Last year’s election
in the United Kingdom threw up some interesting results as a variety of issues took
prominence in different constituencies. In particular we saw strong reactions to
four conservative parliamentary candidates who had, either during the campaign or
previously, held views which were judged as being “homophobic”.
Philip Lardner lost his candidacy for saying that
homosexuality was “not normal behaviour” – sacked by party leader David Cameron.
The uproar surrounding Philippa Stroud’s Christian beliefs about the
issue was a major factor in her failing to take Sutton and Cheam for the Tories.
Chris Grayling’s comments about Christians offering
“bed and breakfast” being justified in denying double beds to gay couples staying
in their homes almost certainly cost him a cabinet post.
Theresa May managed to
hold on as Equality Minister after the election, despite over 70,000 people joining
a Facebook group asking for her to be sacked on
the basis of her past “homophobic” voting record, when she said her views on homosexuality
had now changed.
Being judged “homophobic”
can cost you dearly.
I’ve always been puzzled
by the term “homophobia”. In the minds of most people it means being prejudiced
against, or even hating, people who are homosexual. Wikipedia
defines it as “a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards homosexuality
and people identified or perceived as being homosexual”.
In keeping with this
view, author, activist, and civil rights leader Coretta Scott King in a 1998 address,
equated homophobia to “racism and anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry” on the
grounds that “it seeks to dehumanize a large group of people, to deny their humanity,
their dignity and personhood”.
It is therefore understandable
that “homophobic” is a label that no one wants to have. There is even an International
Day Against Homophobia celebrated on
May 17 each year. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton marked the day with a statement condemning the “terrible scourge” of homophobia
However when the term
was first used it actually meant something quite different. The word homophobia first appeared in print in an
article written for the 23 May 1969 edition of the American tabloid Screw, in which it was used to refer to heterosexual
men’s fear that others might think they are gay. It has also been used to describe
a fear of people who “come out” as homosexual.
These definitions are
much more in keeping with the literal meaning. After all, a phobia is a fear: claustrophobia,
arachnophobia and acrophobia being fears of closed spaces, spiders and heights respectively.
For many people “homophobia”
is actually about “having a fear of being accused of being bigoted, prejudiced or
discriminating against homosexual people”. This fear, which is increasingly
common, causes people to take a defensive posture in order to avoid attracting disapproval
or adverse publicity. This may take the form of changing ones public position, pretending
to adopt views in accordance with the prevailing liberal consensus, actively denying
ones real beliefs or simply abstaining from expressing an opinion when the matter
This kind of “homophobia”
is becoming increasingly common amongst those who belong to religious faiths which
teach that sex outside marriage is wrong (ie. most world faiths) and it is not difficult
to come up with examples of (often) prominent people in whom the condition is well
For people who don’t
hate, dislike or fear gay people, but simply believe that sex between people who
are not married (including all sex between those of the same sex) is morally wrong,
we need a new term. I’d like to propose the
term “homosceptic” – a term that is not yet in common use and hence arguably open
to (re)definition. My Microsoft Word spell-check
rejects it as a known word and a Google
search for it throws up only 1,830 examples of its use in any context. (In the
American spelling, homoskeptic, there are only 230 examples.)
The Urban dictionary defines a “homosceptic” as “a
member of society who does not hate homosexuals, but generally does not agree with
the principle of homosexuality in moral and ethical terms”.
I’d like to broaden this
definition to include “being sceptical about the key presuppositions of the gay
rights movement” such as the beliefs that:
- Homosexuality is genetically determined
- Homosexual orientation is always fixed
Sexual orientation is a biological characteristic like race, sex or skin
- Feelings of same sex attraction should be welcomed and acted upon
Offering help to those who wish to resist or eradicate these feelings is
Of course if you accept
these “key presuppositions” you may well believe people who don’t to be ignorant,
bigoted, prejudiced or even immoral. You might even feel that such people should
not hold public office, publicly express their views or hold any job which involves
having to condone, promote or facilitate same-sex intimacy.
But if you have some
doubts about the truth of some or all of these beliefs – and suspect that they might
be more “ideology-driven” than “evidence-based” – then perhaps you could argue that
you are not “homophobic” but rather “homosceptic”.
Dr Peter Saunders is a former general surgeon and CEO of Christian
Medical Fellowship, a UK-based organisation with 4,500 UK doctors
and 1,000 medical students as members. This article has been cross-posted from his