A homophobe is anyone who has an irrational fear for homosexuality whether they are aware of this fear or not. Since prejudice of any form is irrational and a product of fear of difference anyone prejudiced against homosexuals is homophobic. Some homophobes maintain they are not homophobic because they don't mind homosexuality but they wish the would do it behind closed doors/not kiss in public/have no equality/have no freedom of speech/would just go away. Again, this is an irrational treatment of homosexuality based on prejudice: at least do the honorable thing and admit you are a homophobe.

euphemistic drift for the semantic elite: The word homophobe was created by joining "homosexual" with the root "phobic" for "illogical fear". This is understandable as "homosexual" is the only word a given slack-jawed yokel might know with this prefix, but it is as etymologically twisted as the word mathematics.

The prefix of "homosexual" is not the Latin "homo-" meaning human. (Otherwise "homosexual" would mean "human-sexual" or "bisexual" and "heterosexual" would mean "other-than-human-sexual". Bestiality?) No, the root is the New Latin "hom-" or "homos-", meaning "same." Károly Mária Kertbeny first coined the term homosexual in the late 19th century as a neutral term to distinguish between people who were sexual with the other "hetero-" gender, from people who were sexual with the same "hom-" gender.

In either case, "Homophobe" would mean "fear of humans" or "fear of what is the same," neither of which fits its actual usage.

The affix phobic does not, in general, in English, simply imply fear, but rather a general sense of aversion or incompatibility, a negative reaction in general, as in hydrophobia, so a narrow focus on the literal meaning of phobic, is, well, narrow.

More interesting to me is the matter of whether or not those described as homophobic are in fact repressing homosexual desires. The popular thinking behind this goes something like, "if X was really 100% straight why would he or she care what someone else was attracted to?". The sense is that the person expressing discomfort, aversion, etc. to homosexuals must have some basis for this other than pure bigotry or intolerance. Here I would make a distinction between an aversion to homosexuals who express gender confusion versus the general phenomenon. The appearance of a male acting like a female or vice-versa would be expected to generate a negative reaction on general cognitive principle since sex/gender identity is a very basic thing in everyone's personal identity and in identifying others. So a distinction should be made between that and general "homophobia".

As a homosexual myself, a more or less complete understanding of the phenomenon has come fairly late in life and I'm happy to share my most recent advances in this with e2 which at least at one time was not unfriendly to the non-straight. So, the question arises, what is homosexuality? Is it a moral defect, a genetic one, are its causes psychological and thus the responsibility of individuals or what? I think based on observation of the phenomenon as it occurs and can be made to occur for example in insects, leads to the conclusion that the phenomenon is best described as simply the observed error rate of nature in producing 100% heterosexual individuals in a given species. So the expression and rates vary in different species and many different underlying physical phenomena can lead to a similar result.

So it is the reaction to this failure of nature to unerringly produce heterosexual individuals that is at issue. In humans, my sense, based on observation of humans and closely related species, is that as many as 10% of individuals in fact have little or no sexual attraction to the opposite sex, maybe 4-6 times that many have little or no attraction to the same sex and the remainder are flexible. I presume that a subgroup in this large percentage of persons that do have some homosexual feelings and happen also to be lacking in tolerance, self-awareness, etc. is the basis for what is commonly referred to as "homophobia" and the common (and not in general false) understanding of why the homophobic are in fact so.

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