Just as we expect our members to not suggest someone has a mental disorder for merely believing LGBT issues are not a lifestyle choice (innate), it's also expected that we not suggest members have a mental disorder for believing it is a lifestyle choice (not innate).

The misuse (pejorative) use of the terms homophobic, transphobic, and the like should be flagged as rude. Suggesting someone that disagrees with your worldview has a serious mental condition is not constructive and is quite hypocritical, not to mention mostly inaccurate.

Let's all "Be Nice" and not assume malice, ignorance, or education level when discussing these issues with someone of the opposite viewpoint.

Premise for this question: For those not familiar with postfixes, a -phobia is: a combining form meaning “fear,” occurring in loanwords from Greek (hydrophobia); on this model, used in the names of mental disorders that have the general sense “dread of, aversion toward” that specified by the initial element. The core being: "...used in the names of mental disorders...that specified by the initial element." Plainly explained, any word of the form X-phobia, X being homo(sexual) in this case.

Analogy: We (SE) don't allow use of the medical term "retarded" as a descriptor (in all but extenuating circumstances), even though most people when misusing it meant "stupid." This widespread misuse of the term did not change its actual meaning. Replace homophobic with retarded in the cited thread and see how appalled this makes you.

Example: This question and some answers Throughout this question and answers, there are numerous usages of the term homophobic where it is used to describe someone that has the opposite viewpoint of the person, not apparently legitimate cases of a phobia. These are pejorative uses.

Sidenote: This meta question is essentially the same as this other one, but applied to a specific scenario. It's a bit strange the vote difference when it comes time to applying that principle.

locked by Catija May 21 '18 at 11:36

This post has been locked while disputes about its content are being resolved. You may discuss this on meta if you have concerns.

Read more about locked posts here.

  • 3
    What looks like a related meta: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1384/1599. – Tinkeringbell May 15 '18 at 17:34
  • 7
    Keep in mind that if the asker of a question says "homophobic", we are to take their word for it and assume that the situation they are in is serious enough to warrant a strong word like that. You are making the assumption that the people the asker is talking about are simply "in disagreement with a worldview". By using the word homophobic, the asker has already shown that's not the case, and we respect that without proof. – Clay07g May 15 '18 at 19:01
  • 2
    I'm going to VTC as too broad... You've provided no tangible examples and your comments on answers are just repeating the same factless claims/assumptions without any new evidence to back up what you're saying. As it stands this question is just a rant that holds no water. If you want to add some examples of where this has been an issue, I'd consider retracting my vote. – Jess K. May 16 '18 at 13:18
  • @JessK It might be okay to leave open; it's based on faulty premises, as the answers have covered, but the voting makes it quite clear what the community thinks, and that's a useful precedent to have. (That does not justify continued comments making false claims after it's been answered, though.) – Cascabel May 16 '18 at 14:40
  • @Cascabel If it stays open, I won't be too offended... I just think it's creating more noise than it's worth at this point, since it holds no water. – Jess K. May 16 '18 at 14:57
  • 3
    I'd like to clarify my previous comment. It's okay to not have realized what homophobia or transphobia means, and to ask a question. However, it is emphatically not okay to attempt to make a case for treating the legitimacy of LGBT as an opinion on this site. LGBT people are covered by Be Nice, as noted in my answer. We cannot force you to change your beliefs, but certain beliefs have no place on this site. – Cascabel May 16 '18 at 14:58
  • 5
    @Physics-Compute Can you show me where people are saying that homophobes are mentally ill on this site? It's important to provide evidence to back up the arguments that you make, otherwise you're not contributing to a productive discussion and just making a lot of noise. – sphennings May 16 '18 at 15:10
  • 8
    Homophobia was never a mental condition. Please stop trying to redefine terms. – sphennings May 16 '18 at 15:14
  • 5
    COMMENTS REMOVED: Since this question seems to hinge on the OP's definition of transphobia and homophobia, discussion and refutation of that should occur in the answers (as many do already), not in the comments. The answers do a great job of explaining the semantic problem that the OP is experiencing. Choosing to accept the answers or not is their call and it seems that further debate will not move the discussion forward, as it has devolved to a point where stepping back entirely or for a period is necessary. – Catija May 16 '18 at 21:04
  • 2
    As much as I don't really care for this question, it isn't too broad. Keep in mind that closevotes are not super-downvotes. – apaul May 17 '18 at 4:58
  • 1
    Honestly at this point I'm convinced this question is off topic and I'm going to leave my VTC. Debating language and definitions isn't on topic for this site. English is so asinine that we could be here for eternity talking about all the words that don't quite make sense when you break them into their separate roots and compare the original definitions. It's not an IPS issue. – Jess K. May 17 '18 at 13:40
  • 3
    Is there a better title for this? I don't think it reflects the question Body, and Honestly, going to Meta and seeing "Let's be nice with X" heavily downvoted is quite unsettling (until you Click on the question and see its contents that might show the Real reason for the downvotes) – Patta May 18 '18 at 7:13
  • 2
    OP I'd recommend leaving the title alone as it was edited. Using words by their definition has nothing to do being nice, so this title more accurately reflects what you're actually asking. – Jess K. May 18 '18 at 15:59
  • 3
    Honestly, I'd recommend leaving the entire thing alone, as Catija already said. You said what you wanted, and it's been refuted, with strong voting. Meta has answered you. There's nothing more to do here, and nothing to be gained from trying to tweak your case. – Cascabel May 18 '18 at 22:43
  • 3
    I would like to know if OP has any example of the usage of the words "homophobia" and "transphobia" in any sort of medical document as a means to diagnose a mental disorder. I'm not the first to ask for this clarification but OP has yet to answer that. – Slapped Penguin May 19 '18 at 16:55

