Homohatred: Intersection of Sexism, Misogyny and Violence

Recent rises in the visibility of non-normative (non-heteropatriarchal) practices within more mainstream American culture has had, of course, positive and negative consequences. Though visibility can subvert stereotypes or demystify unfamiliar or unpopular peoples, it can also reinforce the same stereotypes and serve to promote further disparity between those central and those marginal to working loci of privilege, power and control. A good indication of this simultaneous step-forward/step-backward is the necessitation of producing a much more representative term than the widely recognized one of "homophobia" in order to more accurately and provocatively reflect the experiences of non-heterosexuals at the hands of those who express overt hatred for them.

Because mainstreaming of non-normative sexual practices has not only watered-down the very language of empowerment historically employed by the non-normative themselves but also increased the presence and specific incidents of disempowerment and, more detrimentally, violent hatred against them, the more definitive term "homohatred" must be injected to further our understanding of the evolving dynamics (Smith-Christopher, 1998). Though the difference between, even at face value, the words "homophobia" and "homohatred" aren't at all subtle, it is important for us, in order to move forward and end the aforementioned seesawing of the struggle for equality, to clarify the differences between the two. Beyond that, and more relevant to this course and the website, are the central issues that arise when one begins to compare and contrast homophobia and homohatred.

As is becoming more and more understood, the experiences of women (and the conditions of their basic human rights) are deeply embedded and intertwined in the very foundation of the phenomenological relationship between homophobia and homohatred. It is unclear, yet, whether anything besides sexism and misogyny could be the sources themselves for not only the oppression of non-heterosexuality but also the violent acts of intense hatred against non-heterosexuals (Pharr, 1997). After reviewing the current statistics on violence against non-heterosexuals, we will trace these roots and understand how the rights of non-heterosexuals can only be violated through precedent violations of women's rights.

Some useful terms:





Related and important terms: (these phenomena connect homophobia, sexism, and misogyny to produce the violence of homohatred)







According to data from FBI Uniform Crime Reports, non-heterosexuals rank third in reported hate crimes (http://www.hrc.org). Between 1991 and 1999, the number of reported hate crimes committed against non-heterosexual people jumped from 425 to 1,317. Though this perceived jump could be partially attributed to the rise in actual reporting, there is also an observable increase in the actual incidents themselves (http://www.now.org/issues/lgbi/stats.html). In 1999, 187 of 1,317 crimes were directed specifically at lesbians ­ crimes that involved over 230 victims (FBI Uniform Crime Report, 1999).

Though statistical numbers are very useful in determining current trends, fluctuations, and incidents in categorical hate crimes, a deeper understanding and analysis is possible through contact with the specific narratives of people who experienced, firsthand, a hate crime. Simply by reading personal accounts of hate crimes, one begins to see commonalities or patterns not only in the experiences of the victims but also in the expressions of hatred on behalf of the perpetrators. From non-violent but oppressive homophobic acts to horribly violent and dehumanizing attacks, the narratives of these people begin the process of tying together, for us, sexism, misogyny, homophobia and homohatred (Pharr, 1997).

Three of the best online sources for reports or incident narratives on specific crimes are:

Some incident narratives:

Excerpt from The Times ("Lesbian Welder Awarded £8,500:):

"Michelle Mahon, 26, who now lives in Dublin, was the only woman in the 12-strong workforce. She told the hearing in Leeds that four or five of the men regularly called her a "big butch dyke" and told her to make cups of tea and clean up because it was 'womenıs work'."


"A lesbian in her 20s and her partner were repeatedly harassed by a male neighbor who would ask, 'who is the man and who is the woman?,' as well as made other anti-lesbian and lewd, sexually harassing remarks."

"A lesbian teacher reported being harassed by the principle at the school where she taught. The principal made comments that the clientıs style of clothing was not feminine enough and indicated her lifestyle was wrong."

"A visibly affectionate white lesbian couple, one in her mid-30s and the other in her mid-20s, were forced at gunpoint to march into the desert and then shot in the head execution style by a stranger who had offered them a ride home from a hospital, where they had been visiting a friend. Prior to the attack the perpetrator made lewd remarks about their gender and lesbianism and made sexual advances to both women. The younger victim died in the arms of her lover, who was seriously wounded."

