Last month’s election threw up some interesting results as a variety of issues took prominence in different constituencies.
In particular we saw strong reactions to four conservative parliamentary candidates who had, either during the campaign or previously, held views which were judged as being ‘homophobic’.
Philip Lardner lost his candidacy for saying that homosexuality was 'not normal behaviour' – sacked by party leader David Cameron. The uproar surrounding Philippa Stroud’s Christian beliefs about the issue was a major factor in her failing to take Sutton and Cheam for the Tories. Chris Grayling’s comments about Christians offering ‘bed and breakfast’ being justified in denying double beds to gay couples staying in their homes almost certainly cost him a cabinet post.
Theresa May managed to hold on as Equality Minister after the election, despite over 70,000 people joining a Facebook group asking for her to be sacked on the basis of her past ‘homophobic’ voting record, when she said her views on homosexuality had now changed.
Being judged ‘homophobic’ can cost you dearly.
I’ve always been puzzled by the term ‘homophobia’. In the minds of most people it means being prejudiced against, or even hating, people who are homosexual.
Wikipedia defines it as ‘a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality and people identified or perceived as being homosexual’.
In keeping with this view, author, activist, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King in a 1998 address, equated homophobia to ‘racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry’ on the grounds that ‘it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity, their dignity and personhood’.
It is therefore understandable that 'homophobic' is a label that no one wants to have.
However when the term was first used it actually meant something quite different.
The word homophobia first appeared in print in an article written for the 23 May 1969 edition of the American tabloid Screw, in which it was used to refer to heterosexual men's fear that others might think they are gay. It has also been used to describe a fear of people who ‘come out’ as homosexual.
These definitions are much more in keeping with the literal meaning. After all, a phobia is a fear: claustrophobia, arachnophobia and acrophobia being fears of closed spaces, spiders and heights respectively.
For many people 'homophobia' is actually about ‘having a fear of being accused of being bigoted, prejudiced or discriminating against homosexual people’.
This fear, which is increasingly common, causes people to take a defensive posture in order to avoid attracting disapproval or adverse publicity. This may take the form of changing ones public position, pretending to adopt views in accordance with the prevailing liberal consensus, actively denying ones real beliefs or simply abstaining from expressing an opinion when the matter is discussed.
This kind of ‘homophobia’ is becoming increasingly common amongst those who belong to religious faiths which teach that sex outside marriage is wrong (ie. most world faiths) and it is not difficult to come up with examples of (often) prominent people in whom the condition is well advanced.
For people who don’t hate, dislike or fear gay people, but simply believe that sex between people who are not married (including all sex between those of the same sex) is morally wrong, we need a new term.
I’d like to propose the term ‘homosceptic’ - a term that is not yet in common use and hence arguably open to (re)definition. My Microsoft Word spell-check rejects it as an unknown word and a Google search for it throws up only 1,830 examples of its use in any context.
The Urban dictionary defines a 'homosceptic' as ‘a member of society who does not hate homosexuals, but generally does not agree with the principle of homosexuality in moral and ethical terms’.
I’d like to broaden this definition to include ‘being sceptical about the key presuppositions of the gay rights movement’ such as the beliefs that:
• Homosexuality is genetically determined
• Homosexual orientation is always fixed
• Sexual orientation is a biological characteristic like race, sex or skin colour
• Feelings of same sex attraction should be welcomed and acted upon
• Offering help to those who wish to resist or eradicate these feelings is always wrong
Of course if you accept these ‘key presuppositions’ you may well believe people who don’t to be ignorant, bigoted, prejudiced or even immoral. You might even feel that such people should not hold public office, publicly express their views or hold any job which involves having to condone, promote or facilitate same-sex intimacy.
But if you have some doubts about the truth of some or all of these beliefs – and suspect that they might be more ‘ideology-driven’ than ‘evidence-based’ – then perhaps you could argue that you are not ‘homophobic’ but rather ‘homosceptic’.