Donald Trump and his mindless horde have begun to formally rollback on LGBT rights because what do you expect with an administration as old, white, elite, heterosexual, and grossly religious as his? Between proposed “Religious Freedom” Acts, which would allow discrimination against queer people, and denying federal support to trans students, our community is in danger. Now more than ever, it’s important that marginalized people across the spectrum, including the queer spectrum, are hyper-specific with their words because what we say and how we say it matters. We need to call out bigotry and oppression when we see it and not allow mainstream, normative society to sell us false equivalencies that declare hate as the valid, opposite side of progressive and inclusive ideologies (see: Trevor Noah and Tomi Lahren, and Generation KKK).
For decades, people have called hatred and violence against the gay community ‘homophobia,’ when really, they don’t seem all that scared–or at the very least, they certainly don’t seem to be experiencing a phobia. This applies across the queer spectrum, whether it’s people calling the legal and violent attacks on trans people ‘transphobia’ or the continued perpetuation that bisexuality isn’t real ‘biphobia.’ The correct phrasing–at least when we’re talking about the stuff media loves to cover–is homoantagonism, transantagonism, and bi-antagonism, respectively.
This suggestion of changing how we speak is far from commonplace, with Guerilla Feminism being one publication committing to using ‘antagonism’ in place of ‘phobia,’ across the board. In the words of a commenter on their site, “…a phobia is an anxiety disorder that sufferers do not choose and cannot necessarily control. People who oppress marginalized groups are not clinically suffering from an anxiety disorder, they’re just assholes,” with Guerrilla Feminism adding, “AND OPPRESSORS.” It’d be very hard to argue that anything that we’ve seen throughout the years with queerphobia, across the board, is anything like a legitimate phobia.
What the word ‘phobia’ misses in the equation is the aggression and hostility that many marginalized queer folks experience. When people label Trump supporters viciously attacking gay activists as ‘homophobia,’ a subtext is created within which the attackers are placed in the role of victim for some sort of physical, religious, or social fear. With the pervasiveness of this subtext, privileged America escapes responsibility for fixing the problem, and instead, we end up living on a planet where white supremacists and Neo-Nazis are seriously trying to tell people not to be so sensitive instead of them just not being walking, breathing pieces of literal human garbage.
That being said, it’s clear that there is some element of fear going on in the minds of hateful Americans standing against queer equity. While not a phobia, many white, heterosexual, religious Americans may be afraid of what the world might look like if the systems of power are thrown off. So while they don’t necessarily fear the people whom they’re hurting, they may be scared of what it means to accept difference and change. Maybe, just maybe, hateful people, surrounded by other hateful people, are just not strong enough or brave enough to step out and risk disrupting the existing power structures.
It’s important that people not allow this mindset, or any ideas about open-mindedness, to cause them to try and find meaning or explanation where there might not be one. Not everyone can be saved, and more importantly, not everyone deserves it–at least not before we protect and rescue marginalized people first, anyway.
The dark reality is that white supremacy is not the only supremacy we live in. Heterosexual supremacy is a real thing, a law-passing, conversion therapy encouraging, marriage-equality opposing, trans hating, dangerously real thing epitomized by Trump supporters and Trump leadership, like Mike Pence. People may not want to use ‘antagonism,’ in place of ‘phobia,’ because it’s uncomfortable to challenge heterosexuality or to, I don’t know, suggest that queer sexualities are just as “normal,” safe, and healthy.
Spoiler alert: society isn’t actually invested in equality. If equality actually became a thing, the law and people, in general, would actually have to take responsibility for all the awful things that can happen when one simply exists as a person who is not a white, heterosexual, able-bodied male. Basically, it inconveniences people to care about stuff.
Like, right now there’s a drought in Somalia (a place among many places that the U.S. has ignored) and mainstream media is largely looking the other way because they aren’t the kind of suffering people America cares about. Now, if a celebrity dies, or a white woman is attacked by a man of color, America breaks down and never stops talking. Otherwise, they can’t really be bothered.
Again, this just adds to the fact that ‘phobias’ have nothing to do with why America treats queer people the way it does. It’s all about willful and subconscious ignorance and antagonism. Ultimately, it’s up to us to make the change from ‘phobia’ to ‘antagonism.’ Just look at most of the media. We can’t expect them to call stuff what it is when they’re still afraid to call Neo-Nazis and white supremacists what they are.
Replace ‘phobia’ when you write. Have conversations with other justice-oriented people. Talk to you your allies. Talk to your favorite writers, magazines, websites. Use it all over social media. No matter how you do it, it helps and it matters because words are powerful. Words start and empower movements. One of the strongest movements today was started with three simple words: Black Lives Matter.
Think about it this way, people don’t call racism ‘racephobia.’ So why then should we call the oppressions we see, ‘homophobia?’ They’re not afraid and, if they are, it’s certainly not an anxiety-induced, pathological fear. What I’m trying to say is that 2017 is not going to be about society force feeding us narratives of empathy and understanding for oppressors. Oppressed people are not bad people if they don’t feel anything for the people who have and continue to hurt them. In the wise words of 86-year-old Bernice Starnes, “I’m supposed to feel sorry for that bitch? I DON’T.”