Recently liberal mouthpiece Frank Rich was on the Rachael Maddow show and the subject was Mitt Romney and his tax returns. First, a video of Mitt’s wife, Ann Romney, on ABC news was shown. She was defending her husband and his tax returns, noting that he is a very generous man, and that, among other things, as a couple they donate 10 percent of their income to their church every year.
Rich then pointed out that, “the Mormon Church was one of the single biggest bankrollers of some of the most homophobic stuff that went on in Proposition 8 (the ballot measure that defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman) in California.”
In his best conspiratorial tone Rich then asked, “So did any of that (Romney) money go there?”
In other words, Romney and his church are homophobes because they supported traditional (biblical) marriage, along with a solid majority of Californians, along with a significant majority of Americans in 31 other states that have placed traditional marriage on a ballot.
Of course, similar language was used to disparage the president of Chick-fil-A Dan Cathy after his comments in support of traditional (biblical) marriage. I submit to you that there is no dumber word in the English language than “homophobe,” and its derivatives.
The word was coined by psychologist and gay activist George Weinberg in his 1972 book, “Society and the Healthy Homosexual.” The book was published one year prior to the American Psychiatric Association removing homosexuality (by a vote of 5,834 to 3,810) from its list of mental disorders. The word became an important tool for homosexual activists and their allies. Weinberg gave them a “medical” phobia with which to attack their opponents.
Weinberg defined the word as “the dread of being in close quarters with homosexuals,” adding, “It was a fear of homosexuals which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for — home and family. It was a religious fear and it had led to great brutality as fear always does.”
Merriam-Webster defines it as “irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals.” One problem with the word is that it makes no sense etymologically. “Homo,” from the Greek, means “the same” and “phobia,” from the Greek, means “fear.” So literally, homophobia means fear of the same.
However, my greatest complaint with the term does not stem from its etymological shortcomings. The English language, like most languages, is in constant flux and is full of silly words. The biggest problem with homophobia and its variations is that they have become “snarl” words, words that, when used, are intended to induce a negative response. Such words commonly appeal to people’s emotions rather than their reasoning.
That was exactly Rich’s intention — to paint an extremely negative picture of the Mormon church and of Romney, to a friendly audience, arousing their emotions against Romney and all those who see homosexuality differently than he does. In fact, nearly every time that I have seen or heard “homophobe” used, it has been as a snarl word. (Again, see the attacks against Cathy and Chick-fil-A for further evidence.)
Other words, such as “racist,” “sexist,” and so on, can be used in a similar manner. Yet most all of us have seen or heard real racism and sexism in practice. On the other hand, almost exclusively those labeled as “homophobe” have a biblical conviction against homosexual behavior and nothing more.
My friend and local language expert, Dr. Danny Evans, notes that the common use of homophobe is a “completely erroneous use of the word: Most of us know that a phobia is a fear of certain things or situations. It’s interesting that those who oppose homosexuality are categorized as ‘homophobic,’ especially since fear has nothing to do with the opposition to homosexuality. From a Christian viewpoint, homosexuality is not feared, but rather opposed based on the biblical explanation of it. We love people, no matter what their sexual preferences may be. It is the sin we despise.”
Every state in the U.S. that has put same-sex marriage before its electorate has seen it soundly rejected (an average of 67 percent to 33 percent). Three more U.S. states have referendums on the ballot this November: Maryland, Minnesota and Washington. No doubt that, in each of these states, homosexuals and their supporters have been, and will continue, screaming “homophobia!” in an attempt to demonize their opponents.
Unquestionably, one of the things homosexuals abhor is the name calling. If they want to make their case intelligently and peacefully, it is time for the word “homophobia” to become anachronistic.
Trevor Thomas is a Gainesville resident and frequent columnist.