noun ho·mo·pho·bia \ˌhō-mə-ˈfō-bē-ə\
irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals
I saw it again today in a comment on Facebook. "I'm not homophobic because I'm not afraid of gays -- but I just don't think homosexuals should raise kids."
News Flash: According to the definition in Merriam-Webster you are. Homophobic, that is. Because by definition the word "homophobia" transcends simple "irrational fear" to include "irrational aversion to" and "irrational discrimination against" homosexuality or homosexuals.
And discrimination against gay or lesbian parents raising children is inarguably irrational, as it flies in the face of all the data we have on effective parenting. Considering 75 peer-reviewed studies, Columbia Law School concluded "this research forms an overwhelming scholarly consensus, based on over three decades of peer-reviewed research, that having a gay or lesbian parent does not harm children."
Then there was this. "Just because I'm against gay marriage doesn't make me homophobic. Marriage should only be between one man and one woman because the idea of two men getting married just creeps me out."
It's a free country, and you are absolutely entitled to be creeped out about whatever you choose to be creeped out about. You are not, however, entitled to use that aversion (a dictionary word for "creeped out") to keep other Americans from the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. So yes -- according to Merriam-Webster -- discrimination against the married couple next door just because they are a same-sex couple does, indeed, land you in the homophobic category.
Now, all of this is not to argue for throwing around the word homophobic in our discourse as we continue to work for the end to discrimination against LGBT people. As tempting as it might be, calling out your Facebook friend or debate opponent as a homophobe is pretty much guaranteed not to go anywhere productive.
It is, however, to argue that homophobia is a deeply ingrained, powerfully insidious reality we can and must continue to challenge by education and engagement. And just because it doesn't look like the overt fear and hatred exemplified by folks like the Westboro Baptist bunch, doesn't mean it isn't exercising a pervasive influence. The good news is it is an influence that can be overcome like an infection that can be healed.
Here's a great example -- from a straight ally on my own Facebook page this morning:
Over the past 25 years I've pretty much been healed of my heterosexism. But I have to say that all of the "talk" in the world would not have brought me to where I am today -- still learning and, I hope, a genuine advocate of equal rights across the entire spectrum.
So if it wasn't talk that did it, what did? It was the brave men and women who had the courage to embrace me and to let me see them for who they really are, and I fell forever in love. I confess, I am far more impatient with this subject than many of my gay friends are, and THAT does puzzle and humble me.
I sometimes wish I had the grace to be more patient, but frankly, I do not. Let's get on with this.
And there you have it. The "this" she refers to "getting on with" is full marriage equality in the Episcopal Church -- something we'll be working toward at our upcoming General Convention (June 22-July 3 in... wait for it... Salt Lake City.) But for me, this is "Exhibit A" of one of my most deeply held convictions:
Homosexuality is not what needs healing -- homophobia is. And it not only can be healed, it is being healed... as exemplified in the story of my Facebook friend. So -- like she said -- Let's get on with it.