Fear of the unknown

by Mary Turner
HIV/AIDS medical Columnist

Homophobia is defined as a dislike of or prejudices against homosexual people while the semantic definition of a phobia is an extreme, irrational fear of something.

Homophobia doesn’t specifically meet the medical definition of a phobia as addressed by the medical diagnostic manual. It is listed in the manual as a type of anxiety disorder.

Persons who exhibit phobias do have extreme reactions to a thing or the anticipation of encountering this thing. For example, if you have a phobia of birds, the mere mention of a bird may be enough to send you into an extreme anxiety attack. You are so fearful you might encounter a bird your psyche shuts you down and renders you incapable of functioning normally.

So, let’s examine, then, the idea of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia. It may be true that people fear things they do not understand, and many people do not understand or feel comfortable with the thought of non-gender conforming individuals.

However, these people do not have an irrational fear preventing them from coexisting with people who are sexually aroused differently from them or who self-identify differently from them concerning gender.

In short, they don’t have a real condition. These phobic individuals have ignorance at best, and bigotry at worst. There isn’t much we can do about hate and bigotry because those don’t have many teachable moments. We can work to influence the people who make laws and set policy to make those more favorable and fair to all people.

In our meaner fantasies, we could wish the worst for hateful people, but ugliness only makes us seem more like them, and we don’t want that. We do have a powerful tool against ignorance which is education.

Since people tend to fear the people and things they don’t understand, education is an excellent way to destroy this ignorance and allay the fears.

I challenge and encourage everyone who reads this to find the courage to educate everyone you meet about non-gender conformity and why it is not a threat to them or anyone else.

Members of religious denominations may go from house to house knocking on doors and handing out literature, and we can employ those same strategies, hopefully in a less annoying way!

Show people gender identification and sexual orientation simply mean you’re attracted and aroused differently, but you’re still an ordinary person. Call on friends and allies to do the same.

The sooner we can normalize the idea we are all people, the better our lives can become and the less we need to educate those who don’t know and understand.

Still, if you are being harassed, threatened, or bothered by those who are mean and hateful, find your voice and report them. Tell school administrators. Call the police. Go to the media. Keep pushing until you make the shame of their bigotry known.

Bullies must feel the full weight of the consequences of their actions before they will stop. For everyone else, keep on teaching them how lovable you are.

The Gayly. May 17, 2018. 10:55 a.m. CST.