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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is homophobia?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Clinton Power

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist

    Clinton Power + Associates provides relationship counselling for Australian individuals and couples online via Zoom videoconference, or from our Sydney CBD office or Byron Bay … View Profile

    Homophobia is a term used to describe the fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or gay people in general. It can also include hatred towards gay people and gay culture.

    Internalised homophobia is about the shameful or negative messages that are taken in from growing up gay in a predominantly straight world. The person associates their identity with being bad, wrong, sinful, shameful or fundamentally flawed.

    For many gay people, working throug issues of internalised homphobia is an important process to develop a healthy sense of gay pride.

  • Ivan Bakich

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Hypnotherapist, Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Sex Therapist

    I work in the area of Clinical Psychology including Testing, Intellectual Assessments and Basic Neuropsychological Assessments. I am also a Psychotherapist, Marital/Couples and Family Therapist, … View Profile

    I agree with Clinton Power on explaining homophobia. I think that he describes the term pretty accurately, however, I wish to add that many who are homophobic have intense anger and hatred towards the members of the gay community. In my clinical experience HATRED frequently appears as a powerful emotion projected toward gay people. At an unconscious level, for many gay-haters, it may be fear of their own repressed homosexual tendencies and fear of those resurfacing at some point in their lives.

  • Ash Rehn

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Sex Therapist, Social Worker

    Mental Health Medicare Provider of focussed psychological strategies, Counsellor & Therapist specialising in ‘sex addiction’, pornography issues, gay counselling, online therapy. For more information: View Profile

    Homophobia is a reaction to heteronormativity, a set of social norms supporting heterosexuality as the dominant sexuality as well as the alignment of biological sex, sexuality, gender identity, and gender roles (Lovaas & Jenkins, 2007). Responses to actual or perceived homosexuality that can be attributed to homophobia include disapproval, disgust, discriminatory action and verbal and physical assault or violence. Gay hate crimes, discrimination in access to goods and services and unequal treatment under the law are the manifestations of homophobia in action.

    It should be noted here that gay hate crimes and discrimination do not only affect those who identify as gay or bisexual but anyone who falls outside the dominant norms of sexual identity or could be perceived to do so. The self loathing of people who realise their homosexuality is at odds with heteronormativity has been called ‘internalised homophobia’. Research indicates that internalised homophobia is associated with risker sex activity and increased alcohol and drug consumption. Internalised homophobia has also been implicated in increased vulnerability to suicide, substance abuse, self harm, eating disorders and overrepresentation in mental health problems generally.

    However taking a focus on homophobia can deflect attention away from heteronormativity, arguably the generator of homophobia. We might say if homophobia is the symptom, heteronormativity is the cause. Discussing homophobia but neglecting to mention heteronormativity can imply that homophobia is a problem that is located in the relationships between heterosexuals and homosexuals, but ‘straight’ people can also suffer the effects of homophobia! It is not such a big leap from the problematizing of homo-hetero relationships to the problematizing of homosexuality, the stigma of which takes us right back to the purpose of gay liberation.

    If, on the other hand, we turn our attention to heteronormativity, it is possible to see the issue as one of cultural bias as well as something that goes beyond simplistic responses based on ‘being nice to gays’ or ‘having gay pride’. Heteronormativity is a concept that can be applied to heterosexuals, those who identify as gay or bisexual and MSM (Men Who Have Sex With Men) alike. Heteronormativity can be used to understand and respond to all kinds of gender relations as well as those who live intersexed lives or identify as transpeople. It doesn’t rely on narrow, polarised versions of sexuality and, unlike homophobia, it doesn’t suggest that those who fall outside the norms (such as MSM) need to identify themselves as gay or bi.

    I am not suggesting we should abandon all the awareness-raising work that anti-homophobia laws and policies have achieved or all the action that has been taken to ensure the rights of LGBT people in society. But it is important to acknowledge how homophobia becomes established and that does not only affect gay people. Heteronormativity is something that affects us all.

  • Colin Longworth


    Is a Generalist Psychologist, who is able to provide counselling services under Medicare (with a GP referral) as well as Telehealth and Clinical Hypnotherapy. He … View Profile

    I agree with the other respondents on this subject. However whether it is called “Homophobia”, “Heterosexism”, “Heteronormativity” or as one of the main researchers on the subject, Gordon Herek of the University of California at Davis calls it “Sexual Prejudice”, it is probably worth looking at what’s behind it.
    Whether Homophobia is “Internalised” by an individual Gay or Lesbian person, or directed to Gays and Lesbians as a “class” of people in the community, it still has the potential to do harm.
    My thoughts on the subject are largely influenced by the research of Gordon Herek. (See the website for more information.)
    When I have been on the “receiving end” of homophobia, I have tended to look at “What’s behind this?” I’ve taken into account Herek’s research suggestion that (apart from any combinations) Homophobia usually has one of three main “causes”;
    “Experiential” – or basing one’s beliefs and attitudes on the (individual’s) experience (possibly negative) with one or more Gay men or Lesbians from their past;
    “Defensive” -  a way for the individual to cope with their own inner conflicts or anxieties (about their own homosexuality) by projecting this hatred, or their negative feelings onto homosexual people, or people they believe are;
    “Symbolic” – or as a way of identifying with a particular group, or groups in society, e.g. “I believe in traditional roles for men and women in society”. Or “I am a fundamentalist Christian- therefore I disapprove of homosexuality”.
    There are any number of ways for those negatively impacted by Homophobia to respond positively, these include;  Reading books like Betty Berzon’s “Setting Them Straight: You CAN Do Something About Bigotry and Homophobia in Your Life” and acting on it’s suggestions; similarly for those of a “religious bent” reading books like “Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians” by Candace Chellew-Hodge, and; Getting involved in political efforts to remove discrimination, to name a few possibilities.

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