Homophobia and transphobia do not refer to mental disorders. They refer to negative attitudes anywhere from aversion to fear to dislike, and behavior that demonstrates these attitudes. They also do not assume any particular cause for these attitudes or behaviors; it could be completely unintentional unknowing ignorance, it could be a strongly held personal belief, it could be many things.

So there may well be nicer and more precise ways to make a point, depending on the exact situation. But these words are not fundamentally hostile, and should not be universally flagged.

Please keep in mind that the Be Nice policy does cover everyone including LGBT people, and to use your example, suggesting that being some particular flavor of LGBT is a lifestyle choice is something that is very likely to make LGBT people feel alienated. So while there are indeed many people who believe that, it's not something they should be saying here, and they should not generally expect to convey that belief and be immune from being reminded it's unkind to LGBT people.

  • Attempting to redefine words does not change their actual meaning. – user2921 May 16 '18 at 2:09
  • 16
    @Physics-Compute It's not a redefinition; it's been used like this for almost 50 years - since the time it was originally coined. – HDE 226868 May 16 '18 at 2:15
  • 4
    The examples added to the question appear to be covered by what I already wrote in my answer, so I'm not planning to additionally discuss the examples in detail. I saw no be nice violations, although the third example points to a moderator response suggesting that someone (very likely the OP here) said something about trans people that was unacceptable and deleted. – Cascabel May 16 '18 at 14:46

Should we not call someone who rapes a rapist, because it's "not nice"? Wowie.

Homophobic/transphobic are descriptor words for the actions someone chooses to take and exude upon other people and should not be flagged as violating the "Be nice" policy unless directly harassing another member of the site (which you have not included examples for, so I'm assuming you just mean any reference to such language should be removed from the site). We would only be invalidating the victim of these oppressive occurrences by censoring language to accurately describe an oppressor.

If an OP calls someone "homophobic" for belittling them for their personal life, maybe the real person in violation of "being nice" is the person exuding their negative attitude onto them in the first place.

"An opinion is whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza. When we invalidate someone’s gender, mistreat same-sex couples or fight against inclusive policies, that’s oppression. Big difference." - source

Addendum, now that it's actually clear what your question/problem is: It seems your underlying issue is with grammar and has nothing to do with this site. You are heavily focusing on what "phobia" means without allowing room for the true definition/context of "homophobia".

