On how language and culture make people homophobic and transphobic

Jack Molay
2 min readSep 22, 2023

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In an article about anti-transgender activism in Spanish speaking countries Amilka González makes some very interesting observations about what drives transphobia and homophobia.

She writes (republished with permission):

The ideas that give life to homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, racism and xenophobia are reproduced through discourse…

Discourse is a form of social interaction in which those of us who speak and write “not only” speak and write. We are fundamentally social actors in a “social theater” and share our ideas, beliefs and thoughts through discursive actions.

We will illustrate this with the problem of discrimination, which relates to the fact that we organize ourselves socially within an imagined order-country, state, monarchy, theocracy, democracy, capitalism, socialism, are social constructs imagined only by human beings-that legitimizes some kind of social hierarchy: free men vs. slaves, men vs. women, rich vs. poor, believers vs. infidels, whites vs. blacks, natives vs. foreigners, heterosexuals vs. homosexuals, cis vs. trans people.

Any idea or belief that suggests that the above oppositions have “natural” hierarchical relationships of superiority/inferiority, or morality/immorality, is based on fiction and arbitrariness.
Groups that attempt to segregate other human beings always speak and write in the name of some kind of “truth” that justifies their segregationist ideas.

Let’s say that these groups “act” as bearers of a truth and, in turn, this truth hides some kind of hierarchy. It does not matter if this truth is a belief based on subjectivity, myth, pseudoscience or even the sciences we consider true. The main point is that this truth is always surrounded by criteria that vary historically from culture to culture.

The role of discourse here is to legitimize and reproduce a hierarchy that “tells us” who should occupy which place in society. That is, discrimination needs certain beliefs to be repeated over and over again, implicitly and explicitly, through different means, to remind us that there are more valid people who deserve a better social position “because that’s the way things are”, “because it’s natural”, “because it’s common sense”, “because god says so”, “because it’s biology”, and a long etc.

Since homophobia and transphobia are not innate, people learn to be homophobic and transphobic. We can take it for granted that people learn these beliefs somewhere and somehow.

Original Spanish language article here: La literatura antiderechos LGBTIQ escrita en español

Illustration: Mihail Minin

Originally published at https://trans-express.lgbt on September 22, 2023.

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Jack Molay

Writer and news curator looking at everything transgender, nonbinary and queer.