Anti-LGBT rhetoric

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Anti-LGBT demonstration in Seattle, Washington, United States

Anti-LGBT rhetoric and anti-gay slogans are themes, catchphrases, and slogans that have been used against homosexuality or other non-heterosexual sexual orientations in order to demean lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. They range from the demeaning and the pejorative to expressions of hostility towards homosexuality which are based on religious, medical, or moral grounds. It is a form of hate speech[1][2] which is illegal in countries such as the Netherlands,[3] Norway,[4] and Sweden.[5]

The rhetoric generally has an ideological basis in heterosexism, and can be motivated by homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia.

The slogans listed here are not just terms of invective but they represent arguments that are commonly used to convey opposition to LGBT rights or to the full acceptance of LGBT people.


Some concepts and arguments against same-sex desire and practices have been evident over the centuries, though the importance of specific arguments has varied from culture to culture.[citation needed] For example, preoccupation with child abuse is a largely modern concern.

Anti-gay rhetoric can come under the refrain that homosexuality goes against traditional family values, or that homosexuality is a Trojan Horse, or that it "destroys families" and humankind[6] through homosexual recruitment which will lead to the extinction of humanity.

An extensive presentation of all the anti-homosexual views held in the United States at the time (1964) is found in the Florida legislative report, Homosexuality and Citizenship in Florida.[citation needed]

Declaration that same-sex desire is unnatural[edit]

This particular charge dates back to Plato, who argued that homosexual sex was "out of nature" (para phusin).[7]

The psychiatric establishment once medicalized same-sex desire. In the United States, homosexuality was removed in 1973 as a mental disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as it wasn't supported by scientific evidence and didn't meet the criteria for a mental disorder. The issue had been raised by LGBT activists following the Stonewall Riots in New York City.[8][9][10]

Conflation with child abuse[edit]

The claim that homosexuals sexually abuse children predates the current era, as it was leveled against pederasts even during antiquity.[11] More recently, this charge has been phrased as "homosexual recruitment", implying that homosexuals are guiding children towards a homosexual lifestyle. A common slogan is "Homosexuals cannot reproduce — so they must recruit" or its variants.[12]

In an interview in The Advocate about his 2000 work, Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in 20th-Century American Art, Richard Meyer discusses this line of attack:

...those who attacked Mapplethorpe's work in the late 1980s used this photograph to reinforce long-standing stereotypes of gay men as pedophiles. Although no sexual activity is shown (or even suggested) in the portrait, and although the picture was commissioned by the child's mother who was in the room at the time of its taking, the very fact that Mapplethorpe had photographed a naked boy was enough, at least in the minds of Pat Robertson and Jesse Helms, for the photographer to be accused of child molestation.

— Tim Miller, The Advocate, 2001[13]

Anti-gay groups have often argued that more homosexual men are sexual abusers than heterosexuals, on the grounds that a third of abusers target boys rather than girls. This is far in excess of the proportion of gay men in the population. It is thus argued that gay men are disproportionately likely to offend.[14]

Homosexuality and homosexual pedophilia are not synonymous. In fact, it may be that these two orientations are mutually exclusive, the reason being that the homosexual male is sexually attracted to masculine qualities whereas the heterosexual male is sexually attracted to feminine characteristics, and the sexually immature child’s qualities are more feminine than masculine...The child offender who is attracted to and engaged in adult sexual relationships is heterosexual. It appears, therefore, that the adult heterosexual male constitutes a greater sexual risk to underage children than does the adult homosexual male.[15]

In 2015, conservative group Campaign for Houston released an advertisement targeting Houston Proposition 1, an anti-discriminatory bill that would protect transgender peoples' rights to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity. The video, which implies the sexual assault of a young girl, was decried as "the definition of transphobia" by J. Brian Lowder, an associate editor for Slate and author for its LGBTQ section.[16]

As trans folks have pointed out time and again over the course of these exhausting bathroom wars, they are just trying to pee in the facility both appropriate and safe for their gender identity. To suggest, as this ad does, that they are trying to corner little girls in bathroom stalls is, to echo Jonathan Capehart, horribly perverse.

