Beyond “Homophobia”: Thinking about sexual prejudice and stigma in the twenty-first century
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- Herek, G.M. Sex Res Soc Policy (2004) 1: 6. doi:10.1525/srsp.2004.1.2.6
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George Weinberg’s introduction of the term homophobia in the late 1960s challenged traditional thinking about homosexuality and helped focus society’s attention on the problem of antigay prejudice and stigma. This paper briefly describes the history and impact of homophobia. The term’s limitations are discussed, including its underlying assumption that antigay prejudice is based mainly on fear and its inability to account for historical changes in how society regards homosexuality and heterosexuality as the bases for social identities. Although the importance of Weinberg’s contribution should not be underestimated, a new vocabulary is needed to advance scholarship in this area. Toward this end, three constructs are defined and discussed: sexual stigma (the shared knowledge of society’s negative regard for any nonheterosexual behavior, identity, relationship, or community), heterosexism (the cultural ideology that perpetuates sexual stigma), and sexual prejudice (individuals’ negative attitudes based on sexual orientation). The concept of internalized homophobia is briefly considered.