“Homophobia” is not synonymous with prejudice.

The fact that we use the word “homophobia” to describe the hatred of gay people illustrates just how little our society actually cares about the LGBTQ community. When we are in discourse on other forms of prejudice, we assign verbiage that expresses exactly that — but when it comes to us, our language validates the hatred by assigning it as a fear that one cannot control. The word “phobia” is often associated with “impairment,” thus the person with the phobia can be perceived as a victim. The word must go.

I am tired of having to conceal my homosexuality for the comfort of others. Too long have we had to force ourselves through the sieve of assimilation for social and professional acceptance. Last night, I went to a wine bar owned by a couple that is purportedly “homophobic.” A gathering of friends were meeting there after a work event and I figured that “just one time” wouldn’t be that bad. In fact, I felt that my presence as respectable gay man could be one step in the right direction for these owners, who I hear are otherwise good people, to be convinced that we are “nothing to be afraid of.” How pathetic is that? When I woke up this morning to hear of the death of 50 brothers and sisters and 53 more injured, I became quite nauseous and felt that I had betrayed my own kind. Suffice it to say I won’t be returning.

When working a Hillary Clinton rally in Houston, TX this past Spring, I met a man from Eritrea who was eager to volunteer and help elect the first female president. He was previously a major Barack Obama supporter, but was seriously dissuaded when President Obama legalized gay marriage. Claiming that his religious heritage prevented such things, he further asserted that if he were present at a public stoning of a gay man in his home country where such things are legal and encouraged, he would find the largest rock he could and hurl it at the man’s head. Flabbergasted, all I could muster was a joke to ease the tension and then walked away. Later, I reflected on why I didn’t challenge the man and realized it was because I knew that nothing would come of starting an argument and that it would ultimately just disturb the event. I quelled my passions for the comfort of others.

Using the word “homophobia” to describe the reason behind the massacre at Pulse Bar in Orlando — the worst mass shooting in American history — is painful and insulting. This horrific act was not motivated by fear, but hate. The time to be passive is over. We are under attack. The time to dance around meaning with clever diction must be behind us. The closet no longer exists. If you hear or see hatred around you, it is your responsibility to use your voice to drone it out, and your hands if necessary. We cannot accept people who are good but are just “uncomfortable with the gay thing.” Being “uncomfortable with the gay thing” isn’t fear or discomfort — it is hate and can no longer be justified or tolerated. And ignoring injustice instead of acting against it, is no better than perpetrating it yourself.