Homophobia definition:

"dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people."

We are not here to parse apart language and debate whether the composition of any word should be changed to better fit it's definition in the English language (or vice versa). You can choose to reject the true definition of this word based on the definition of its suffix if you so choose, but asking everyone else to do so is quite frankly an overzealous notion that is belittling to the people who value this word for it's ability to speak to the injustice against them.

So again... No thanks.

  • Perceived oppression, whether real or not, is entirely different than a mental disorder. You are actually furthering the case that the use is pejorative when used other than to mean an actual case of phobia. – user2921 May 16 '18 at 2:12
  • 10
    @Physics-Compute do you have any examples of anyone claiming it's a mental disorder? I think most of us belonging to the LGBT think it's just a case of being an a-hole... Nonetheless, who are we to tell the OP that their perception of someone's behavior is invalid? The answer is that we aren't. – Jess K. May 16 '18 at 2:15
  • Exactly, you're using it as a pejorative rather than medically. – user2921 May 16 '18 at 15:38
  • 10
    @Physics-Compute Homophobia and transphobia are not and have never been medical conditions, any more than xenophobia (racism) or islamophobia. – doppelgreener May 16 '18 at 22:53

First of all, homophobia/transphobia etc. aren't mental illnesses - this isn't using -phobia in it's strictest sense of irrational uncontrollable fear. (This is why some groups suggest using -misia as a suffix (homomisia, transmisia, etc) to indicate hate rather than fear, although that's got it's own detractors as well, because language is tricky and messy). So people aren't making that sort of judgement, they're instead calling out people for their hateful behaviour.

Basically, going "you're wrong, change yourself to match my worldview" is...less than stellar. There's a lot of places who are outlawing things like conversion therapy and the like because we're figuring out that it doesn't work, it causes more harm than good, and it's just....not helpful.

Setting aside the argument of who is actually correct here (because that's orthogonal, I think, to what you're actually asking) - I don't think this is really a case where we can go "oh hey yes, let's have both sides have a say here", because in this case, the other side is actively harmful to the LGBTQIA folk here.

Yes, I understand that being called out for this sort of thing with that language can hurt, but at the same time, if they're not constructively answering the questions as asked, that's harmful too.

We shouldn't be judging the characteristics of the people making the post, that's not what we're here to do - we are here to provide interpersonal skills help, not judgement. Yes, that does go for both sides, but if someone's actively harming someone else with their language choice, that does need to be called out and addressed. We're not here for that.


The way you are defining homophobia for this question isn't a common usage of the word. Neither Merriam Webster or the Oxford Dictionary define homophobia this way. There is no indication that anyone on this site with the exception of you is using it in this fashion. If you are going to complain about the usage of a word, making up your own definition based on a literal interpretation of the root words, and attempting to claim that other people are using it this way, is incredibly disingenuous.

To the best of my knowledge homophobia has never been used to refer to a mental health disorder. It certainly hasn't been documented in any version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychological Association (unlike homosexuality). It's original usage was in an adult magazine.

Many words have differing meanings than their root words. A starfish is neither a ball of gas so massive that hydrogen starts fusing together, or a gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate lacking limbs or digits. To claim that a starfish is either of those things because those are its root words is absurd.

Even in the sciences, and medicine the suffix -phobic doesn't always refer to a pathological fear of something. In chemistry hydrophobic surfaces are those that repel water. While in medicine hydrophobia is an archaic word for rabies.

