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What causes homophobia?

December 19, 2015


Definition: irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals (Webster)

Conservative Christians tend to say: “Homophobia is the term used to describe the irrational fear, hatred, aversion to, or discrimination against people who are homosexual, or same-sex attracted, or who are perceived to be homosexual or same-sex attracted.” Who says what is and is not an irrational fear so that people can be labeled as being irrational? Who defines “negative attitude”?  Is simply considering homosexuality a sin a “negative attitude”? Disagreement is not the same thing as discrimination.

But they’re likely to go on to say thast it’s OK to discriminate because they love ghomosexuals and want the best for them, to help them to avoid condemnation. They’ll go on to tell lies e.g. Christoipher Sugden of Reform said (Radio 4 Sunday 20.xii.15) that the family is so important that gay men mist be stopped from ‘recruiting’.

In common usage: Dislike of or prejudice against homosexuals

Oedipal conflict – crushes on boys, phase

Low levels of education

Supportive of traditional gender roles

Politically conservative

Residing in a geographic area where low tolerance eg. Southern United States

It’s not natural – animal species?


Low self esteem leading to a need to hate other group(s).

Envy – lots of partners

Trinity United Methodist Church: “Why Every Church Must Be Open and Affirming.”

“Make no mistake, every drop of blood shed by GLBT people either through suicide, bashing, or murder, are on the hands of all those religious leaders, their followers, and their allies who spew forth their ignorance, prejudice, and hate against GLBT people and their relationships! These wolves in sheep’s clothing take the Bible, God’s love letter to His children, and selectively and perversely use it as a club to condemn others, and deny GLBT people full inclusion in the Church and in society.

“The Church should concentrate on the real sins that deserve our attention and that cry out to God for redress, such as invading another country on false pretenses; the working poor who can’t afford medical insurance; the Supreme Court ruling that people can’t sue their insurance company in state court for denying needed medical services; many elderly people having to decide whether to buy food or medicine; the gigantic rip off perpetrated by drug companies, hospitals, and the medical establishment on sick and vulnerable people. Why not focus on and address issues such as these, instead of obsessing on who loves who and who sleeps with whom? Such obsession tells us much more about the pathetic and moribund state of much of the Church than it does about the reality of the lives of GLBT people.”

Homophobia robs men of their capacity to relate deeply to other men. Even men who overcome homophobia must often keep this secret in an excessively heterosexist culture. Matthew Fox

 “Gays must learn a new level of spiritual maturity, basing their spiritual life on inner convictions and not on outside expectations. . . . They must [discern] what God is saying to them through their hearts and trust what they hear, even when it conflicts with homophobic authorities.” John McNeill

Gay men have a big problem with camp. Gay dating websites abound with profiles specifying “straight-acting men only”. Despite the widespread myth that campness is affected – that it’s all for show – most gay men think camp is deeply unsexy. Graham Norton – another screamingly camp comedian – has said that campness is “a much harder thing to accept than being gay”, because it “comes with judgment all round”. This anti-camp hostility partly comes from a desire to conform to traditional gender roles, which gay men have already subverted whether they want to or not. … That homophobia remains rife among gay men is hardly surprising. They grow up in a society that teaches that settling down with a woman is the natural order of things. They hear “gay” casually bandied around as an insult, a synonym for crap or rubbish. They see the horror etched on the face of a straight man misidentified as gay – the sort of expression that comes from being wrongly accused of the most heinous of crimes. Gay men know that to hold hands with a partner in public risks stares and abuse. In The Velvet Rage, the clinical psychologist Alan Downs talks of an internalised shame, too: that gay men are taught “during those tender and formative years of adolescence that there was something about us that was flawed, in essence unlovable”.

No wonder gay men suffer higher rates of mental distress and suicide. But, if most gay men are honest with themselves, they can think of more subtle ways in which their own homophobia expresses itself. They may panic when someone asks if they have a girlfriend, knowing that an honest answer means coming out for the third time that week and possibly being treated differently. They may refer to their boyfriends in ways that strip their gender away, like “my other half”. They may feel a sense of flattery when someone says “I’d never have guessed you were gay!”, as if feeling reassured that their leprosy is barely visible. Or they may start by coming out as bisexual (fuelling a sense of “bi now, gay later”, much to the annoyance of genuine bisexuals), hoping that having one foot in the straight camp might preserve a sense of normality.

There is evidence to suggest some “straight” homophobes are self-hating closet cases. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggested that some homophobic people were suppressing same-sex desires, backing up another study which showed that prejudiced people were more likely to be aroused by gay porn. Even today, some gay people take “straight-acting” literally, trying to force relationships with opposite-sex partners, imprisoning both in the misery of denial.

This isn’t to paint an overly bleak picture. In the UK, there’s never been a better time to be gay: the majority of anti-gay laws have been overturned; and while 30 years ago half of Britons thought same-sex relations were always wrong, that figure has dropped to a fifth. Being gay can be a bit of a leveller, too: whether you’re a millionaire or a barman, there’s a unifying sense of being an outsider, like it or not. But homophobia is corrosive, wherever it comes from. Gay men may recognise it and challenge it when it comes from straight people. It is much harder – but still necessary – to recognise the homophobia that dwells within the ranks of gay men themselves. Owen Jones

The most compelling theory is that this impulse to scrub off gayness has everything to do with group identity. Cleansing is about separating: it has “a very social meaning” as de Zavala puts it. If you have established a clear division with another group, that they are “the other”, and you convince yourself that you have nothing in common with them, then any form of interaction becomes contamination. It makes sense: cleansing is often used as a metaphor to separate ourselves from groups we disapprove of. How many of us have joked “I hope you had a bath afterwards!” to a friend who has spent time with some perceived undesirables? In its most sinister form, cleansing has underpinned the rhetoric of racist totalitarian regimes: the Nazis were fixated with “racial purity” and Mussolini was obsessed with the colour white. “Ethnic cleansing” is the perverse euphemism for terrorising other ethnic groups.

This entirely gels with a proper understanding of what homophobia is. Rather than a straightforward dislike or fear of gay people, homophobia is often about “gender policing”: protecting the boundaries of what it is to be a man. Homophobia is not only directed at gays, after all: straight men suffer it, too. From an early age, those who don’t conform to a certain type of masculinity – not being aggressive enough, not speaking about women in sufficiently degrading terms, not being athletic, and so on – risk being labelled a “poof”. This has everything to do with sexism and misogyny. Both straight men who don’t conform to type and gay men are seen as womanly, and being like a woman is considered degrading.

The rather creepy research findings show that the more conservative the man, the stronger the impulse to wash away gay contact. Hardly surprising: more conservative men tend to have a stronger belief in gender difference, in protecting a more unreconstructed masculinity. Gay men are the ultimate menace to this identity, a threat to heterosexual solidarity: the contagion to be washed away. Owen Jones

“A society free of sexism and homophobia won’t just emancipate women and gay men: it will free straight men, too.” Owen Jones The Guardian, 1 June 2014.

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