Phobia’s a fun little word. One that burns bright in my little black heart. It should, after all; as someone who primarily considers himself a horror writer, the Greek word for “fear” should be my friend.

But that’s not the meaning I’m talking about today.

I’m referring to it being the suffix for all kinds of words that get flung around far too often, generally as a smokescreen or the landing flare for a hate mob. It’s close friends with -ist, -ism, and the prefix mis-. They run in the same crowds.

And I’m sick of it. Raise a question? You’re phobic. Disagree with someone? You’re mis-ist towards whatever that someone is.

I’m going to tell you a secret. We can disagree. We can fight. We can legitimately loathe each other and wish each other dead. Yet none of that means that I hate whatever group you’re a part of, which would be the qualifier for putting “phobia” after whatever your buzzword is.

I can’t stand Zoe Quinn. I think they’re a grifter, a thief, a manipulative, lying, potentially sociopathic asshat who should have been yeeted from all places on Earth or potentially habitable by Earthlings in their lifetime a long ass time ago. Apparently, that means I’m a misogynist (even though they don’t identify as a woman, go figure), transphobic, and biphobic. Despite that none of the reasons I can’t stand them have anything to do with their genitals, what they call those genitals, or who or what they use those genitals on.

I think Jessica Yaniv should be in a tiny stone room somewhere, making close friends with a large, angry inmate who is well aware of her proclivities. Again, a lying, manipulative predator who’s gaming the system (and winning) to get away with multiple, verifiable and provable crimes (and who is a strong suspect in dozens more), who is also just generally a reprehensible person. Apparently that makes me transphobic, too. Because if I hate Yaniv, I hate all trans folks. Especially because I doubt Yaniv is actually trans, and is using that label as a (very effective) shield. Even though the reasons I despise her and think she belongs in a cell again, have nothing to do with gender.

I’m apparently Islamophobic and racist because I think “Moorish Nationals” and sovereign citizens are laughable concepts and those who embrace them should be punished to the full extent of the law. It’s irrelevant to me that Islam and darker skin tones are prominent in those movements; what makes me want to start tasing them is their stupidity, their willful ignorance, their flagrant violation of the law and flaunting that they are violating those laws, and the smug self-satisfaction that they believe they’re right.

It’s fascinating, really. Frustrating. You hit a point where you’re terrified to express any opinion or interact with anyone because something you say or do is going to be “problematic,” and instead of dealing with one individual you dislike or disagree with, you are now facing the monolithic entity of each of their identity tags prepared to spray you with the social media equivalent of white phosphorous.

Especially fascinating when one notes it doesn’t work the other way. If I point out that I think Blaire White is an entertaining, interesting individual, I don’t get points subtracted from my transphobia score. If anything, I get more, both because she seems to be on the outs with the “community” and because now I’m pandering, essentially the social media version of “I have a black friend.” Of course, I don’t care about her for being trans; I watch her because she amuses me and informs me. Doesn’t seem to matter. I think Jane Jensen and Amy Hennig (and Roberta Williams before them) are amazing game designers, with Gabriel Knight and Legacy of Kain being favorite series of mine, but that doesn’t impact how much of an evil Gamergate asshole I am and how much I want to keep women out of my sandbox for not liking Zoe Quinn. Strange how it works.

Doesn’t work the other way for my own identity tags, either. Of course, part of that may be my dislike of weaponizing a human’s traits for sociopolitical or financial gain. Part of it may be that most of my identity tags are considered “generic defaults” and thus lack power. Part of it may be that some of my identity tags aren’t the “right” tags – no one cares if you accuse someone of being a Satanophobe, after all… probably because they actually suffer from the condition and have no idea what being a Satanist actually means – or that they’re not visible enough – I’ve got depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, asthma, arthritis, and a my shrink suspects a big ol’ bundle of PTSD, but I manage to cram most of that down into the back of my throat and hobble along regardless, instead of flipping out on people and blaming my illnesses – to qualify.

So I’m gonna ask everyone who’s still reading to try something. To put -phobia (and its friends, mis-, -ist, and -ism) away, at least as it applies to social interactions. To start celebrating phobias as legitimate fears again. To remember that a phobia means you don’t want to look through the window at night, for fear of what face might be lurking in the darkness, peering in at you. To think of phobias that say you shouldn’t sleep with your foot dangling over the edge of the bed, lest it be grabbed in the middle of the night. To think of phobias that say you shouldn’t call someone’s name in a mirror three times, or look behind you, or ask “who’s there?” when you hear a floorboard creak at 2 AM.

Those are the phobias we need. Ditch the others.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?

KA Spiral no signature

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