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What is Homophobia?

By: Beth Morrisey MLIS - Updated: 17 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Sexuality homosexuality

Homosexuality is a sexual orientation characterised by a sexual attraction to members of one's own sex. For example, male homosexuals (usually called gay men) are attracted to other males while female homosexuals (usually called lesbians) are attracted to other females. Bisexuals, or men and women who are attracted to both sexes, may also be lumped together as homosexuals because they feel an attraction for members of their own sex (even if this attraction is limited). Homophobia and heterosexism are negative responses to these sexual orientations. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about homophobia and heterosexism.

What Is Homophobia?

Homophobia is the fear or hatred of homosexuals and homosexuality. Individuals who are homophobic fear or hate the fact that others are sexually attracted to members of their own sex. This fear can lead to behaviour that discriminates against homosexuals and consequently advantages heterosexuals. For this reason homophobia is often related to heterosexism.

What Is Heterosexism?

Heterosexism is the belief that heterosexuality is "normal" and therefore that other sexual orientations are abnormal or deviant. Many homophobics and heterosexists believe that homosexuality is a choice, and therefore that individuals choose to be deviant in their sexual practices, and thus can be "cured" of this deviance.

What Causes of Homophobia?

Homophobia is not a clinical term, and indeed many experts believe that it is an irrational fear. Like many irrational fears, homophobia stems in part from a lack of education. Many homophobes (individuals who are homophobic) do not understand homosexuality and believe such myths that all homosexuals are paedophiles and/or carry diseases such as HIV and AIDS. Some homophobes may also cite religious reasons for their beliefs.

Who Is Affected By Homophobia?

Everyone is affected by homophobia. Not only does homophobia unnecessarily create divisions between people, but it refuses to allow all human beings to live with their sexualities unquestioned.

Is Homophobia Illegal?

Homophobia, the fear itself, is not illegal but practices that discriminate against individuals due to sexual orientation very well may be in may situations. The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations which came into force in December, 2003 outlaw discrimination against employees due to their sexual orientations. The Civil Partnership Act 2004 which came into force in December, 2005, protects the rights of all individuals to enter into same-sex civil partnerships. The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 also protect the rights of individuals who intend to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment. These Regulations pertain to pay and treatment in employment, self-employment and vocational training. In October 2007, Justice Secretary Jack Straw also announced plans to make inciting hatred due to sexual orientation an offence in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill.

Can I Make A Difference In the Fight Against Homophobia?

Absolutely. Fighting homophobia and heterosexism is something that anyone can do. In fact, every time an individual reconsiders a stereotype, speaks out against discrimination, ceases to make homophobic and heterosexist jokes and references, tells others that such jokes and references are unacceptable, and does all that (s)he can to learn from the talents of each individual, regardless of sexual orientation, then discrimination is being fought. Hopefully homophobia and heterosexism will soon become a thing of the past, but until then everyone can play a part in helping it to end.

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