  • Common misuse of the term does not excuse it's misuse, nor does it make it okay. See analogy to the term "retarded" in the OP. – user2921 May 18 '18 at 15:42
  • 3
    @Physics-Compute So stop misusing the term. You are the only person using it this way. – sphennings May 18 '18 at 15:57
  • (Clearer) You are misusing the medical term homophobic, just as people misuse the term retarded. Misusing the term, no matter how widespread and common it is, does not change the meaning, nor does it make the misuse okay. – user2921 May 18 '18 at 15:59
  • 2
    @Physics-Compute It was never a medical term. Can you show me where it's being used, in the medical literature, as you are describing? Homophobia has never been included in any version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychological Association. – sphennings May 18 '18 at 16:01
  • 1
    @Physics-Compute "-phobia" means "fear of or aversion to." I agree that the fear can sometimes stem from a mental disorder for certain phobia's, but I believe "homophobia" is usually using "-phobia" as more aversion than fear... – scohe001 May 18 '18 at 16:03

You're making an assumption that you've already been told is false.

If someone says that their coworker/friend/family etc is homophobic, we are to take that as a premise of fact.

You seem to be assuming that the "homophobe" in question is simply "in disagreement with a worldview".

I'm going to ignore the validity of such a concept, because it's not important.

What's important is that the word "homophobic" means that the person has demonstrated that their behavior is much more hurtful.

If the OP says they talk to a homophobic person, it should be taken at face-value, meaning that the other person is being hurtfully discriminant towards people who are homosexual.

If I tell you that I work with racist, and give you no other information, you are to assume that the person has said or done racist things more than once. You don't get say "well maybe his actions don't label him a racist", because you have no information to make that claim. I told you he was a racist, so therefore you should already be under the assumption that his actions do label him a racist.

  • 1
    The point about taking it as given is good, but even still, homophobia doesn't actually imply malice. I think it's pretty important to remember that given how easy it is for us emotional human beings to take criticism as insults. – Cascabel May 15 '18 at 19:36
  • @Cascabel You're correct. I misspoke. I actually meant "hurtful", not "malicious", as malice means it's intentional. You're right in that it may not be intentional, but I am still standing by the idea that homophobia implies a certain level of severity and problematic outcomes. – Clay07g May 15 '18 at 19:39
  • Homophobia has nothing to do with how it makes someone else feel. It has everything to do with the mental state of the individual it is directed toward. Agreed that we take at face value what an OP says in absence of details. When details are provided and it shows that it's just disagreement and lacking fear, that's when it's a pejorative. Or when an answerer uses the term as a pejorative in place of an actual phobia. – user2921 May 16 '18 at 2:46

Just as we expect our members to not suggest someone has a mental disorder for merely believing LGBT issues are not a lifestyle choice (innate), it's also expected that we not suggest members have a mental disorder for believing it is a lifestyle choice (not innate).

Some people believe the Earth is flat. Some people believe that the moon landing was faked. Some people believe that Elivis is still alive and well... And some people believe that sexuality is a "lifestyle choice"

The thing is... Science tells us otherwise.

Saying that these positions are equally valid, because folks believe certain things, is a great example of false equivalence

Not long ago, I argued with my shrink about the term "homophobic" because in my experience it usually presents as disgust and hate, rather than fear. She took the time to walk me through it, and she started by asking where that hate and disgust likely came from. The classic explanation is that the hate/disgust is rooted in fear about one's own sexuality. But there's more to it than that. Fear causes people to behave strangely.

Some people who are arachnaphobic will shriek and run from spiders, while some others will go out of their way to exterminate spiders. Are these people afraid that they are, deep down, spiders themselves? Most likely not. Are they afraid of being bitten by spiders? Some likely are. Are these people who are terrified of being bitten aware that the vast majority of spiders are harmless, and that some aren't even capable of biting humans? If they're being honest, probably.

That's the thing... Most people with a phobia at some level realize that it's an irattional fear. If you start pulling at threads some don't even know why they're afraid. While some others will cling to "rational" reasons trying to justify their irrational fear.

Homophobic people tend to have loads of rationalizations about why LGBT+ people are bad. Many cultures have deliberately provided and supported these rationalizations.

But much like the fear of spiders, science has been pulling at those threads for a while. Psychiatrists and doctors and anthropologists have pretty well concluded that these fears are irrational... Yet some people still cling to their rationalizations.

