Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Contemplating "homophobia" literally

Resurrecting posts I never got around to at the time...

Remember a few years ago when a man who was fired from a business that teaches English to foreigners for writing about homophones (because his ignorant boss thought it had some association with homophobia), I am... finally... using that as a paltry excuse inspired to share the following which I'd composed before that incident (for no particular reason), despite the peril in which I could be putting myself.

(Having never made a penny from the blahg, I'm not risking much, I concede.)


Let's take a moment to consider the term "homophobia." Obviously that designates a prejudice toward homosexuals, derived from the pejorative truncating of that down to "homo" and tacking on the Greek "phobia" ("fear of"). This construction has been around for many years now and certainly is ingrained in the contemporary lexicon; I'm not suggesting it isn't handy for identifying that, or that there isn't still a significant need for such a term.

However, that construction—of a slang-influenced abbreviated version of one term and the (let's call it) scientific-based term—seems, upon reflection, like it should be somewhat troublesome. If one is aware of the etymology of "homo" and knows that means "same" then the literal translation becomes "fear of the same," and while that could still be construed to mean "fear of those who are sexually attracted to their same gender" it could just as easily suggest a fear of those who are like oneself. I'm not implying that's really a thing (although I'm not going to say it's not either), or that there seems a need for such a term. I'm merely noting it's a word that operates a little better if one doesn't break it down to its component parts, if one doesn't know the origins of those parts.

And let's not digress to how if one takes the Latin "homo" (meaning "human"—as in homosapien) in that context then it actually connotes a fear of people (and that presumably has its own term already… or is so ubiquitous—because, given our history, there really shouldn't be any creature that isn't afraid of our species, including us—that there isn't a need to apply that; if everything is a certain way, having a distinguishing term seems superfluous; that homo-homophobia–same fear of people (no, that doesn't work literally; just being quasi-clever)—need not be spoken or written.

Perhaps someday when the prejudice toward homosexuals is considered archaic then the term can be repurposed thusly.


Of course, even going with the conventional meaning, whether the bigotry against homosexuals indicates an actual fear may be another story; it seems it might be more a fear of what they represent or a fear of a perceived loss of some heterosexual norm. Presumably there are those who have a literal response to seeing gays or lesbians that is analogous to an arachnophobic seeing a spider, but I suspect the term is more applied to those who aren't so much afraid of them as persons (homosapiens) but are, in a way, afraid of them being treated the same (homo) as everyone else.

In that light, yes, "homophobia" (fear of them being the same) seems quite apt.


I'm not sure if there's a term for "fear of those who ruminate unnecessarily" but clearly above I have demonstrated there may be a need for that.

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