Fear is a part of homophobia and transphobia

Zinnia JonesOne of the more irritating semantic dodges used by homophobes and transphobes is the claim that they do not fear queer and trans people, and so it would be inaccurate to describe their anti-gay and anti-trans positions with terms ending in -phobia. This is essentially the quote, misattributed to Morgan Freeman, that “It’s not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole”, just seen from the other direction. Not only does this selectively disregard the common usage of words in favor of a narrow prescriptivism – it’s also a response to an argument nobody was making.

I’m not aware of anyone having claimed that homophobia or transphobia manifest in the same way that a clinical phobia does, or that homophobes and transphobes suffer a severe and disabling anxiety at the thought of encountering queer and trans people, or that such a phobia is having a plainly harmful impact on their daily life or making them afraid to leave the house for fear that there could be queer and trans people outside. Pivoting to an argument about the definition and usage of “phobia” is merely a way to avoid grappling with the actual content at issue: homophobic and transphobic beliefs, speech, and actions, and the world that they create for queer and trans people to endure.

But the misdirection to the irrelevant “it’s not a fear” versus “nobody was saying it is” line of argument also neglects to recognize a crucial factor here: the way that fears and anxieties, more broadly conceptualized, do indeed play a role in homophobic and transphobic attitudes. 

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About Zinnia Jones

My work focuses on insights to be found across transgender sociology, public health, psychiatry, history of medicine, cognitive science, the social processes of science, transgender feminism, and human rights, taking an analytic approach that intersects these many perspectives and is guided by the lived experiences of transgender people. I live in Orlando with my family, and work mainly in technical writing.
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