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Homophobia as self-phobia

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.

Comments

  1. slc1 says

    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.

    As I stated on the previous thread on this issue, Andrew Sullivan is the poster child, at least for the Catholic Church, as he no longer identifies with the Rethuglican Party.

  2. stonyground says

    If there is one single aspect of life that religion poisons the most it must be human sexuality. The amount of unhappiness caused by religion’s ignorant and stupid rules about it are impossible to measure. Homophobic gays cause a lot of harm to others by opposing reforms that would allow equality to every one. The harm that they do to themselves must be so much worse. When you compare the life of a homophobic gay to a ‘happy to be that way’ gay who enjoys a loving relationship you are comparing abject misery with the joy of living. It is of course totally inevitable that your sexuality is going to defeat you, should you make the unwise choice of fighting it. Otherwise, why not hire a female Russian shot putter to carry your luggage?

  3. Jared A says

    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.

    I’ve always interpreted this as a combination of two things, 1) path of least resistance and 2) anti-authoritarianism.

    One person can switch which church they go to, but it’s hard to “convert” an entire congregation. Especially when the other laymembers already have about the same opinions as you (and those opinions differ from the higher-ups), why give that up? It’s much easier to grouse with each other about how terrible the higher-ups are about this one thing or that one thing. Anyone who takes part in partisan politics is already used to this perspective.

    The other thing I see is that people want to be part of their social institutions and feel that as members they have the right to decide how their church behaves. This perspective is that the church hierarchy doesn’t really have the authority to tell them what to believe. They feel that the church “belongs” to them as members, and by staying inside they are fulfilling their responsibility to get it on track.

  4. mnb0 says

    This study is old news for me, I already knew since the early 80′s. Then again not everybody had a gay father like me.
    The other question, why some gays and lesbo’s enjoy doom and hell sermons in conservative-protestant churches (I have know a few) is much more interesting. My guess – but it’s only a guess – is self-hate as well.

  5. says

    This, of course, is what we’d expected all along, but it’s very nice to see scientific validation of the phenomenon, especially when it is something so politically charged. I’d always held out a bit of skepticism that this was just a stereotype (possibly one borne out of negative attitudes towards homosexuality, a sort of “whoever smelt it dealt it” for teh gey) and so this makes me feel better that it’s not just confirmation bias that leads us to see so much anecdotal evidence of this.

    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.

    In the case of the Catholic Church, this is easy to explain: An attachment to tradition, one’s upbringing/family life, or even a literal belief that it is true (sans the gay-bashing, of course). I’ll start thinking this requires a more complicated explanation when you show me there are more than five people in the world who were raised either irreligiously or in a gay-friendly religion, came out as gay, and then converted to Catholicism or some other gay-hating religion while still being openly and unapologetically gay. I don’t think that happens, like EVER.

    The Republican Party is more complicated, since there seems to be far less of tendency to track the political affiliation one was “raised in”. I agree it is a question worth answering, although we ought to be careful how we raise it — in some ways, the question “How could woman/gays be Republicans?”, when asked by straight men like you and me, can become another form of marginalization, since it is yet another way in which we are reducing them to only their gender/sexual orientation rather than being a full person. (OTOH, while I have come to feel that posing the question the wrong way can be marginalizing, nothing is going to change my bafflement — the most I will change is to stay quiet about it!)

    In any case, in the very limited experience I have, which consists merely of two anecdotes: it seemed in one case to be someone whose other prejudices (anti-immigrant, classism, latent racism) were powerful enough to make him ignore the analogy when that prejudice was directed at himself; and in the other case, it was a low-information voter who was upset at the Democrats’ broken promises on the issue of LGBT rights.

    In the latter case, I can’t be sure that it wasn’t some Republican plant who was trolling and only posing to be gay… I tend to take people at face value unless given strong reason to otherwise, but seriously, this guy was talking about voting for Romney because Obama has been slow to come around on marriage equality. That’s just crazy!

    In the former case, though, I’ve interacted with the guy just enough (he is a friend of a friend on Facebook) to be pretty confident he is for real. And it’s pretty sad… Heh, although he did do me a favor: I made a wisecrack on Facebook that, although this was not even remotely my intention, potentially had some racist overtones to it depending on how you interpreted it. When this particular individual Liked the comment and commented how great he thought it was that I said it, ironically that was part of what convinced me that I had indeed said something offensive and needed to apologize. heh…

  6. Leo says

    This guy was talking about voting for Romney because Obama has been slow to come around on marriage equality. That’s just crazy!

    I’ve seen something similar before from this guy who used to be (is?) in the military…appears on cable news networks once in a while. I’m thinking his first name is Daniel or maybe David, but can’t remember the last name. But I remember him once suggesting that gays start voting Republican, and I’m quite sure the reason had to do with Obama and the Democrats taking too long to repeal DADT. (This was likely when it was still in effect.) Unfortunately, that appears to be how some voters think—they punish politicians for not being progressive enough by voting in the less progressive opponents. (My own father has suggested such crap.)

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