Homophobia, Prejudice & Stigma

What is homophobia?

Homophobia is a term used to describe a person or society’s irrational fear of, aversion to or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals. However, it would be more apt to describe homophobia as a stigma that is attached to any non-heterosexual form of behaviour, identity, relationship or community. Often homophobia is expressed through behaviours such as homophobic jokes, physical attacks, discrimination in the workplace and media representation. Researchers have even developed a "Homophobia Scale" to measure one's thoughts, feelings and behaviors with regards to homosexuality

Attitudes towards LGBTQ persons

Homophobia continues to exist in various professions and cultures, although recent years have seen more acceptance towards the LGBT community and individuals. As a result of society’s emphasis on masculinity, the bias towards LGBT men tends to be greater than the bias against women. As such, attitudes permeate society, gay men and transgender women are often the target of blame for the spread of HIV.

Homophobia around the world

Although quite a number of countries like the USA, Turkey and the United Kingdom have repealed laws that discriminate against LGBT people, there are still countries like Iran, Mauritiania and Saudi Arabia that continue to maintain laws that make homosexuality illegal and even punishable by death.

In areas where homosexuality is deemed legal, negative attitudes towards LGBT persons continue to exist and the authorities fail to fully enforce protection towards LGBT individuals.

What causes people to be prejudiced against LGBTQ persons?

There are various reasons why people are prejudiced against LGBT persons. Some people may have strong religious beliefs that disapprove of non-heterosexual relationships whilst others lack knowledge what being LGBT means.

The effects of homophobia

Homophobia affects LGBT persons in various ways. Its effects are not limited to only those who conceal their sexuality but also to those who live openly.

The following are some of the effects of homophobia:

Homelessness: LGBT persons may be thrown out of the family home with the declaration of their sexual orientation and/ or gender identity

Discrimination: LGBT persons may be picked on by friends, family and co-workers for being different

Low self-esteem: LGBT persons may experience low self-esteem as a result of the shame and self-loathing of being different from the sexuality of the majority

Personal distress:As sexuality is an important part of a person’s identity, LGBT persons suppressing their sexuality or gender identity may experience dilemmas about whether or not to disclose to others, and this may cause the individual a great deal of personal distress.

How to tackle homophobia?

Tackling homophobia involves everyone in various levels of the society. From those governing the country to families, from healthcare services to those in education, each area of the society has a part to play to reduce discrimination against LGBT persons.

Community organisations such as Oogachaga play an important role in addressing homophobia. They can influence the attitudes of the general public and can campaign for tolerance towards those whose sexuality is different from the mainstream orientation.