The pattern has become drearily familiar: An outspoken opponent of equal rights for gays and lesbians is revealed to be a gay or lesbian. While such events provide opportunities for ruminations on hypocrisy, the more interesting question is why such people act in such self-denying ways. A recent study suggests that incongruence “between implicit and explicit measures of sexual orientation predicted a variety of homophobic behaviors, including self-reported anti-gay attitudes, implicit hostility towards gays, endorsement of anti-gay policies, and discriminatory bias such as the assignment of harsher punishments for homosexuals”.
Homophobia is more pronounced in individuals with an unacknowledged attraction to the same sex and who grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires, a series of psychology studies demonstrates.
“Individuals who identify as straight but in psychological tests show a strong attraction to the same sex may be threatened by gays and lesbians because homosexuals remind them of similar tendencies within themselves,” explains Netta Weinstein, a lecturer at the University of Essex and the study’s lead author.
People in denial about their sexual orientation may lash out because gay targets threaten and bring this internal conflict to the forefront, the authors write.
The article describes how people’s implicit sexual orientation and family environment are measured.
What I’d also like to see is a study that examines more closely the reasons behind a kind of reverse phenomenon, the reasons why some gays and lesbians want to be part of institutions (the Catholic Church, the Republican Party) that clearly despise them and prefer that they leave.