Homophobia is a fear that’s pretty scary in itself. The irrational hatred and fear of homosexuality and gay and lesbian people is a frightening phenomenon: it manifests itself into bullying, name calling, and sometimes even hate crimes and violence towards homosexuals. Those behaviors aren’t cool at all against anyone for any reason, but gay and lesbian people have a tough time especially, considering homophobic attitudes can actually infringe on their rights.
Here’s what’s interesting, though: You know a lot of the politicians and religious leaders you hear about preaching about how bad it is to be gay? A lot of them have been exposed as being secretly gay themselves. And now science has some evidence that says the theory that homophobia stems from one’s own homosexuality may hold some water. That’s right. SCIENCE!
Some crafty scientists did six separate studies of 784 college students. They had the students rate their own sexuality on a 1-10 scale–1 being gay and 10 being super straight (could you imagine how tough that rating has to be to give yourself?!). The students then took a test on a computer where they had to sort images associated with homosexuality and heterosexuality, but there was a twist: the scientists put in subliminal messages. (Those are the kind that you don’t consciously see but still somewhat register in your brain–like back in the day when theaters used to splice split-second pictures of popcorn and soda on the screens in the middle of your movie to encourage you to buy snacks.) The subliminal images used in the study were “me” and “other,” and the study showed that if the word “me” was shown before the category you didn’t lump yourself into (for example, if you labeled yourself as straight, “me” would come before a homosexual image), you sorted it out more quickly.
That was generally the trend, except for one group of students who participated. The researchers found that around one in five students who labeled themselves as super straight linked “gay” images with the word “me” faster than they associated themselves with “straight” images–meaning that they may be secretly gay. Those same people were also the most likely to favor anti-gay policies and opinions. Interesting!
The scientists reported their findings and noted that students in the study who were raised with supportive and open minded parents were the least likely to be homophobic and were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation–the kind that they don’t talk about or may even realize, but that’s there. (That’s where all those subliminal images come to play!)
The study showed that many of the most homophobic participants are probably struggling with some sexual identity issues of their own and may have been victims of intolerance themselves. And really? That’s just sad.
This sheds a lot of light on bullying, homophobia, and intolerance, doesn’t it? When a bully picks on someone else, it’s often because they have a deep-rooted insecurity within themselves, and knocking someone down is their own way of building themselves up. (And newsflash? It doesn’t work!) Similarly, when someone says horrible things about gay and lesbian people, it may be their own way of trying to suppress their own homosexual urges.
The study is both enlightening and a little heartbreaking. It’s so sad that so many people feel the need to bring others down just because of their own problems, but now that we have evidence that this may be why, it may be easier for everyone to approach the issue. Compassion and understanding are crucial for everyone involved, as difficult as it can seem in the moment when they’re acting ignorant and cruel.
You know that whole “love your enemy” thing? It may just work in cases like this, because it might just be that the enemy’s problem is that they don’t love themselves enough to be honest about who they really are.
Have you ever dealt with homophobia? Do you struggle with your own sexual identity? Do you think homophobia stems from people being secretly gay? Tell us in the comments!