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Study: Homophobia Masks Gay Feelings

Study: Homophobia Masks Gay Feelings


A new study indicates that those who are homophobic may secretly harbor self-hatred over their own same-sex desires.

Reports Science Daily:

“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.

The research report, issued by researchers from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex, England, and the University of California in Santa Barbara, suggests that repressed same-sex desires due to negative reinforcement through authoritarian parenting are prominent factors in developing intense feelings of loathing and even hatred of gay people which may in later life lead to hostility towards those who are gay or perceived to be gay.

The paper drew evidence from four separate experiments conducted in the United States and in Germany. Each study involved an average of 160 college students and provided empirical evidence that corroborates longstanding psychoanalytic theories that intense negative feelings toward gay and lesbian people can stem from repressed same-sex desires.

In order to investigate the difference between how participants identified and what their implicit sexual attractions were, researchers carried out a number of experiments. In one such investigation, researchers charted the differences between respondents’ self-identifying statements and how they reacted during a split-second timed task where they were shown words and pictures and asked to label them as “gay” or “straight” while a computer tracked their response times. A faster association of “me” and “gay” and a slower association of “me” and “straight” indicated implicit homosexuality.

Researchers also used a series of questionnaires to assess whether respondents had a controlling upbringing. For example they were asked whether during their childhood they felt free to express their individuality or whether they felt pressured to conform. They were also asked questions relating to homophobia in the household, assessing whether respondents agreed with statements like “My dad avoids gay men whenever possible.”

Researchers then sort to gauge participants’ own levels of homophobia, again both explicit and implicit. Researchers used another series of questionnaires and a second round of quick-fire associations designed to track the amount of aggressive responses the word “gay” elicited when applied to themselves and to others.

The trials revealed a clear pattern: where participants had supportive and accepting parents they were more likely to be in touch with their implicit sexual orientation. However, when participants came from strict anti-gay homes they were less likely to be aware of their implicit sexual orientation. Additionally, participants who identified as being more heterosexual than their implicit scores were more likely to be hostile to gay people. This discrepancy between self-identification and unconscious responses predicted a variety of homophobic behaviors including hostility toward gay people, endorsement of anti-gay politics, and discriminatory bias.

There were of course limitations to these findings given that all participants were college-age students. Researchers now want to test whether these results are similar in other age groups and whether attitudes may change overtime.

In their report the study’s authors also suggest this pattern may be the reason why prominent anti-gay figures have later been caught engaging in or having engaged in same-sex sexual activities, citing examples such as evangelical preacher Ted Haggard who vocally opposed gay marriage (and still does) but found himself the center of scandal in 2006.

The study’s authors caution that while we may find this hypocrisy amusing, homophobia stemming from self-hatred may also at least partly contribute to cases like the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard.

Related Reading:
Gay Catholic Resigns Over Archbishop’s Anti-Gay Rhetoric
Teen Booted From School Pageant For Wanting Gay Marriage
Rep King, Keep Your Straightness Out of Our Faces

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Image used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks to K763.

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12:58PM PDT on Sep 4, 2012

I bet most telepreachers are gay and won't admit it. Why else are they so concerned about what other men do in the bedroom? Jealous, maybe?

9:08AM PDT on Jun 27, 2012

"For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet." Romans 1:26,27

6:21AM PDT on May 20, 2012

LOL very funny!

No doubt the study was conducted by organized LGBT

1:28AM PDT on May 20, 2012

I've heard of this already.

9:19PM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

What does this say about the Bachmann Clinic?
Actually, I’ve seen this happen. I knew a man who was homophobic almost to the point of violence. People I knew said, “I wish he’d come out; he’d be so much happier.” He finally came out and accepted the fact that he was gay. Once he did that, his demeanor changed and he was one of the most compassionate people you’d ever want to meet.

12:11PM PDT on Apr 13, 2012

So, Mitt, tell me more about these feelings you've been having. Lay on this couch over here...

8:53PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

well, duh! I've been saying this since at least 1991 - and it has never been much of a secret, even a hundred years ago.

5:26PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Hey, if someone feels the need to say something hateful about the gay community, we shouldn't lash out against them! This study shows they're just confused and afraid! ;)

12:33PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

There is nothing new here. I remember reading an article about Hitler, and the possibility he might of been gay. His hurried marriage to Eva Braun was a cover that he was to have died a married man.

4:26AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Heterosexual or's is called humanity and we all have needs and emotions. No shock about this study.....

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