Saturday, June 11, 2011

The nature of homophobia

Long-held common-sense folk wisdom says that the most homophobic people are that way in an effort to cover-up and overcompensate for their own same-sex attractions. It’s often said in the GLBT community that in any pack of teens or young men beating up a gay man, at least one of the attackers will be secretly gay. There’s a growing body of scientific evidence backing that up.

The video above is an excerpt from a longer documentary talking about the nature of homophobia, based on the Middle Sex Experiment. While the longer version seems to have gone from YouTube, this excerpt gives the gist of what the larger study found, and how the research was conducted. The study found that homophobic men were aroused by gay male pornography, but adamantly denied that fact.

A new study has found the same thing: “Homophobic men were the most sexually aroused by gay male sex acts.” This is a classic Freudian situation: Homophobic men are most negative toward that which they most want.

This makes obvious sense: A truly heterosexual man wouldn’t be the least bit threatened by gay men and it’s almost certain that they don’t even think about gay men having sex, so they simply don’t get angry or “repulsed” that it happens. Men who are secure in their own sexuality don’t really care about the sexuality of others, whether similar or different.

A “homophobe” is someone who is aggressively, even violently, anti-gay, not someone who merely expresses dislike or disapproval of homosexuality. So, I’m not talking about people who have and preach a religious opposition to homosexuality, but instead the people who are clearly obsessed with homosexuality and GLBT people; holding a religious belief is one thing, being aggressively and obsessively anti-gay is altogether different.

In fact, it seems to me that more often than not, homophobes use religion as an excuse and justification for their homophobia, and religion isn’t the real reason for their activism. Using religion in this way gives homophobes cover as well as somewhat plausible reason for their political activism.

Campaigns against gay people and their human rights without appeals to conservative religion inevitably collapse due the lack of a rational basis for that opposition. There simply are no credible secular reasons to oppose GLBT equality.

Homophobes using religion as their excuse face a problem in that, obviously, not everyone believes the same things, and that applies to the religious and non-religious alike. Even among conservative religionists, the vast majority don’t lead campaigns or entire movements whose sole goal is to make sure that gay people are demonised and made less than second-class citizens. Ordinary religious people, in other words, just aren’t as obsessed with homosexuality.

But the average homophobe doesn’t lead campaigns and movements. They’re the ones always saying terrible things about GLBT people, even if they have to force the comment into conversation. Some of them beat up and even kill gay people.

Clearly that need to deflect and cover-up would be less strong if society at large wasn’t anti-gay in so many ways. Until and unless the rabid anti-gay bigots go away, and society becomes more just and humane, there will be homophobes dancing with Freud and lashing out. The truly tragic thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Someday, maybe it won’t be.


Roger Owen Green said...

Slightly off topic, but there was a guy from the band Chicago - I think it was Terry Kath - who, back in the 1970s, got beat up by some guys. I always thought that it was his long blonde hair that these guys thought was pretty, thought he might have been a girl, and were disgusted (with themselves) that he wasn't.

Arthur Schenck said...

FWIW, I think you were probably correct. I can remember reading quite a few stories about men attacked because they were perceived to be gay, so it's not hard to imagine a scenario like you described.

d said...

I dated someone ages ago who was very homophobic. I had some very clear indicators that he was repressing his homosexuality (due to "born again" parents), and I told him about this study. Unfortunately, he was also very dumb, and didn't get my subtlety. I believe he is married, but not happily.

Arthur Schenck said...

From what you've described, it's clear that a happy marriage would be highly improbable.

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Homophobia is a term used to refer to a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards lesbian, gay and in some cases bisexual, transgender people and behavior, although these are usually covered under other terms such as biphobia and transphobia
This is new thing we know now
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