“I hate the word homophobia. It’s not a phobia. You’re not scared. You’re an asshole.” – (attributed to Morgan Freeman)
When writing about homophobia, this well-known quote from actor Morgan Freeman always jumps to mind. Such a loaded word, complex concept, yet in the same category of people scared of spiders, heights and all other random things. So why a phobia? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes a phobia as “an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation.”
What about a homosexual, transgender, or bisexual human scares you so much that it is more pronounced than fears? I believe it is time that we as, well, humanity (!?) start facing our fears, especially if they are “usually inexplicable and illogical”.
In my work as clinical social worker I work with a variety of clients on and off the gender spectrum, and an expansive lot with different sexual orientations. As a clinician I also feel that I can never know or learn enough within this field! And with that, perhaps, THAT is where we need to start if we want to see change: ask questions, gain knowledge, expand your horizons! I am a firm believer that in order for people to do better, the need to know better. If they then consciously make an educated decision to discriminate, put down and hate a person based on their gender and sexuality, then I stick with mr. Freeman’s quote.
However, if someone starts asking the difficult questions and having the difficult conversations, exploring, expanding and purely and honestly want to do and be better, we have to step up and gently teach and educate. Whether it is the hundredth time you explain the differences in gender identity, gender expression and sex and sexuality, for that person it might be the first honest, difficult conversation they have on this topic. If we want the world to change, we have to be the change. If we want to create awareness, we have to be okay to have the difficult conversations. If this change is to happen, it needs to start with us: the trans, gay, lesbian, bisexual person, or ally. We don’t just need an ‘International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia’, it’s an everyday thing, but man, when we get our day, let’s step up, be the better person and gently speak to these “fears”, whichever they may be, of those who are willing to listen.
Marchané Janeke, PATHSA member