What are two things that have nothing in common, Alex. Ok, I have watched a bit too much Jeopardy the past few weeks…but that would be the way I would answer. Phobias and Isms aren’t the same yet we allow people to slide by with phobic tendencies instead of slapping them with the ism they deserve.
A popular book called the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines phobia as “an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear”. Arachnophobia is a great example of such terror. My wife has a very strong phobia when it comes to these 8-legged creatures. She goes out of her way to avoid any location that a spider might be present and when faced with one she can be seen breaking the land speed record in an attempt to get away from the beady-eyed beasts. That is a phobia. True fear. As a member of the LGBTQ community I frequently encounter people that label themselves as homophobic. They actually are quite comfortable with the label and rarely shy away from being referred to as “homophobes”. The crazy thing is that I know damn well they aren’t afraid of me. No straight person has ever been seen screaming with terror and fleeing my presence while screaming at the top of their lungs. No straight person has ever been near me and passed out from fear that I might infect them with my gayness or even worse, force them into a life of homosexuality. Know why? Because they aren’t scared of me. They aren’t phobic, and continuing to allow people to slide by with this label is dangerous.
You are a Gayist and you practice Gayism. I wish I could say I coined these terms, but they have been floating around for years. Unfortunately they are rarely used. It is my firm belief that the discriminatory views and practices toward groups of people should be correctly labeled as isms. Isms are bad. Isms make you think twice about your behavior and make you shy away from openly expressing negative thoughts and feelings toward people. The Dictionary notes that isms are “derogatory” and “a distinctive practice, system, or philosophy”. Human beings have control over isms. They lack control over phobias. Being accused of racism, sexism, ageism, etc. brings out fury and embarrassment and can often quiet the loudest of noisemakers. Being accused of an ism can be socially damaging, elicit feelings of anger, and make a person defensive and combative. The isms are ugly and should be placed firmly on the shoulders of those who deserve it.
I wish homophobia did actually exist. Seriously I do. If people were truly terrified of me they would avoid me at all costs. I would float through my days not worrying about being assaulted in a restroom. I would soar through trips to the zoo holding my wife’s hand and maybe even kissing her a couple times without wondering if the guy behind me is taking pictures to show his buddies. Hell, I bet I could even go to a concert without having my wife groped by some guy that knows I am not physically strong enough to stop him. My life would be SO MUCH better if people would avoid me at all costs. But since that isn’t going to happen I have decided that from now on I will be using the term Gayist to describe these people. They have earned it.
P.S. Shout out to my Islamophobes out there! You aren’t scared either. You are simply racist.