Homophobia Even Gayer Than You Thought

You've long suspected this, and now, here comes your old friend Science to back you up: homophobic people tend to be the way they are because they've got a little bit of The Gay themselves and were raised by authoritarian parents, according to a series of new studies. And outwardly directed anti-gay hate is often projected self-hate. Homophobes, then, sort of hate themselves. Take that, homophobes!

You may have thought that this fact was anecdotally or thought experiment established long ago, but the new analysis, to be published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is actually the first to document in more depth the link between homosexuality, homophobia, and parenting. Teams at the University of Rochester, the University of California Santa Barbara, and at the University of Essex in England worked together to legitimize what you already thought you knew by conducting four experiments on college-aged students in the US and Germany.

According to the researchers, controlling parents tend to raise children that grow up to have difficulty loving themselves. And adults that don't really like themselves tend to dislike all sorts of things about themselves — including homosexuality.

First, scientists asked participants to perform a timed reaction test. Subjects were to click buttons indicating "me" or "others" when certain word pairings flashed across the screen, like "Self," "Me," "Gay," and "Straight." Participants who lagged in reaction to the "me/gay" pairing were presumed to harbor a secret subliminal gayness. Next, subjects were asked to browse through same and opposite-sex pictures, a judgement of how attracted to the same or opposite sex the subjects were. Third, subjects were asked questions about their upbringing, whether or not their parents allowed them to be freely themselves or tried to mold them into what the parents wanted them to be. Questions of the parents' homophobia were also asked during this segment. Finally, researchers attempted to glean subjects' overt and implicit homophobia by asking them to fill out questionnaires about their beliefs and then complete another subliminal message-type exercise.

But before we all gather together for a hardy har har at the expense of bullying homophobes and anti-gay marriage Santorumite zealots, let's pause to consider how awful and fearful an existence they must lead. Imagine waking up every day and hating something essential to your personality, imagine wanting to crawl out of your own skin. People like Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann and Cardinal Timothy Dolan and all those compassionate churchgoers behind Prop 8 probably wake up every morning absolutely sick to their stomachs over how much they don't like themselves. It must be how Megatron felt every hateful robo-day of his Deceptacon life, if Megatron were gay and raised by authoritarian and homophobic parents. Maybe he was! Maybe we've just solved Megatron.

One of the study's lead researchers believes that this discovery could have wider implications for haters everywhere. People with strict parents who discouraged a trait inherent to their child may produce self-loathing and externally hateful grown ups. A little girl raised to believe that her sexual purity is the most valuable thing about her may be disgusted by herself as she matures into her sexual desires and project that hatred onto women she perceives to be improperly-behaving sluts. Kids raised in a household where drinking is stigmatized may grow up to report a North Dakota liquor store for remaining open on Easter Sunday. Call it the I Am Rubber; You Are Glue Principle — hatred, it seems, is often a projection of internal insecurity rather than an independent reaction to external stimuli. And that understanding should be enough to make anyone feel gayer than a Maypole.

Is some homophobia self-phobia? [Science Daily]