The “J” Agenda: ‘Homophobia’ is a myth perpetuated by cishets

Emma J Nelson, Editor-in-Chief

Nearly every classroom within TuHS had a sign on its wall reading “RESPECT! We don’t use racist, homophobic or sexist comments here.” I’ve always felt as though this sentence read strangely. Maybe it was just my literary mind looking for repetition of the “-ist” suffix, but I always saw these three prejudices as off

Calling someone “racist” or “sexist” feels conclusive, as if they had truly done something wrong in an effort to make another individual feel less than. In comparison, referring to someone as “homophobic” feels passive, almost as if they had no choice but to behave in such prejudiced manners.

By allowing the discrimination against homosexuals the pretense of a phobia, we are allowing the prejudice to seem almost clinical. As if it’s not the supposed homophobe’s fault for being “scared,” just like no one can blame an arachnophobe for their fear of spiders or a claustrophobe for their fear of confined spaces.

In reality, homophobia should be classified as an -ism, or a “distinctive practice, system, or philosophy,” much like its race-based and sex-based discriminatory counterparts. People are not being discriminatory to the LGBT+ community because they are fearful but rather because they truly believe that they are superior in their cisgender heterosexual identity.

I propose the employment of the term “heterosexism,” or the “discrimination or prejudice against gay people on the assumption that heterosexuality is the normal sexual orientation.” By making this term more mainstream, we would be placing the blame back on the offenders rather than the victims of such prejudice. We’d be holding them accountable for their actions rather than letting things go on the basis of a misused suffix.

This wouldn’t be the first time a form of discrimination was reclassified by society, either. Before racism was coined as an -ism in the early 1900s, it had been called a phobia. However, people were not being prejudiced against BIPOC due to any ‘fear,’ but rather due to deeply-ingrained ignorance that had been cultivated throughout the years. 

There are, of course, many other -isms disguised as phobias, such as transphobia and xenophobia. The definitions of both of these terms feature the phrase “dislike or prejudice against” without a single acknowledgement of any fear taking place. I believe that these terms should also be retconned in an effort to find something more fitting to their definition.

I am well aware that “racism, sexism and heterosexism” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well as “racism, sexism and homophobia,” but that’s due to years of repetition rather than linguistic superiority. If we are to remove bias against homosexuals, especially in a school environment, we need to use more accurate language for the offense that has taken place, rather than allowing the heterosexist a pass on the claim of fear.

They’re not rude because they’re scared. They’re rude because we’ve allowed them to be.