Excerpts from GLAAD:

"It's not unusual for people to make enormous leaps of judgment and connect womenıs team sports, lesbianism, and unethical behavior ... Are there some gay women on our hockey team? Yes, there are. Do the straight women care? No, they don't. Is it an issue on or team? No it is not. So why is it one for everyone else?"

"Rising tennis star Amelie Mauresmo came out in Melbourne, Australia. Hingis, [after losing to Mauresmo] said of Mauresmo, 'She's here with her girlfriend. Sheıs half a man.' Lindsay Davenport [who played against Mauresmo previously], commented, 'a couple of times I thought I was playing a guy,' and made references to Mauresmo's shoulders and build."

In narratives of both homophobia and homohatred, we see common themes arising. While attacking a women's (usually baited) lesbianism or while attacking the women themselves, perpetrators most often make comments regarding not only the woman's sexuality but, also, and more importantly, it seems, her gender. The same is found in incident narratives as reported by gay men (many of which can be found on the same websites). Whereas women are attacked for being "too much like a man," men are attacked for being "too much like a women." The difference in these attacks is that, whereas one is meant to indicate a "masculine" womanıs exclusion from, but threat to (Pharr, 1997), maleness and rightful male privilege, the other is meant to indicate a forfeit on a man's behalf of his masculinity (by either acting too much "like a woman" or by performing the sexual acts associated with women ­ because those acts are seen as passive and submissive) and, therefore, his forfeit of his rightful and natural (i.e. heteropatriarchal) male privilege (Beneke, 1997). Both attacks, however, reflect (and are used as tools to reinforce the sex and gender hierarchies, which value men and masculinity more than women and femininity.

The major difference between homophobia and homohatred rests in how one's negative opinion, attitude, or judgment regarding homosexuality and homosexuals is expressed. In the case of homophobia, the expression tends to be non-violent or malicious and more of a nexus of complicated behaviors (personal or institutional) meant to systematically oppress non-heterosexuals. Some of the narratives provide very clear examples of this. In just one of many instances, by expecting all relationships to be subject to the same power/control dynamics as normative ones ("who is the man and who is the woman?"), there is a refusal by the privileged to accept alternative relational structures. This insistence that there be a point of reference in every relationship from which to interpret "natural" heteropatriarchal power/control dynamics stems from a sexist ideology which simply seeks to protect itself. With alternatives in power/control dynamics, the "naturalness" of heteropatriarchy ceases to seem so "natural." This is a threat. (Segal, 1994)

And, this threat is how we move from homophobia to homohatred. In comparison to homophobia, homohatred is expressed through violent and malicious acts against homosexuality and homosexuals meant to convey very overt messages about the acceptability level of non-normative sexual practices (Smith-Christopher, 1998). The acceptability level has a direct correlation with the perception of this threat by the perpetrator. That is, the more those privileged by heteropatriarchy perceive their power/control to be threatened, the greater the chances they will engage in homohateful behavior to re-empower themselves by disempowering those doing the threatening.

Such as in the "execution-style" narrative above, these homohateful acts are almost always committed by males who see themselves as teaching their victims a "lesson." In this case, the lesson is that he, being the patriarch, has the right to abuse (for the purpose of merely exercising his very maleness) any individual who lies outside of his scope of his patriarchal-produced protective responsibilities. For, the process of constructing the sex and gender hierarchies necessitated the interpretation of women and femininity as "weaknesses" that require protection. Therefore, the perpetratorıs act of making "lewd remarks about their gender and lesbianism" illuminated, for him, their forfeiture of this male-protection and was the means by which he placed them outside of his own "duty" to protect them, thereby giving him only one option ­ to abuse them. When outside of the male's scope of protection, sexism manifests as misogyny (Pharr, 1997), and homohatred can then take place. Without the frameworks of homophobia, sexism, and misogyny to develop through, homohatred would not exist.

The importance of a detailed analysis of homophobia and homohatred is not to "prove" whether homophobia is really sexism and whether homohatred is really misogyny. The purpose to is begin to understand how seemingly disparate oppressive forces can intersect with one another, foster one another, and reinforce each other (Harrison, 1985) And, as demonstrated above, in the process, these forces may simply manifest as different forms of the same weapons. In these cases, the weapon just happens to be the penis.


Useful Internet resources:

Shameful Internet site:

Back to Women and Global Human Rights page