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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fearing What You Don't Understand: Homophobia and Transphobia

Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger. Humans need rational fear. If they didn't feel it, they couldn't protect themselves from legitimate threats. Still, often we humans fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus we hang back and resist actions for no good reason.

In many cases, people fear most what they don't understand. Unfamiliar things tend to make us feel more afraid, as do things that have been mythologized as “scary” or have been traditionally accepted as taboo. As we gain knowledge and better understanding of our irrational fears, we also gain control over them.

A recent survey from Chapman University found that having a lower level of education, particularly having only a high school diploma/GED or less, was the most consistent predictor of fear. People with lower levels of education exhibit significantly higher levels of fear regarding:

Personal safety
Their future (running out of money, getting sick, etc)
Internet usage (identity theft, being stalked, etc)
Criminal victimization
Phobias (heights, clowns, blood, etc)
Government (Obamacare, gun control, etc)
Immigration (immigrants cause crime, bring disease, etc)
Natural Disasters (asteroid, volcanoes, earthquakes, etc)
Man-made disasters (wars, terrorist attacks, etc)

(Olga Khazan. "The Psychology of Irrational Fear." The Atlantic. October 31, 2014.)
Culture, itself, can exacerbate irrational fears. Karen Franklin, forensic psychologist, found an incredible fact about people she interviewed who had been convicted of hate crimes against homosexuals: All of them insisted that their assaults were not motivated by hatred of homosexuals. What a contradiction. But, Franklin came to conceptualize the violence not in terms of individual hatred but as "an extreme expression of American cultural stereotypes and expectations regarding male and female behavior." She explains ...
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