Anti-LGBT rhetoric

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 and to demean lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. They range from the demeaning and pejorative to those expressing negativity 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

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

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

Religious protest of homosexuality in San Francisco

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:

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):

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

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

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]