Homosexuality isn't contagious. Homosexuals have been shown to be every bit as productive, intelligent, and capable as their hetero conterparts. There isn't any credible evidence that they're more prone to crime, that they're any less capable of raising healthy, well adjusted children, or that they have a negative impact on society. Yet people still cling to those rationalizations... These are some of the more common fears that people bring up when the threads get pulled, when they're asked for the reasons for their disgust and hatred.

This leads me to conclude that homophobia is an irrational fear. Once you start to look benieath the hate and disgust, you find fear. Once you start to look benieath the fear, there's not really a rational explanation, hence an irrational fear.

If it wasn't obvious already... The terms homophobia and transphobia are accurate, their meanings are commonly understood and consistently defined in every dictionary I've seen. These terms should not be banned, edited out, or flagged as rude or abusive.


Definition of homophobia : irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals


homophobia NOUN Dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people.

If you'd prefer a more interpersonal answer, take a moment to remember why these words exist...

While I'm sure it's unpleasant to be accused of homophobic or transphobic ideas or behavior, it's arguably much more unpleasant to be on the receiving end of those ideas and those behaviors. Most LGBT+ folks can relate some pretty horrifying stories about how it has touched their lives.

My best friend's partner lost his little sister in The Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, FL. When I think about homophobia, I remember that day. I remember my community collectively weeping.

I also remember going to a candlelight vigil a few days later, in a smaller central Florida city. LGBT+ folks, allies, friends, and family from all over the state had gathered to mourn in a local park. On the way into the park and on the way out of the park we had to walk past a line of Sheriff's deputies who were supposed to be there to "protect" the gathering, but could be heard cracking jokes and sneering at us.

I remember going on my first date with a non-cis person and seeing the other bar patrons recoil at the sight of us. I remember the bartender pointing me out and calling me a "faggot" the next time I went to play darts there on my own.

I remember my partner sobbing when their mother didn't want them to attend the family Christmas party.

I remember walking down the sidewalk holding hands with my partner and having someone throw a glass bottle at us from a speeding car.

I remember all the fights and taunting in parking lots after school.

I remember my good friend, that had the courage to come out back then, having the word "fag" painted on his car, by a co-worker, and him being told to "keep quiet, or look for a new job"

You probably don't want to be associated with something that causes so much pain in the world. But neither do I. Neither do we. It isn't just a difference of opinion, this really affects our lives. So, admittedly it's hard not to take offence when someone wants to make a semantic argument and, more or less, compare being called homophobic or transphobic to the experience of having to live under the weight of those things.

If you don't like the implications of being -phobic, try to understand. Try to empathize. Try not to make people feel awful for simply being who they are and loving who they love... Or, failing that, just try to coexist and leave us in peace.

  • 8
    While I appreciate what you're trying to say...most of this doesn't really answer the question as asked. – Ash May 15 '18 at 18:39
  • 2
    (Also, legitimizing the "fear" as irrational means that it's really easy to go "well it's not rational, therefore I'm not really a bad person, I can't help being this way". Which...I don't think is what you want to be saying, but it can be read that way.) – Ash May 15 '18 at 18:43
  • @Ash Stripping away the rationalizations is often part of the path towards getting over a phobia. – apaul May 15 '18 at 19:07
  • 2
    I understand that, but that's assuming they'll put in the work...either way, it's rather orthogonal to what's actually being asked. – Ash May 15 '18 at 19:24
  • 1
    @Ash is it really? Looked like a question rooted on a flawed premise. I thought spelling out where the terms come from was an easy way to point that out. When one pov is rooted in established science, and the other in irrational fear, these things are not equal. Making a semantic argument trying to equate them seemed wrong. – apaul May 15 '18 at 19:39
  • 5
    Okay... time to stop this I guess. This discussion is going nowhere. @Physics-Compute you wrote a question arguing all of this, if you disagree with the answers downvote them. There's no need to go round and round in a comment thread, not even on meta. – Tinkeringbell May 18 '18 at 17:29

You must log in to answer this question.