Homophobia is ingrained in all cultures and countries throughout the history. Some periods and cultures had been liberal and understanding, but others had been violent and bloody. Many countries who claimed to have liberal democratic system had failed to protect sexual minorities from various state sanctioned to religious and personal violence and abuse. Homophobes often generated opinions conditioned often by religious scriptures, social and cultural norm rather than scientific findings and humane rationale. These people often forget that we are all different and have a right to lead our lives as we wish to, as long as it does not affect the members of society negatively. .

Recognized types of homophobia include institutionalized homophobia, e.g. religious homophobia, state-sponsored homophobia, and internalized homophobia, experienced by people who have same-sex attractions, regardless of how they identify. Ignorance about homosexuality and homosexual people remains rampant in some Western democracies. While this may not translate into homophobia, misconceptions may serve as a fertile ground for homophobic propagation. By way of illustration, a sample of these misconceptions – many of which exemplify outright prejudice and stereotypes – comprises homosexuality is a curable illness; most male nurses and bodybuilders are homosexual; all homosexual men are like women and all homosexual women are like men; homosexuality is contagious and will convert all heterosexuals into homosexuals which will halt human evolution; homosexual men are transvestites and sex workers; homosexual people have both sexual organs or have a very small penis; and homosexual are pedophiles and rapists.

For the purpose of this article, I have selected six discrete schools of theory to illustrate sociological perspectives on homophobia and its genesis:

‘Social Control’ Theory

According to Ciliberto and Frarri- pioneer researchers in human sexuality- ‘external homophobia is not an isolated individual neurosis but a form of social control that serves psychologically and physically to intimidate homosexual people and validate heterosexuality as the only normal sexual identity choice’. As explained further on, this school of theory compares with the school of sex-role theory in that it is the rigid role definition of gender that inspires homophobia, with many heterosexuals believing homosexuality to be gender confusion. As this form of homophobia may subsume misogyny, there are echoes of patriarchy and male hegemony so that if a male ‘acts like a woman’ he is abandoning a masculine privilege to which he has by tradition been entitled. Likewise, a lesbian is seen as usurping male authority and privilege. The lesbian may be scorned for her masculine behavior and sexual choice but this kind of homophobe is more likely to understand her aspiration.

‘Sin’ Theory

Before the recent globalization process, this theory was only relevant to Judaism, Christian and Islamic countries and their believers, but in this day and age it is relevant to all the nations of the world. The emergence of religions like Islam and Christianity, especially from traditional boarders to new nations (previously un-colonized) may have a severe impact on the LGBT community of that country due to the changing ethnical practices amongst new religious converts. This body of theory focuses on the body of bodies of sacred texts which underpin major global religions. Most scholars in the arena of human sexuality agree that the few biblical and Koranic references to homosexuality have become the modern basis for homophobia, as core anti-homosexual and homophobic attitudes and behaviors derive support from the major premise that the Bible neither sanctifies nor sanctions homosexuality. In Hinduism, it is the opposite. There are many references to impersonation of deities of male and female embodiment. Even transgenders were sanctified in many parts of India.

‘Sex-Role’ Theory

Some scholars postulate that homophobia represents an undermining of sex-role stereotypes. In their view, a society demands that its members uphold traditional belief systems by exhibiting behaviors concurrent and consistent with those teachings including role-modeling behaviors. However, just because men and women are socialized according to sex-role expectations, their experiences that guide them in their course of life rarely follow a similar trajectory. In many Middle Eastern societies, this notion is both widely practiced and deeply entrenched. Hence, it may be permissible for men to perform insertive roles in sex with men, but not receptive as this would exhibit femininity and engender gender confusion in a social and cultural milieu where prescribed apparel and sexual behavior define male and female roles. A departure from this pattern may be deemed contravention of both natural order and normative culture, male assumption of a traditional female behavior may be perceived as corrosive and anarchical, serving as a platform for abuse, violence and discrimination in multiple forms.

‘Environmental’ Theory

According to Freud’s original theory, the roots of male homosexuality are ascribed to the individual’s environmental factors, especially poor parental relations. This school of theory has continued to hinge on the premise that homosexuality is an elective choice and acquired voluntarily through social environments. The efficacy of this school has become contested in recent years because of its strong associations with negative attitudes toward gay lifestyles, a recent finding indicating that those who believe homosexuality is wrong also generally believe that homosexuality, rather than normal having a genetic or biological causation, is an individual choice which is influenced by social environmental conditions. It’s the thinking that underpins this model that has previously led to many homosexual men living in democratic countries of the 1950s and 60s enduring, if not imprisonment, forced and or voluntary useless therapies and supposed cures (including the particularly brutal Electrical Convulsive Therapy ECT).

‘Darwinian’ (Evolutionary) Theory

This school presumes that humankind’s purpose is procreation, with creatures having adaptive traits reproducing more successfully than those with maladaptive traits. Conversely, creatures incapable or unwilling to follow this purported law of nature are classed as deviants and anomalies. Ironically, religious doctrine that ordinarily opposes evolutionary theory is momentarily suspended so as to portray homosexuality as subversive of natural law and therefore vehicles of human defect, demons, disease, and sin. The inherent defects of this school of theory are its axioms that:

  1. The anatomy and physiology of heterosexual people who may be infertile or with some other incurable disorder must be equally aberrant, even though the cause of the disorder might well be an intervening or preventable factor such as famine, epidemic, or trauma; and
  2. The inherent implication that homosexuals, as aberrations of nature, are inhuman.

‘Illness’ Theory

In the history of Western medicine, medical practitioners have sometimes served as one of the most powerful of social and political forces hostile to homosexuality. They presumed that homosexuals (males particularly) were mentally ill and could therefore be treated and cured. Beginning in the 1930s, sociology also shaped the belief that heterosexuality was the only natural and healthy result of psycho-sexual development. Homosexuality thereby became definable as a perversion.

Wardell Pomeroy, a member of Alfred Kinsey’s team, reached a turning point in research by reporting that, by the end of 1940, he had recorded more than 450 homosexual histories, the trends of which were enough to lead him to conclude that homosexuality was an inherited or inherent abnormality which, simply because it was inherent, was incurable. Accordingly, he proposed that the practice of psychology and psychiatry at the time was exacerbating the condition by assuming that it was.

Paradoxically, the psychoanalytic movement chose to abandon its role as critic of social forms and values and transformed into their propagandist and enforcer. This shift was most apparent in the normative discourse about two contentious subjects, these being the character and sexuality of women and the ‘problem of homosexuality’. Homosexually oriented people were reified into a type, ‘the homosexual’, whose traits were essentially determined by sexual interests and treatable as either a pitiable psychic cripple or a morally reprehensible sociopath who was indifferent and hostile to laws and moral rules.

Homosexuality appeared as a diagnostic category in the first edition of American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM published in 1952. Only as recently as 1973 was the category removed, with the Association declaring that a same-sex orientation is not inherently associated with psychopathology.

We all ought to know that we all have LGBTI members within our family and friends. It is just that many of us do not know who they are. We should be open to the positive discussion and sanction any negative comment and generalized ideas about LGBTI people in order to prevent possible violation towards own LGBTI family members knowingly and unknowingly.


Kedar Maharjan
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