“I coined the word homophobia to mean it was a phobia about homosexuals….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.”
George Weinberg (cited in Herek, 2004)
"When a phobia incapacitates a person from engaging in activities considered decent by society, the person himself is the sufferer….But here the phobia appears as antagonism directly toward a particular group of people. Inevitably, it leads to disdain toward the people themselves, and to mistreatment of them. The phobia in operation is a prejudice, and this means we can widen our understanding by considering the phobia from the point of view of its being a prejudice and then uncovering its motives." George Weinberg (cited in Herek, 2004)In 1972, psychologist George Weinberg introduced the term "homophobia", a term that challenged the traditional way of thinking about the so-called problem of homesexuality, a term that helped shift society's attention on the real problem of prejudice and stigma by locating the problem not in homosexual people but in intolerant hetereosexuals.
"Weinberg gave a name to the hostility and helped popularize the belief that it constituted a social problem worthy of scholarly analysis and intervention. His term became an important tool for gay and lesbian activists, advocates, and their allies." (Herek, 2004)
What is the motivation behind being homophobic? Based on people's scores on the Index of Homophobia, Adams et al. assigned indivuals to a group of homophobic men vs. a group of nonhomophobic men. Men of both groups were exposed to sexually explicit (hetereosexual and male homesexual) erotic stimuli while changes in penile circumference were monitored. Results indicated that those who score in the homophobic range and admit negative affect toward homosexuality "demonstrate significant sexual arousal to male homosexual erotic stimuli". Nonhomophobic men, however, show no significant increase in penile response to homosexual stimuli. Explanations vary from latent homesexuality to anxiety enhancing arousal (Adams et al., 1996).
"Although the causes of homophobia are unclear, several psychoanalytic explanations have emerged from the idea of homophobia as an anxiety-based phenomenon. One psychoanalytic explanation is that anxiety about the possibility of being or becoming a homosexual may be a major factor in homophobia (West, 1977). For example, de Kuyper (1993) has asserted that homophobia is the result of the remnants of homosexuality in the heterosexual resolution of the Oedipal conflict. Whereas these notions are vague, psychoanalytic theories usually postulate that homophobia is a result of repressed homosexual urges or a form of latent homosexuality. Latent homosexuality can be defined as homosexual arousal which the individual is either unaware of or denies (West, 1977 ). Psychoanalysts use the concept of repressed or latent homosexuality to explain the emotional malaise and irrational attitudes displayed by some individuals who feel guilty about their erotic interests and struggle to deny and repress homosexual impulses. In fact, West ( 1977, p. 202) stated, 'when placed in a situation that threatens to excite their own unwanted homosexual thoughts, they overreact with panic or anger.'" (Adams et al., 1996)
"Some phobias, such as the fear of squares or of trains, are acquired only in later life, while others, the fear of darkness, storms and animals, exist from the very beginning. The former signify serious illness, the latter appear rather as peculiarities, moods."
Sigmund Freud, General Theory of the Neuroses; Fear and Anxiety
- The -ism Series (8): Heterosexism
- Adams, H. E., Wright, L. W. & Lohr, B. A. (1996). Is Homophobia Associated With Homosexual Arousal? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105(3), 440-445.
- Herek, G. M. (2004). Beyond "Homophobia": Thinking About Sexual Prejudice and Stigma in the Twenty-First Century. Journal of NSRC, 6-24.
- Williams, M. (2008). Homosexuality Anxiety: A Misunderstood Form of OCD. Leading-Edge Health Education Issues, 195-205.
- Photographs of Michel Serrault (1928-2007) and Ugo Tognazzi (1922-1990) (La cage aux folles) via and via and via and via