Homophobic Man struggles with his Fear

Dateline: New York—Morris Jenkins suffers from a debilitating fear of homosexuals, commonly called homophobia. When in the presence of gay people, he ceases to function.

“I remember the first time the terror struck me,” he said. “I was at work on my computer, sitting in my cubicle, and a co-worker told me he’s gay. My lower lip quivered, I screamed like I was looking into the face of Death, and I fell back away from him, landing on the floor and kicking my chair into the computer, shattering the screen.

“I turned over on my stomach and began clawing my way out of the cubicle, cutting my hands on the pieces glass, gasping for breath, and crying for help. My heart was hammering in my chest. The terrifying coworker tried to help me up and I shrieked and twisted my arm as I violently spun to avoid contact. I crab-walked out of the cubicle and ran to the opposite end of the office, clutching the wall behind me, sweating buckets and trying to catch my breath.

“By then, everyone in the office was standing and wondering what was going on. ‘Is it a terrorist attack?’ I heard someone ask.

“Despite my panic attack, I managed to get out, between deep breaths, ‘I think I’m homophobic.’

“‘No kidding!’ I heard the ghastly, gay coworker mutter.

“I’ve been that way ever since. No matter what I’m doing, if a Dreaded One shows up I’m gripped by fear and I just need to get as far away as possible. Once, I was driving and I saw two women with short hair walking by and holding hands. I slammed on the brakes, got rear ended, and then I reversed direction, floored it, nearly ran over an old man, and plowed into a McDonald’s. I kicked open the car door, wildly pulling hair out of my head with my bare hands and warning everyone that lesbians were probably nearby.

“They looked at me like I was insane. Absolutely insane. Of course! I thought. What do they know of my condition? They’re not homophobic.”

Morris spent several months in jail for reckless driving, because homophobia isn’t recognized as a clinical disorder.

“The very worst time,” he continued, “was when I once took a wrong turn downtown. I saw a commotion down the street and when I arrived I realized too late my tragic mistake. I’d stepped right into a Gay Pride parade. I collapsed and writhed on the ground, balling up into a fetal position and crying for my mother. Someone called for an ambulance and when the first responders arrived, with tears running down my cheeks and my voice hoarse from screaming, I whispered that I’m homophobic.

“I remember the medics looked puzzled, like they had no knowledge of such a paralyzing fear of homosexuals. That was when I began to notice something that’s confused me to this day. I went to an anti-homosexuality rally to talk to fellow homophobes, but the people there seemed much more angry than petrified.

“Of course, hundreds of gay men and women showed up as well and started a counter-rally. And naturally, as soon as I caught sight of them I launched myself up a telephone pole, crying to the Lord for mercy, wailing and sobbing until my throat was raw, like a forlorn prophet aghast at a vision of demons.

“I chanced to look below and was surprised to find that instead of running for the hills, the anti-gay people stood their ground and even spat insults into the others’ horrific faces. And yet the Dreaded Ones called them homophobes.

“Meanwhile, I gripped that telephone pole, my knuckles white, and I prayed for the strength to hang on—to avoid the hideous prospect of landing in a crowd of the horrors, of course, but also because I felt I didn’t belong in the camp of those so-called homophobes. Why aren’t the eyes bulging from the anti-gay people’s skulls? I thought. Why aren’t they begging to be left alone? What tremendous courage they must have had to have stood so close to the monsters without defecating in their pants.

“No, I know now I’m the only one of my kind: a homophobe who actually fears homosexuals.”

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14 comments on “Homophobic Man struggles with his Fear

  1. Hmm. A connection there would be that homosexuality itself was once considered a mental disorder.

    The point of this article, though, is that calling opposition to gay people a phobia is woefully sloppy. It’s just a strawman. I’m not saying I’m against rights for gay people. I’m just saying we shoot ourselves in the foot when we rely on pitifully weak arguments.

    • I dunno…according to the definition, a phobe is a person who dislikes or is afraid of something or someone. Sounds about right. If we followed your way of thinking, then Anglophobes wouldn’t be a correct definition for someone who dislikes England or British people…or am I missing something?

  2. “Phobia” comes from the Greek for fear. There’s agoraphobia, arachnephobia, claustrophobia, and so on. These are all matters of intense, irrational fear. Fear is not the same as dislike.

    See Dictionary.com. The psychiatric definition is “an abnormal intense and irrational fear of a given situation, organism, or object.” The general definition is “a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.”

    Here’s some historical info: ‘1786, “fear, horror, aversion,” Mod.L., abstracted from compounds in -phobia, from Gk. -phobia, from phobos “fear,” originally “flight” (still the only sense in Homer), but it became the common word for “fear” via the notion of “panic, fright” (cf. phobein “put to flight, frighten”).’

    True, hatred of something and fear of it might both cause the person to try to avoid it, but they’re still not the same thing. Hatred could cause you to try to destroy the hated thing, while a terrified person would more likely be frozen with fear or would choose to flee rather than fight.

    So my point here is that the people who are opposed to homosexuality are rarely afraid of gay people, strictly speaking; rather, they’re disgusted by that sexual orientation or they’re threatened by its implications for their religion or they’re embarrassed by their closeted homosexuality, or whatever. You don’t see so-called homophobes reacting to gay people in the way that arachnephobes react to spiders. So it’s an absurd misnomer.

  3. I have to agree with Beckert & Trout. I wouldn’t say homophobes have a “dislike”, but rather a serious fear. Westboro Baptist doesn’t “dislike” homosexuals, they crusade against them.

  4. Nope, it means you’re a philosophile… don’t sweat it, there’s treatment for it. Most of it is poverty, but still.

    • Not if I’m afraid of thinking at least I think that is what I was getting at? Benjamin is the Philosophile. I don’t mind being called names, or even calling people names as long as the name fits.

  5. All I’m saying is there’s a difference between hatred and fear. When you crusade against something, chances are you’re motivated mainly by something like hatred rather than fear. There’s some overlap here, of course, since whether you’re disgusted by something or terrified of it, you’ll be inclined to separate yourself from it.

    But look, how many homophobes act like the guy in my satire above? If that guy seems strange, that’s because so-called homophobes aren’t motivated mainly be fear of gay people, so it’s a misnomer to label as phobics. When we say that opponents of homosexuality are just afraid of gay people, as opposed to hating or being disgusted by them, we belittle the threat and kid ourselves, since it’s easier to laugh off fear than hatred.

    • Fair enough I guess. So how would you name it in so many words besides calling someone “that guy who is disgusted by gays?” Would you be more likely to call them gay-bashers? But not in a physical way? It gets tricky.

  6. Yes, it could get tricky. How about gay-haters or anti-homosexuals? What makes this even trickier is that the word “gay” itself is a euphemism and “homosexual” is too long and scientific-sounding. If you shorten it to “homo,” you’ll offend people because that word is out of fashion and presumed to be pejorative.

    This whole issue is taboo and politically correct, so you’d be walking on eggshells if you tried to come up with a new name for “homophobes.” That doesn’t mean we can’t mock that which is ridiculous, just because the absurdity (i.e. the word “homophobic”) is useful or even necessary.

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