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Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Dumbest Word in the English Language

In a recent interview with the gay news website 365gay.com, Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, speaking of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), said, “At some point [DOMA] is going to have to go to the Supreme Court.” He continued, “I wouldn't want it to go to the United States Supreme Court now because that homophobe Antonin Scalia has got too many votes on this current court.” I submit to you that there is no dumber word in our language than “homophobe” (or “homophobia,” or “homophobic”).

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, with a vote of 5,834 to 3,810, removing homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. 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 I have 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 Barney Frank’s intention—to paint an extremely negative picture of Justice Scalia to a very friendly audience, arousing their emotions against him and all those who see homosexuality differently than he does. In fact, nearly every time that I have heard “homophobe” uttered, or seen it written, it has been as a snarl word.

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, whether firsthand or not, 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. They have no “irrational fear” of homosexuals, or a “dread of being in close quarters” with them.

A local language expert and fellow Christian, 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.”

Recently (April 3), the Iowa Supreme Court struck down the state’s Defense of Marriage Act, declaring it to be in conflict with Iowa’s constitution. Almost certainly (as has already occurred in 30 other states, with an average approval of nearly 70%) there will be a significant effort to add a marriage amendment to Iowa’s constitution—and just as certainly, those who pursue this avenue will viciously be labeled as “homophobes.”

We have to go back only to last November when Californians passed Proposition 8, which amended their state constitution to read, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,” to see how quickly homosexuals and their supporters will start screaming “homophobia!” in an attempt to demonize their opponents.

As Jonah Goldberg editorialized in December of last year, “It's often lost on gay-rights groups that they and their allies are the aggressors in the culture war. Indeed, they admit to being the ‘forces of change’ and the ‘agents of progress.’ They proudly want to rewrite tradition and overturn laws. But whenever they're challenged democratically and peaceably, they instantly complain of being victims of entrenched bigots, even as they adopt the very tactics they abhor.”

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.” (Look it up.)

Copyright 2009, Trevor Grant Thomas
At the Intersection of Politics, Science, Faith, and Reason
Trevor and his wife Michelle are the authors of: Debt Free Living in a Debt Filled World

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