a fear of or dislike directed towards their perceived lifestyle, culture or characteristics, whether or not any specific trans person has that lifestyle or characteristic. The dislike does not have to be so severe as hatred. It is enough that people do something or abstain from doing something because they do not like trans people.
--  Tackling transphobia | CUSU LGBT+

To use an analogy, instead of everyone being evenly distributed in a sea, they are randomly swept up onto two separate islands, and there’s no swimming allowed in between! Each island has its own rules, or gender stereotypes, which set out how men or women should look, act or behave. The idea that boys should like blue and enjoy aggressive, competitive activities, whilst girls should be passive and nurturing, are two examples of gender stereotypes. There is strong pressure to conform to these gender rules. Society often penalises anyone who breaks the rules and the penalty is even worse particularly for those who try to leave the island which they found themselves on at birth – this is called transphobia and transphobia is the sharp end of sexism.
So, transphobia is intolerance of gender diversity. It is based around the idea that there are only two sexes – male or female, which you stay in from birth. And furthermore, that people who fit gender stereotypes (by sounding, looking or behaving like men and women are ‘supposed to’) are somehow better than those who don’t.
Trans people, gender queer people and people with a transsexual history can also experience homophobia, because the abuser often neither knows nor cares how a person identifies, just that they are different in some way.
--  What Is Transphobia? | Galop

Jennifer Pellinen's Transgender Pride Flag

Tran[s]phobia is an irrational fear of, and/or hostility towards, people who are transgender or who otherwise transgress traditional gender norms.
-- Transphobia - Definition and Examples

Interestingly, a number of studies have demonstrated a positive correlation between homophobia and repressed Homosexuality, which is to say, many homophobes are themselves Homosexuals in denial.  A brief sample of the literature follows, with quotes from some of the examples.

Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal? | National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health

Parental autonomy support and discrepancies between implicit and explicit sexual identities: Dynamics of self-acceptance and defense. | American Psychological Association

Is Homophobia Associated with an Implicit Same-Sex Attraction? (Cara C. MacInnis & Gordon Hodson) - The Journal of Sex Research - 18 Sep 2012

Is Homophobia Associated With Homosexual Arousal? (Henry E. Adams, Lester W. Wright, Jr., and Bethany A. Lohr;  University of Georgia) - Journal of Abnormal Psychology - 1996, Vol. 105, No. 3 (.pdf file)

Homophobes Likely To Be Closet Gays, Study Finds | International Business Times

Is some homophobia self-phobia? -- ScienceDaily

Are Homophobes Really Gay? | Psychology Today

Study: Homophobes May Be Hidden Homosexuals | Homophobia & Anti-Gay Sentiment | LiveScience

The Roots Of Homophobia - Putting Freud To The Test | Assault On Gay America | FRONTLINE | PBS

Homophobic?  Maybe You're Gay - The New York Times

Homophobes Might Be Hidden Homosexuals - Scientific American

Homophobic Attitudes Likely To Be Stronger Among Those Who Have Repressed Same-Sex Attraction: Report

Are Homophobes Secretly Attracted to Gay People? | Psychology Today

Are Homophobic People Really Gay and Not Accepting It? | Psychology Today

Homophobia linked to lack of awareness of one's sexual orientation and authoritarian parenting, study shows

Homophobes Are Gay - Study (The Young Turks) (video)

Transgender Pride Flag by Monica Helms

More recently (since "transphobia" is itself a more recent term than "homophobia" -- as noted in the Oxford Dictionaries, "homophobia" dates from the 1960s, while "transphobia" dates from the 1990s), some thinkers have begun to suggest that transphobia may also have a positive correlation with a fragile gender identity, that transphobes may themselves be still "struggling with their own gender identity."  A couple of such discussions are linked below, with some quotations.

The cause of transphobia is still a subject of research and debate, but it likely reflects the fragile nature of gender identity. Men's and women's lives, genes, and bodies are not terribly different; the fact that someone can convincingly identify as a member of the opposite sex calls the very concept of gender into question. People who are quietly struggling with their own gender identity, and people for whom gender identity is especially important, might be frightened--even angry--when confronted with the fragility of gender.
-- Transphobia - Definition and Examples

Are our own gender identities so fragile that we must stigmatise a first-grader for using the girls' room?
Discrimination against transgender people is real, pervasive and often legal. And it often builds from ignorance and bias – things that start young.
While transgender people do face widespread mistreatment, the discrimination doesn't make much sense. Who, exactly, gets hurt if folks match their physical appearance to their gender identity? Why is it such a problem for a six-year-old girl to use the girls' bathroom?
Everyone has a gender identity. You do, and so do I. Just as the gay rights movement has made us collectively realize that we all have a sexual orientation – whether it be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual or something else – advocates for transgender rights try to impart the lesson that each person has an internal sense of being male or female (or, for some folks, neither, or something in between). As Silverman says:
"We all have a gender identity. We just never have to think about if it we're not transgender because no one questions it."
-- From school to society, the intolerance transgender people face | The Guardian

In closing, the author will, again, quote a man whom she has quoted before in this blog -- a flawed man, yes, but a visionary man nevertheless (for each person, in spite of her or his best efforts, is imperfect, yet he or she can still do good despite her or his imperfections):

If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear.
-- Gene Roddenberry

Not something to fear, and, the author would add, not something to hate.

Va'Vuhnaya s'Va'Terishlar (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations)

Peace and long life.
Live long and prosper.


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