Challenge Number Two: “You’re homophobic.”
(Second in a series of ten, from my new book Critical Conversations!)
A phobia is a pathologically irrational fear or aversion to something. In this usage “phobia” functions as a highly stigmatized, medicalized term. Simply being opposed to something doesn’t mean you have an irrational fear of it. In this case that vague word “something” really fits, since the prefix “homo” in “homophobic” is never clearly defined. Does it mean fear of gay or lesbian men or women? Aversion to an agenda that could even force girls to share a locker room with a biological male? Or something in between?
Of those two examples, the first is a “fear” I simply don’t have, and the second is an aversion that is neither pathological nor irrational. In between those obvious examples there could be an aversion to some acts involved in same-sex physical intimacy, disagreement with certain political agendas, or (never in my experience, but theoretically possible) an actual fear of gay men or lesbian women.
To label disagreements as phobias is as obviously wrong as labeling them “hate.”
So the term covers much too broad a territory to be useful as anything other than a put-down, a bully term, that doesn’t bother to explain what’s being put down.
I think of it this way. Am I homophobic? Not in any sense I can think of. Still I get labeled that way anyway. Is it true? How could I answer the question if they won’t tell me what it even means?
There’s more in the book!
In Critical Conversations I develop and extend the answer to this and other challenges, and I share practical relational guidance on how to share the answers in conversation. For parents, pastors, and other Christian leaders wondering what to say to children in their vulnerable years up through high school or even college, the book clears away the awkwardness and confusion. It clears a path toward conversations that can strengthen not only your teens’ faith but also your relationship with them.
Image Credit(s): Adapted from https://vimeo.com/103360064.