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The problem with the redefinition of homophobia

Kevin Owens


This was originally an entry I wanted to make about a week ago, but considering how heated things were around my entry about my bisexuality and my struggles with it I decided not to. Hopefully with tempers tempered (ha ha ha I made a funny), this won't result in the negative kneejerk reaction that led to the trouble of the last entry. At least that's what I'm hoping.


In light of a recent blog post I believe this needs to be seen again for those who possibly missed it.


Now then! This is actually something I have some authority to talk about. In about four months from now I'm going to graduate from school with my minor being the attic Greek language. The two words that we get from homophobia, homos and phobos, are attic Greek in orgin! Thus you can know that I didn't just read wikipedia and copy and pasted some words and called it a day. I'm pretty much a certified expert on this subject.


Now then onto the main subject of this entry and that is my issue with how people have been trying to redefine homophobia. They root of their argument takes place in the definition of phobia part of homophobia. They say that phobia comes from the greek word of phobos, which literally means fear. They claim that they're not afraid of homosexuality, and therefore they are not homophobic. I would certainly hope that they're not afraid of homosexuals. We're not some sort of rabid people with no control over their id. We don't riot in the streets or attack people or commit crimes. For the most part we're just ordinary people like the majority of the population. We have jobs. We pay taxes. We love our significant others.


I'd lack to unpack the word phobos a bit more just a bit more if only for completionists sake. The word phobos just doesn't refer to a sort of rational fear. phobos refers to such an overpowering fear that it completely dominates everything else. It's the kind of fear that causes flight. A more apt translation would be terror or panic. Phobos is a fear so overpowering that there is no other room for any emotion.


The more you know.


Now then so far so good. People say they aren't homophobic because they don't fear homosexuals. However if there is one thing that I cannot stand it is a sort of dastardly ragamuffin trained in the most basics of logical thought and proceed to pilfer and wriggle certain parts of arguments until they can get things to mean what they want. In the context of this post, I'm referring to people who are accused of being homophobic but then say that they're not because they're not afraid of homosexuals. To put the exchange in a more stock form, we could say the following.


"I accuse you of being X. You respond by saying that you're not X because of Y."


This is of course simple logic. Point and counter point. However the responders argument only stands if Y is true and is sufficient to counter the claim of being X. Getting back to the argument at hand, the responder is only not homophobic if homophobia refers to the fear of homosexuals and they do not fear homosexuals. Simple enough, right?


Not quite. The problem comes down to a difference of definitions. The accused response holds an interesting implication in that they are claiming my definition of homophobia is wrong. It is obviously intended in my statement that I don't mean homophobia to mean a hatred of homosexuals. They counter that homophobia doesn't mean a hatred but rather a fear of homosexuals. They back up this claim by refering to the roots of homophobia. phobos means fear. Therefore homophobia refers to a fear rather than a hatred. Alas! Alas! I am vanquished. Woe is me.


But I am not quite finished yet. I take offense to their redefinition of homophobia. I say that they are not allowed to pick and choose which words to translate literraly, especially within the context of the same word! I say that if they must translate homos literally to back up their counter, I will force them to translate homos literally as well. Homos means same. It's where we get words like homogenous. Thus then they must literally be saying that they are not afraid of things that are similar. Fair enough. I will conceed that they are not afraid of things that are similar. My original point of them spouting homophobic rhetoric still stands.


I am now realizing how long this blog entry is, but I have not yet begun to fight!


On a less technical level, the meaning of words often change. Language is a fluid, trecherous animal that if you do not watch your words you might be saying the complete opposite of what you say. Thus I might contend that at one point if homophobia literally refered to the fear of homosexuals, which I might add that at one point it did not, it doesn't mean that now. When I use the word homophobia and you hear it in public discourse, it is in reference to the hate of homosexuals. When I call someone homophobic I am saying that on some level at least they have a dislike of homosexuals. This dislike or hate is incredibly dangerous and leads to damaging things being said that stay with people for as long as they live. Even something as simple as calling a situation or event 'gay' has start to grow wearisome to me. The equivocation with something I am in a negative manner is rather mean spirited at best and potentially deadly at worst.


But I digress. The discussion on the damaging aspects of homophobia can be covered at another time.


Returning once again to the argument at hand, it's worth noting that the actions of the accused are rather illogical. I claim that they are homophobic (i.e. that they hate homosexuals), but they counter that my definition of homophobia is wrong and therefore they are not homophobic. They seek to attack the technical aspect of my argument. They seek to prove me wrong by assaulting the very definitions that they use. If they are not homophobic by definition, then they have won. They are right. I am wrong.


Take a second and ask yourself this question. If they are right, what has essentially changed?


The correct answer is nothing. Absolutely nothing has changed at all. Let us assume I cede the point. I admit defeat. Homophobia does mean the fear of homosexuals. My use of the term was wrong, and I do apologize for the misnomer. Yet at no point has my underlying point been addressed. I have accused them of a hatred of homosexuals, and my point essentially still stands. They have not attempted to counter it and it is still valid as it has not even withstood a semblance of assualt. I conceed that homophobia means fear of homosexuals, but I still stand by my claim that the person is acting in a way that betrays their hatred of homosexuality.


It begins to dawn on you that everything you have read has proved to be a colossal waste of time.


Any logical objections to my logic are more than welcome to take place in the comments. Irrational homophobia is not welcome and will be reported.

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Ooh, I missed this entry while I was gone. I love language, so it was a good read.


The best advice I have ever heard on this subject came, funnily enough, from my math teacher. He said, "If someone uses a word incorrectly, but you understand what they mean, then ignore it and continue your argument."


Too often we forget (or ignore XD) the fact that the whole point of talking is to communicate. If you say I'm homophobic, and I understand you mean that I dislike homosexual people, then communication has been achieved. Success. If I then try to find wiggle room by claiming homophobic doesn't translate exactly the way you says it does, I'm creating an issue where there is none.


Believe me, I love the English language, and I hate to hear people butcher it, but when discussing/debating/arguing, creating issues over the exact definition of a word is being a poor sport. Like you said, the underlying point still stands, regardless of how you may have expressed it.


Anyway, thanks for the interesting entry. :)

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Too often we forget (or ignore XD) the fact that the whole point of talking is to communicate. If you say I'm homophobic, and I understand you mean that I dislike homosexual people, then communication has been achieved. Success. If I then try to find wiggle room by claiming homophobic doesn't translate exactly the way you says it does, I'm creating an issue where there is none.


How anti-Semantic of you!

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Basilisk, on , said:


....Because Rarity's rock metaphor doesn't work?


The whole thing has confused me.

Basilisk, on , said:


Rarity's rock


Oh my god


"Dumb rock!"

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