Our vocabulary

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Words have meaning. Henceforth, I shall make a reasonable effort to eliminate “homophobia” and “homophobic” from my vocabulary.

The word “homophobia” suggests that the intolerant are afflicted; It follows that a treatable pathology can be associated with the condition. Moreover, the implication is that this condition represents an irrational fear like “acrophobia,” a fear of heights or “zoophobia,” a fear of animals. How about “pogonophobia” which is a fear of beards?

In searching for a replacement, I have concluded that Gregory Herek, a researcher at UC, Davis, has proposed the best solution for my mental search-and-replace — “sexual prejudice..” In addition to being precise, the term is inclusive of transgender people.

It is reasonable to conclude that there are some people who are “homophobic.” These are the individuals who are insecure about their own sexuality. Nevertheless, I would argue that homophobia would cease to exist if sexual prejudice ceased to exist.

Whatever you call it, the important thing is that intolerance of others based on their sexuality is a learned behavior. Whether it is taught to children as “the word of God” or the word of ignorant parents, it is something that is inexcusably passed on from generation to generation.

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