Gay-Haters Are Secretly Gay, Do You Think?
Science Daily has a review this week of a set of studies showing something that will surprise no one. It seems there is a lot of scientific evidence showing that those who are most anti-gay are themselves attracted to members of their own sex and come from authoritarian homes.
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.The study is the first to document the role that both parenting and sexual orientation play in the formation of intense and visceral fear of homosexuals, including self-reported homophobic attitudes, discriminatory bias, implicit hostility towards gays, and endorsement of anti-gay policies. Conducted by a team from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex, England, and the University of California in Santa Barbara, the research will be published the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology."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."In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward," adds co-author Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who helped direct the research. Is Some Homophobia Self-Phobia?
When I first got involved in the debate over the inclusion of sexual orientation in Montgomery County's sex-ed curriculum, I thought it was a low blow to accuse the opposition of having "issues" with their own sexuality. I believed them when they argued that their religion forced them to hold the attitudes they did, I thought there must be something un-obvious going on, maybe some obscure dogma that didn't make sense to me, and that the obvious explanation -- that they had personal issues -- was unkind.
But the obvious thing is just this: there is nothing about someone else's sexual orientation that should upset anybody. Unless you are considering dating a person, their sexual orientation is irrelevant. So there are gay people, maybe you can't imagine feeling like they do, so what? There really is nothing to get upset about. There is no rational way of looking at the world where one person's sexual orientation is another person's business, and that's all there is to it.
But we have been dealing since 2004 with people in our community who imagine grand conspiracies of gay people trying to recruit children into their "lifestyle," trying to take over the world and undermine democracy, not to mention Christianity.
And what motivates them -- love of God, faith in Jesus? I don't think so, no.
The paper includes four separate experiments, conducted in the United States and Germany, with each study involving an average of 160 college students. The findings provide new empirical evidence to support the psychoanalytic theory that the fear, anxiety, and aversion that some seemingly heterosexual people hold toward gays and lesbians can grow out of their own repressed same-sex desires, Ryan says. The results also support the more modern self-determination theory, developed by Ryan and Edward Deci at the University of Rochester, which links controlling parenting to poorer self-acceptance and difficulty valuing oneself unconditionally.The findings may help to explain the personal dynamics behind some bullying and hate crimes directed at gays and lesbians, the authors argue. Media coverage of gay-related hate crimes suggests that attackers often perceive some level of threat from homosexuals. 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 research also sheds light on high profile cases in which anti-gay public figures are caught engaging in same-sex sexual acts. The authors cite such examples as Ted Haggard, the evangelical preacher who opposed gay marriage but was exposed in a gay sex scandal in 2006, and Glenn Murphy, Jr., former chairman of the Young Republican National Federation and vocal opponent of gay marriage, who was accused of sexually assaulting a 22-year-old man in 2007, as potentially reflecting this dynamic."We laugh at or make fun of such blatant hypocrisy, but in a real way, these people may often themselves be victims of repression and experience exaggerated feelings of threat," says Ryan. "Homophobia is not a laughing matter. It can sometimes have tragic consequences," Ryan says, pointing to cases such as the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard or the 2011 shooting of Larry King.
Even if you are so big-hearted that you can think of these bigots and haters as victims of their own psychodynamics, I am not sure that is a safe way to look at them. In reality, they are responsible adults with an agenda and they must be stopped. Rather than feel sorry for them or sympathize with them in their confusion and self-conflict, I think it is still reasonable to see these rabid homophobes as dangerous elements of our society who campaign against decency, love, and goodness, and to oppose them at every opportunity.
But it's good to have this insight.