The Negative Effects of Homophobia on Gays and Lesbians
As children many gays and lesbians lived with homophobic parents. Now as adults they all live in a homophobic society. They live with homophobic individuals on the job, where they suffer professionally, and at home, where they suffer personally.
Thomas Couser ( 1996), in an article on the effects of homophobia on gays, describes how he felt when someone thinking he was gay defaced his car by writing "fag" all over it. He says, "The possibility that I was being watched made me feel paranoid. Is this, I thought, a taste of what it's like to be homosexual in America -- to fear random harassment by utter strangers. In the space of those few moments I began to appreciate that to be openly gay takes considerable courage. . . . how vulnerable I . . . felt. For several days I experienced shock and fear -- fear that the incident might be repeated or that the violence would escalate. I felt violated, and I was angered by my inability to retaliate. . . . I felt as though I had been conspicuously branded. . . . gender stereotypes and homophobia diminish and dehumanize us all" (p. 56).
Homophobes seem to know how to produce the negative effect they intend to produce. They seem to know instinctively how to make gays and lesbians anxious and afraid. They know that people are most afraid when the enemy is unseen, their attack unpredictable, and the attacker elusive and difficult to apprehend and/or attack back. So they lurk in the shadows, hit when least expected, run too fast to be caught, then wait a while between attacks so that their victims develop a false sense of secu-