the homophobe

David V. over at Left2Right has some thoughts on the term “homophobe.” He points out that

One problem with the term is that it can imply that the anti-homosexual is himself a repressed homosexual, thus implicitly branding him with his own iron, so to speak. The stigma of being a homophobe then incorporates the stigma of being a homosexual, the very stigma the term is supposedly meant to combat. I don’t see how we can combat a stigma by covertly applying it.

His main complaint is that it’s a psychological term, and that we should draw analogies to how the terms “anti-semitic” and “racist” are bandied about. He derails at the end though:

Just as opposition to affirmative action is not in itself racism, and opposition to Zionism is not in itself anti-semitism, so the belief that homosexuality is a sin is not in itself a prejudice against homosexuals. It’s a moral opinion, motivated by prejudice in some people but held by others in good faith.

The major difference in opposition to Zionism or affirmative action and the belief that homosexuality is a sin is that the opposition in the former cases does not attempt to demean a group of people. If I am an anti-Zionist, that doesn’t mean I am judging Jews as a people to be inferior or flawed in some way. If I think homosexuality is a sin, then I view all the GBLT people around me as sinners. I have made a value judgment on those people.

Now suppose my opposition to Zionism is on moral grounds. Does that mean I have to suppose Zionists are immoral? Not necessarily. I know many vegetarians who are so on moral grounds, and they don’t go thinking I’m immoral. But “sin” is a different concept from morality. If I think homosexuality is a sin, I have one of two choices. I can just say “it’s a sin, and therefore not for me,” or I can say “it’s a sin, and therefore Sin is a sinner, and is going to burn in hell, along with all those with whom he associates.” Which do you think is more common?

This is not to say that using the word “homophobe” is appropriate. The psychological connotations are imprecise enough that it should probably be abandoned. Even though it is an opinion held for reasons of personal morality, “it’s a sin” anti-homosexual attitude should not be viewed as equivalent to opposition to affirmative action or Zionism.