— J. Bryan Lowder, Slate Magazine

Homosexual sex acts as sin[edit]

Religious protest of homosexuality in San Francisco
Anti-LGBT counter protesters in Chicago at a Pride Parade

Many conservative denominations of Abrahamic and other religions consider homosexual acts to be inherently sinful based on scripture (e.g., Leviticus 18:22 "Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable," and Leviticus 20:13 "If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads" as well as 1 Corinthians 6:9 "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor those who practice homosexuality...will inherit the kingdom of God.")[17] Many Christian denominations and a number of Christian fundamentalists (e.g., Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell) cite Biblical texts to advocate that same-sex sexual intercourse is sinful. These individuals and congregations believe that such sexual acts as anal and oral sex (along with fornication of any kind) are forms of sexual immorality that should be advised against. One slogan is the commonly used phrase "love the sinner and not the sin." These churches tend to speak out against violence and hate towards those who are attracted to the same gender.[18][19] Dallin H. Oaks of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has said:

I desire now to say with emphasis that our concern for the bitter fruit of sin is coupled with Christlike sympathy for its victims, innocent or culpable. We advocate the example of the Lord, who condemned the sin, yet loved the sinner. We should reach out with kindness and comfort to the afflicted, ministering to their needs and assisting them with their problems.[18]

Some conservative churches reject the idea of a homosexual orientation and view homosexuality as being an urge towards sinful homosexual behavior and thus something everyone may experience from time to time. Various inflammatory and controversial slogans, including some listed in the next section, have been used by opponent congregations and individuals, particularly by Fred Phelps, founder of the website and the independent Westboro Baptist Church. These slogans have included "God Hates Fags", "Fear God Not Fags", and "Matthew Shepard Burns In Hell".[20] Other congregations, including the Metropolitan Community Churches, commonly affirm homosexuality and believe that neither homosexuality nor homosexual sex acts are a sin.[21]

Homosexuality is also frequently considered sinful in Islam. In some Middle Eastern countries, acts of homosexuality are punishable by death. The only country that recognizes same sex relationships in the Middle East is Israel, although homosexuality is legal in a few other countries. Along with Israel, same-sex sexual activities have been legal in the Palestinian territories (West Bank) since 1951. Homosexuality between women, however, is legal in more Islamic countries than homosexuality between men.[citation needed]

Based on this, the Rev. Jerry Falwell blamed homosexuals (among others) for indirectly causing the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2001, by provoking the aggression of Islamic fundamentalists. On the broadcast of the Christian television program The 700 Club, Falwell made the following statement (for which he later apologized):

I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle—the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say, "You helped this happen."[22]

Some Buddhists also condemn homosexuality. For example, in 1997, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso said, "From a Buddhist point of view, men-to-men and women-to-women is generally considered sexual misconduct."[23]

AIDS as a gay disease[edit]

AIDS disproportionately affects the LGBT community.[24][25][26]

Due to this, historically a common theme of anti-gay slogans were that AIDS was a "gay disease". One example is the slogan "AIDS Kills Fags Dead", a parody of the advertising slogan "Raid: Kills Bugs Dead", the tagline used in television advertising for the SC Johnson insecticide.[citation needed]

The slogan appeared during the early years of AIDS in the United States, when the disease was mainly diagnosed among male homosexuals and was almost invariably fatal. The slogan caught on quickly as a catchy truism, a chant, or simply something written as graffiti. It is reported that the slogan first appeared in public in the early 1990s, when Sebastian Bach, the former lead singer of the heavy metal band Skid Row, wore it on a t-shirt thrown to him by an audience member.[27] A variant of this is "AIDS cures fags."

The phrase has been used by some religious opponents of homosexuality. It was, for example, seen in 1998 at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a victim of anti-gay violence, when Fred Phelps and his followers chanted it in front of the gathering.

