A Moratorium on “Homophobia”

I am calling for a moratorium on the word “Homophobia” and all its derivatives in common usage.

Who is with me?

The word “homophobia” means that a person is afraid of gay people. However, in the past two months, I have heard/read/seen this word applied to all kinds of non-homophobic statements.  Seriously, has “homophobia” become hackneyed?

For example. When Chic-Fil-A owner Dan Cathy gave an interview with the Christian magazine Baptist Press on July 16, 2012, he provided the following response to the question of the company’s support of the traditional family:

Well, guilty as charged . . . We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that.

Okay. Cathy probably should not have made such a glib first response.  But, there was nothing in his statement that was homophobic. There was nothing that was anti-gay.  He was talking to a Christian audience in response to a question that was framed in a Christian manner asking about a Christian subject, the subject of Biblical marriage.  And his goal is to honor God.

Where was the panic? The sense of fear? The anxiety in that statement?

For comparison’s sake, here is an example of homophobia.  In 1983 comedian Eddie Murphy performed a stand-up routine entitled Delirious in which he made the following statement about gay people:

I’m afraid of gay people. Petrified.  I have nightmares about gay people. I have this nightmare that I go to Hollywood and find out that Mr. T is a faggot. Really, and he’d be walking up to people going: “Hey, boy ! Hey, boy !” “You look mighty cute in them jeans !”

By contrast to Cathy’s remarks, did you notice the panic? The sense of fear? The anxiety in the statement?  Now, Eddie was attempting to be humorous, for sure.  But, the logos of his stand-up bit is categorically different from the logos of Cathy’s remarks to the Baptist Press.

So, it came as a shock to me that well-educated, logical, and bright individuals would misapply the term “homophobia” to Cathy’s remarks.

Consider this headline from Time that reads, “Boston Mayor Blocks Chick-fil-A Franchise from City over Homophobic Attitude.”

Or this one from Huffington Post blogger Steven Kurlander: “Homophobic Chick-fil-A Deserves a Plague of Protest”

Why not go with these headlines? They are both true as well as descriptive:

  • President of Chic-Fil-A is opposed to gay marriage.
  • President of Chic-Fil-A probably does not want to extend civic benefits to same-sex couples and works to defend the traditional scheme, but more than likely will offer a wonderful chicken product to all customers regardless of orientation.
  • Surprise, Surprise: The Christian president of Chic-Fil-A does not affirm pluralism or relativism.

Would that have been so difficult to print?  Who’s on board for better accuracy in print media? Who’s all aboard for relaying facts instead of making value judgements?

Want another example? Toronto Blue Jays’ shortstop Yunel Escobar was recently suspended for wearing eye black that read “Tu ere marcion.” Now I thought that was a theological put down in that Escobar was calling people marcionites.  But alas, “marcion” can mean “faggot” in some Spanish dialects.

Okay, Escobar was calling someone a faggot—something indefensible that fits into the category of “Never, ever, ever, ever do that.”  That being said, his actions were not necessarily a fearful or anxious expression.  And yet, people have been notoriously labeling this event an act of “homophobia.”

Wait a minute. Escobar was adamant in his apology that this was not homophobic, especially since he has several gay friends. Question: How can someone who has several gay friends be labeled “homophobic?”

  • Do you ever see someone with arachnophobia playing with spiders?
  • Do you see someone who is afraid of heights climbing tall buildings?
  • Do you see people with agoraphobia going into grocery stores.

Answer: Nope.  The term “homophobia” was once again misapplied to a situation in print media.

This mislabeling trend is silly.  I am calling for bright, educated, curious, thoughtful people to apply terms that are applicable and not just grab the first pejorative statement that one can find. Furthermore, please stop reading into these situations an element of fear that is simply not there.  Cathy is not afraid of gay people.  His statement was one of lifting up a virtue, not tearing down a relationship.  And who knows what Escobar was thinking.  But whatever it was, it was not motivated by fear.

About Doug Hankins

Although not a Christian in his youth, Doug came to believe in Jesus during his teenage years. When not playing sports or pastoring Doug is probably spending time with his wife, reading a good book, or drinking some hot tea. Doug's first book Dawson Trotman: In His Own Words is available wherever books are sold. You can follow Doug on twitter.
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