Homophobia in Clinical Terms

In the clinical sense, Homophobia is defined as an intense, irrational fear of same-sex relationships that become overwhelming to the person. In common usage, homophobia is the fear of intimate relationships with person of the same sex. Below are listed four homophobic attitudes and four positive levels of attitudes toward gay and lesbian relationships and people. (developed by Dr. Dorothy Riddle of Tucson, Arizona)

Homophobic levels of attitudes

Repulsion: Homosexuality is seen as a "crime against nature." Gays are sick, crazy, immoral, sinful, wicked, etc. and anything is justified to change them (e.g. prison, hospitalization, negative behavior therapy including electric shock).
Pity: Heterosexual chauvinism. Heterosexuality is more mature and certainly to be preferred. Any possibility of becoming straight should be reinforced and those who seem to be born "that way" should be pitied, "the poor dears."
Tolerance: Homosexuality is just a phase of adolescent development that many people go through and most people "grow out of." Thus, gays are less mature than straights and should be treated with the protectiveness and indulgence one uses with a child. Gays and lesbians should not be given positions of authority (because they are still working through adolescent behaviors).
Acceptance: Still implies there is something to "accept," characterized by such statements as "you're not a gay to me, you're a person," "What you do in bed is your own business," "That's fine as long as you don't flaunt it."

  • Denies social and legal realities. 84% of people believe being gay is obscene and vulgar and 70% still believe it is wrong even between consenting adults.
  • Ignored the pain of invisibility and stress of closet behavior. "Flaunt" usually means say or do anything that makes people aware.

Positive levels of attitude
Support: Basic ACLU approach. Work to safeguard the rights of gays and lesbians. Such people may be uncomfortable themselves, but they are aware of the climate and the irrational unfairness.
Admiration: Acknowledges that being gay/lesbian in our society takes strength. Such people are willing to truly look at themselves and work on their own homophobic attitudes.
Appreciation: Value the diversity of people and see gays as a valid part of that diversity. These people are willing to combat homophobia in themselves and in others.
Nurturance: Assume that gay and lesbian people are indispensable in our society. They view gays and lesbians with affections and delight and are willing to be gay advocates.