Friday, January 03, 2014

Homophobia – an emerging disorder

Advice - Mind, Body and Family, Jan '14
By Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta

"I hate the word homophobia. It is not a phobia. You are not scared. You are an asshole" – an unconfirmed Twitter quote of 2012 attributed to Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman

Phobia refers to an irrational fear of an object or situation. There are many phobias we commonly hear of, like arachnophobia or fear of spiders, claustrophobia or fear of closed spaces. Homophobia is a new addition to this long list.

Homophobia refers to an irrational fear and hatred towards gay and lesbian people. In a broader sense it includes or relates to similar negative attitudes towards bisexual and transgender persons as well (biphobia and transphobia). The popular use of the term is new and with time it is being recognized as a specific psychological disorder.

Phobias in general result from ignorance and wrong beliefs. The same applies to homophobia. Most homophobic persons don’t have a friend who is gay or lesbian. Their knowledge of homosexuality is limited to popular pornographic and erotic material and peer group information. A popular school of psychologists claim that some homophobic individuals are closeted homosexual persons with self-disapproval.

Most phobias are treatable. We usually educate the person about the object of fear and remove the wrong notions. The next step is exposing the person to the object of fear and preventing a phobic response by rational interpretation. Some scientists believe that homophobia may be treated in a similar way.

But the question that is crucial is whether homophobia is really a fear. Or is it more ‘hatred’ than ‘fear’? How does one treat hatred? How does one treat hatred that is directed towards love? Well, Morgan Freeman, or whoever it is that made the quote cited here, seems to know the best!

Reader queries

I am a 21 year old boy. I am gay and came out to my family recently. My father has strong opinions against homosexuality. He wants to get me treated. Please advice.

Dear Anonymous

The most rational way to deal with your father is to educate him. You may take the help of any family member who is supportive or of a support group for gay people. Perhaps the support group may help you meet other parents who have accepted their children as gay, and they could talk to your father. If all this fails, try to make him visit a psychiatrist to cure him of his phobia. If even that does not help, as an adult, plan on becoming financially independent at the earliest and being on your own. Best wishes.

Confused? Disturbed? Just inquisitive? Write in any query on the mind, body and family to, and Dr. Tirthankar Guha Thakurta, teaching faculty at a Kolkata-based medical college, will be happy to answer them – with due respect to confidentiality.

Artwork source: commons.wikimedia.orgCopyright: Dee Downing.

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