According to the World Health Organization, women comprise 50% of people living with HIV.[28] According to the Centers for Disease Control, among male adults in the United States, MSM (men who have sex with men) accounted for "61% of new HIV infections in the US and 79% of infections among all newly infected men."[29]

The proportion of HIV cases that can be attributed to the result of homosexual relations varies according to geography.[30] In Russia, among newly registered HIV cases in 2006 where the mode of transmission was known, about one half was due to heterosexual intercourse, and this proportion has been steadily increasing.[31] Almost 60% of cases were attributed to unsafe sex between men.[32] In the Caribbean, it is estimated that about 40% of reported HIV cases are the result of unsafe sex between men.[33][34] About 53% of newly diagnosed HIV infections in the United States, in 2005, were among men who have sex with men.[35] The largest proportion of new HIV infection in Canada, in 2002, was accounted for by unprotected sex between men,[36] whereas in Western Europe the highest proportion was accounted for by heterosexual intercourse.[32]

Anti-transgender themes[edit]

Some transphobic slurs such as shemale, trap, and ladyboy capitalize on the idea that trans women are men masquerading as women. The concept of a person identifying to a gender that does not correspond with their physical sex identity has often been twisted into jokes about how repulsive such a person must be.[37] For example, in response to a growing push for anti-discrimination bills regarding public restrooms, Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee delivered this message to a National Religious Broadcasters Convention during his 2016 bid for the presidency:

We are now in city after city watching ordinances say that your seven-year-old daughter, if she goes into the restroom cannot be offended, and you can’t be offended, if she’s greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels more like a woman than he does a man. Now I wish that someone told me that when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in PE. I’m pretty sure that I would have found my feminine side and said, ‘Coach, I think I'd rather shower with the girls today.’

Huckabee goes on to say, “that there is something inherently wrong about forcing little children to be a part of this social experiment." Huckabee's joke prompted backlash from LGBT leaders, including Rebecca Issacs, the executive director of Equality Federation, who said in an email to The Huffington Post: "Everyone needs to use the restroom and everyone cares about safety and privacy. Mr. Huckabee's comments contribute to a climate in which, despite recent gains in visibility, transgender people continue to face extraordinarily high rates of discrimination and violence."[38]

