Sunday, April 29, 2012

Homophobic? Maybe You’re Gay

That's the title of a New York Times article today.

Here's what I wrote in 2009 in a post I recently reprinted as the topic came up again in Anchorage over Prop. 5.
When people focus so strongly on demonizing people over their sexual practices, one wonders what they themselves are trying to hide. Is the lashing out at others a way of projecting punishment for their own desires or guilt? Is it 'just a veneer?" I'm sure for some that is the case. What drives the others to such extremes?
All this made me think we could end vocal nastiness against gays if we had evidence that such behavior indicated repressed homosexuality among the strongly anti-gay.   If their vocal homophobia is a way to hide their own same-sex attractions, then exposing homophobia as a sign of homosexuality might cause them to stop taking those stands because a strong homophobic position would be simply outing yourself. 

It's nice to have one's hypotheses supported by scientific studies.  Of course, there's always the temptation to accept studies that support your beliefs without careful scrutiny. I need to read it more carefully.   Nevertheless, I'll offer a bit from this New York Times article that supports the notion that some (some, not all) homophobes have same-sex attractions themselves. You can judge for yourself.

[I'm not sure who can read the NYTimes online anymore.  They've limited how many articles non-paying subscribers can read.  But if you have an Anchorage library card you should be able to read the article through the library website.  Here's the link and title if you can't get to it this way.  "Homophobic? Maybe You’re Gay" by Richard M. Ryan and Robert S. Ryan.  April 29, 2012.]

Using this methodology we identified a subgroup of participants who, despite self-identifying as highly straight, indicated some level of same-sex attraction (that is, they associated “me” with gay-related words and pictures faster than they associated “me” with straight-related words and pictures). Over 20 percent of self-described highly straight individuals showed this discrepancy.
Notably, these “discrepant” individuals were also significantly more likely than other participants to favor anti-gay policies; to be willing to assign significantly harsher punishments to perpetrators of petty crimes if they were presumed to be homosexual; and to express greater implicit hostility toward gay subjects (also measured with the help of subliminal priming). Thus our research suggests that some who oppose homosexuality do tacitly harbor same-sex attraction.
What leads to this repression? We found that participants who reported having supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation and less susceptible to homophobia. Individuals whose sexual identity was at odds with their implicit sexual attraction were much more frequently raised by parents perceived to be controlling, less accepting and more prejudiced against homosexuals.
It’s important to stress the obvious: Not all those who campaign against gay men and lesbians secretly feel same-sex attractions. But at least some who oppose homosexuality are likely to be individuals struggling against parts of themselves, having themselves been victims of oppression and lack of acceptance. The costs are great, not only for the targets of anti-gay efforts but also often for the perpetrators. We would do well to remember that all involved deserve our compassion.

My understanding is that Jerry Prevo had a very strict (ie controlling) father who certainly would not approve a gay son.   There are places, Jerry, where you can talk to people about your repressed desires.  Places where you'll be shown a compassion you have not shown to others.   And as my post cited above shows, you have plenty of brethren among homophobic clergy and politicians who have turned out to have same-sex attractions.


  1. This is not as new a field of enquiry as you may think. In the UK, with its history of boarding schools and occasional opportunities for boys to sexually experiment with other boys, it can be a bit confusing picking up on what is called by many 'gaydar' -- a perhaps instinctual, but quite convincingly learned, ability to 'read' whether someone may be gay (or not).

    Just as women must learn to observe environmental clues for personal safety, gay men learn to observe others for personal safety as well.

    Moving on, I had the occasion of personally meeting and debating with Mr Prevo back in the 1980s in Anchorage for a television program (I remember very well as my then partner and now husband gave me a badge of courage for the event - No. 1 Pervert - and I still have it).

    It was after we had finished taping the show, that Jerry put his hand out to shake my hand. In that moment of connection, of looking him eye-to-eye, I was rather surprised my 'gaydar' went off. I told several people about that experience later and came to light-heartedly believe Jerry was a repressed homosexual (not a gay man, as that is gained by self-awareness and acceptance).

    So do tell Julia, she isn't the only one with a story. After that handshake, I became the subject of a sermon where he talked of shaking my hand and replying to my question if he was now going to wash his hands to protect himself from AIDS?, and he said yes. 'Doctor' Prevo was preaching that particular weekend about the dangers of gays and how they spread AIDS, you see.

    We are asked us to pray for those who oppress us. Fine, we can do that, but he does need help from a counselor right here and now on Earth.

    Get help, Jerry.

  2. Jacob, I do recall your handshake story. I know the idea is not new, I'd just never seen the research that supported it. It surely seems, given the number of homophobes who have been outed, an obvious connection. Now if enough people believe it, homophobia might lose some of its most virulent exponents.

    I hope all is well with you and with Gene.


Comments will be reviewed, not for content (except ads), but for style. Comments with personal insults, rambling tirades, and significant repetition will be deleted. Ads disguised as comments, unless closely related to the post and of value to readers (my call) will be deleted. Click here to learn to put links in your comment.