The XX Factor

Homophobia: A Definition

Last month, I mulled the Facebook assertion by Christine O’Donnell’s sister, who is reportedly gay, that the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware was not “homophobic.” This despite the fact that O’Donnell has railed against gays “getting away with” “lasciviousness” and “perversion .” So what, according to this thinking, makes someone homophobic?

Carl Paladino has now offered a definition. In his speech Sunday in Brooklyn to Orthodox rabbis , the Republican candidate for New York governor derided “the pornographers and the perverts who seek to target our children and destroy their lives” and moved immediately to a criticism of his opponent, Andrew Cuomo, for marching in a gay pride parade, saying “that’s not the example we should be showing our children.” He said children should aspire to straight marriages, rather than being “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option-it isn’t.”

Paladino’s caveat was this: “Don’t misquote me as wanting to hurt homosexual people in any way. That would be a dastardly lie. My approach is live and let live.” Paladino left out a line from an earlier draft that read, “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual,” later saying he didn’t agree with the sentiment . He added that he opposes “discrimination of any form.” Now he and Cuomo are in a spat about whether the Republican’s words constitute homophobia.

According to Paladino’s definition, homophobia is wanting to hurt or discriminate against gays. But saying that their way of life is less “valid” is apparently not hurtful or discriminatory, and neither is withholding their right to marry, as Paladino would. (As Ann Coulter put it at GOProud, ” Marriage is not a civil right. You’re not black.”) Homophobia, then, is presumably just the most extreme behaviors-directing violence at people because they’re gay, not hiring people because they’re gay.

Paladino’s “live and let live” philosophy offers gays the right to exist on a kind of lower plane of existence, in company with “pornographers” and “perverts”-the right to be , but not to marry, and not to be as good as straights. This is a kind of love-the-sinner, hate-the-sin tightrope, and Paladino has been teetering precariously on it.   On NBC’s Today Show with Matt Lauer on Monday , he attempted to walk back from his remarks the day before, even as he insisted, “I’ve always stood behind everything that I said.” He talked about his gay nephew and dodged questions by saying how terrible anti-gay discrimination is.

Being gay may not be as “valid” or “successful” as being straight from Paladino’s viewpoint, but note he feels it’s not fair to say they have “nothing to be proud of.” After all, some of them may be good policy minds or political tacticians. Paladino told Lauer that “I have a lot of homosexuals working in my organization” and said that he would recruit gays to work for his administration.

Photograph of Carl Paladino from Wikimedia Commons.