There are many complicated problems that exist within these anti-transgender themes. Roffee and Waling established how, even throughout the LGBTIQ+ community, there continues to be confusion regarding what individual people may identify with, and how this correlates to other people. This confusion often leads to offensive assumptions and judgement so that there are tensions and anti-social behaviours occurring, sometimes even within the community itself.[39] For example, the gay liberation movement often excluded trans (and bisexual) people. This was partly because one of the prerequisites during the early stages of treatment for transgender people was that they were intended to become heterosexual after surgery; this led to gay people developing fears that the surgery for trans people would be used against gay people as a way to 'cure' them of their homosexuality. [40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hate Speech and Hate Crimes against LGBT Persons" (PDF). European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. 2009. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Hate crime & hate speech". ILGA-Europe. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  3. ^ "Dutch penal code – article 137c". Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  4. ^ "Norwegian Penal code, Straffeloven, section 135 a." Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  5. ^ Morén, Kristoffer (24 July 2012). "Lag om hets mot folkgrupp innefattar homosexuella - DN.SE". Dagens Nyheter. Archived from the original on 24 July 2012. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  6. ^ "Russia raises anti-LGBT rhetoric at home while softening message to West | CTV News". 2013-11-27. Retrieved 2014-03-12.
  7. ^ Plato, Laws I 636c and VIII 841d
  8. ^ Drescher, Jack (2015-12-04). "Out of DSM: Depathologizing Homosexuality". Behavioral Sciences. 5 (4): 565–575. doi:10.3390/bs5040565. ISSN 2076-328X. PMC 4695779. PMID 26690228.
  9. ^ "Gay Is Okay With APA (American Psychiatric Association)". 24 March 2010. Archived from the original on 24 March 2010.
  10. ^ "Case No. S147999 in the Supreme Court of the State of California, In re Marriage Cases Judicial Council Coordination Proceeding No. 4365(...) - APA California Amicus Brief — As Filed" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-12-21.
  11. ^ Lucian. Erotes
  12. ^ Tanasychuk, John (June 4, 2007). "How Anita Bryant fought -- and helped -- gay rights". Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved December 14, 2019.
  13. ^ "Miller, Tim. Taking on the Antigay Censors., 2001". Archived from the original on 2005-03-09. Retrieved 2014-03-12.
  14. ^ "Timothy J. Dailey, Homosexuality and Child Sexual Abuse". Archived from the original on 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2014-03-12.
  15. ^ A. Nicholas Groth, William F. Hobson, and Thomas S. Gary, “The Child Molester: Clinical Observations,” in Social Work and Child Sexual Abuse, eds. Jon R. Conte and David A. Shore (New York: Haworth Press, 1982), p.136.
  16. ^ Lowder, J. Bryan (October 19, 2015). "This Anti-HERO Ad Is the Definition of Transphobia". Slate. Retrieved December 15, 2015.
  17. ^ "Bible Gateway passage: 1 Corinthians 6:9 - English Standard Version". Bible Gateway.
  18. ^ a b "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". 2012-10-20. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. Retrieved 2014-03-12.
  19. ^ "Salt Lake OKs gay rights laws with Mormon backing". Huffington Post. 11 November 2009.
  20. ^ "Dunn, Katia. "What If God Were Gay?". Portland Mercury". Archived from the original on 2005-03-10. Retrieved 2014-03-12.
  21. ^ MCC. "MCC's International Statement on Marriage Equality" Metropolitan Community Church.
  22. ^ "CNN report of Falwell's speech". Archived from the original on March 30, 2013. Retrieved 2014-03-12.
  23. ^ "Dalai Lama Speaks on Gay Sex / He says it's wrong for Buddhists but not for society". San Francisco Chronicle. 11 June 1997.
  24. ^ Hagopian, Amy et al. “Anti-Homosexual Legislation and HIV-Related Stigma in African Nations: What Has Been the Role of PEPFAR?” Global Health Action 10.1 (2017): 1306391. PMC. Web. 4 Sept. 2018.
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  26. ^ "Caregiving for Aging LGBT Adults with HIV". American Psychological Association. Retrieved September 4, 2018.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  27. ^ Michael Musto. "La Dolce Musto", village voice, 2000. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-03-22. Retrieved 2007-03-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  28. ^ "WHO | Gender inequalities and HIV". Retrieved 2014-03-12.
  29. ^ [1] Archived 2015-02-06 at the Wayback Machine, CDC: HIV among Gay and Bisexual Men. Revised May 2012
  30. ^ Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and World Health Organization (WHO). AIDS epidemic update: December 2007. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-05-27. Retrieved 2008-03-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ Ladnaya NN (2007) The national HIV and AIDS epidemic and HIV surveillance in the Russian Federation. Presentation to “Mapping the AIDS Pandemic” meeting. 30 June. Moscow.
  32. ^ a b "EuroHIV (2007). HIV/AIDS surveillance in Europe: end-year report 2006, No 76. Saint-Maurice, Institut de Veille Sanitaire. Available at". Archived from the original on 2006-04-17. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  33. ^ Caribbean Commission on Health and Development (2005). Report of the Caribbean Commission on Health and Development for the 26th Meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government: Overview. 3–6 July. Saint Lucia.[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ Inciardi JA, Syvertsen JL, Surratt HL (2005). HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean Basin. AIDS Care, 17(Suppl. 1):S9–S25.
  35. ^ Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and World Health Organization (WHO). AIDS epidemic update: December 2007, page 39. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-05-27. Retrieved 2008-03-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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  37. ^ "How I Learned to Hate Transgender People". Archived from the original on 2015-05-05. Retrieved 2015-05-05.
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  39. ^ "James Roffee & Andrea Waling Rethinking microaggressions and anti-social behaviour against LGBTIQ+ Youth". Safer Communities. 15: 190–201. doi:10.1108/SC-02-2016-0004. S2CID 151493252.
  40. ^ Monro, Surya (20 April 2005). Gender Politics : Citizenship, Activism and Sexual Diversity. London: Pluto Press. p. 93. ISBN 0745319688. Retrieved 29 December 2019.