Political Animal


April 28, 2012 8:05 AM The secret lives of homophobes

By Kathleen Geier

It is a truth universally acknowledged that all the most virulently homophobic wingnuts must eventually be discovered trolling for male escorts on rentboy.com.

Or so it often seems. And from this Sunday’s New York Times comes the news that social science seems to confirm this impression.

Researchers Richard M. Ryan and William S. Ryan write about a series of studies they conducted that were designed to measure an individual’s “implicit sexual orientation.” Their experiments uncovered “a subgroup of participants who, despite self-identifying as highly straight, indicated some level of same-sex attraction […] Over 20 percent of self-described highly straight individuals showed this discrepancy.”

The fact that a significant number of gay people are in denial about their sexuality is not exactly news. But what’s intriguing, and extremely relevant politically, is what the researchers discovered about the underlying ideology of these closeted types:

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.

This makes a lot of sense to me. I never fail to be astonished by the depth and intensity of some conservatives’ obsession with LGBTQ folks. Why in the world would someone take such a passionate, all-consuming interest in the private sexual behavior of such a small minority of the population? I know that many of the wingnuts use religious arguments as a justification for their hate, but those arguments tend to be unpersuasive in the extreme. IIRC, Jesus didn’t have a whole lot (or actually, anything) to say about teh butt sex — though interestingly, he did teach that “[i]t is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” (Fyi, if you’re interested in what the Bible does actually say about homosexuality, I highly recommend that you take a look at this wonderful little pamphlet).

Unsurprisingly, the authors of the Times piece report that the self-hatred of these closet cases is associated with being raised in unsupportive, homophobic families:

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.

The authors take pains to emphasize that “[n]ot all those who campaign against gay men and lesbians secretly feel same-sex attractions.” Still, the implications of the research are fascinating. I can’t resist speculating: does Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum struggle with his inner Liza Minnelli fan? If that were indeed the case, I seriously would not be at all surprised.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • c u n d gulag on April 28, 2012 9:44 AM:

    "Man on Dog's" more old school - he's probably more of a Judy Garland fan, whose music Richard Simmons incorporated just for him in a personalized "Sweatin' to the Oldies" DVD.
    And when he's alone, he probably puts on a nice dress and a bonnet, and sings along with Judy on "The Boy Next Door" when he watches "Meet Me in St. Louis."

    And I could see Ann Coulter having a major girl-crush Marlene Dietrich.
    I bet she's worn-out every copy of "The Blue Angel" she ever owned.

    And don't get me started on Pat Robertson and Tony Perkins - no, not the gay actor Tony Perkins - the homomphobic, anti-gay GAAAAAAAY Tony Perkins.

  • linus bern on April 28, 2012 9:45 AM:

    Well if homophobes are largely deeply closeted gays, what does that mean for Santorum's concerns over Man/dog sex?

  • schtick on April 28, 2012 9:52 AM:

    I've been saying that for years about the homophobes. Whenever they get on their anti-gay soapbox, I always wonder what they are hiding in their closets.

  • Ron Byers on April 28, 2012 9:55 AM:

    It is a puzzlement as to why homosexuality is such a hot button political issue. If anything should be a matter of personal freedom it should be sexual orientation. Instead of wonder whether Man on Dog's is a Judy Garland fan or worships and inner Liza Minelli why don't we explore exactly how we came to fret so much at a political level over whether someone is gay, straight or both.

    Maybe you are right and much of the anti-gay violence, both physical and political, is initiated by gay people who refuse to admit their own sexual orientation. It sure seems that we hear a lot about violently anti-gay preachers and politicans who can't seem to find their way out of the closet, but I would like to see some real statistics.

    Anyway, this is a topic that changes every day as homosexuality becomes part of the normal fabric of life.

  • gelfling545 on April 28, 2012 9:59 AM:

    I have always believed that these folks support harsh social and/or legal measures against homosexuality because they erroneously believe that these measures will help them keep THEMSELVES from succumbing to their true attractions.

  • DAY on April 28, 2012 10:30 AM:

    There is now ample evidence of same-sex activity among the "lesser species"- esp chimps-for us to acknowledge that all humans are bi-sexual to some degree.

  • Julie on April 28, 2012 10:30 AM:

    @gelfing545: Exactly! It's another form of projection.

  • Kris on April 28, 2012 10:34 AM:

    Thanks for the link to that pamphlet, Kathleen. That's the most thorough debunking of biblical condemnation of homosexuality I've seen.

  • T-Rex on April 28, 2012 10:38 AM:

    I think David Sedaris wrote pretty much the definitive dissection of this mentality in his story about the year that his school was integrated (which brought all sorts of hatred and bigotry into the open) followed by a summer that he spent at a camp in Greece designed to teach Greek-American teens about their heritage. In his case, it did, in ways that the camp didn't intend, but then he and his lover turned on each other viciously, each trying to see which could be more macho and homophobic about attacking the other. He's read the story on "This American Life," and anthologized it in the book "Naked."

  • c u n d gulag on April 28, 2012 10:47 AM:

    I think most open-minded (Liberal) people will admit to at least some level of sexual attraction to members of their own sex.

    I'm straight, but I remember watching Monty Python's "Time Bandits," and there's a scene where Sean Connery appears as King Agamemnon - the camera angle starts off beneath him, and slowly pans up, showing his leather sandals laced up the calves to his knees, then his short tunic/toga, and then pans up to his handsome visage, and I remember thinking to myself, "Self, I said - if I was actually gay, this, THIS!, is the man I'd want as my lover!"
    THAT is one fine-lookin' piece of manhood!!!

    Somehow or other, I managed to survive that experience without any major stuctural and/or emotional/psychic damage.

    But, of course, to a homophobic Conservative, that's real proof that I'm actually a major league poofter!

  • troglodyte on April 28, 2012 10:49 AM:

    I guess this news report bolsters the case that Texas Gov Rick Perry is a straight dude. One of Gov Perry's first campaign gaffes last sumer was to opine that gay marriage was an issue best left to the states.

    Credit where credit is due.

  • Kathryn on April 28, 2012 10:58 AM:

    Pamplet very informative but not little, worth the time to read though.

    Getting pretty frustrated with inkblot captcha as I don't have all day to interpret the same inkblot I can't "see" the first time around. As I recall, we use to get another captcha to work out after failing with one that has a letter that is indecipherable. Please bring that back.

    Prime example of repressed sexuality married with obsessive attention to subject has to be Marcus Bachmann. I literally could not believe my eyes and ears when he danced onto the scene.

  • c u n d gulag on April 28, 2012 11:11 AM:

    Thanks for your kind words yesterday.

    And Marcus didn't just dance onto the scene, he pranced and minced onto to it, too - NTTAWWT!!!

    And yes the inkblot CRAPTCHA sucks.
    If it's a Rorschach Test, I can't read the letters, because all I see are hearts, and d*cks, and scrot...

  • Alan on April 28, 2012 11:14 AM:

    I'm surprised nobody has pointed out this informative website: http://gayhomophobe.com/

    My impression of many homophobes that I have encountered is they tend also to be control freaks. Regardless of what their own reactions to homosexual sex might be, what they are truly terrified of is losing control of themselves and above all their children. Many of the anti-gay laws seem specifically designed to make being gay as undesirable as possible (many mid-east countries hang them) so they have a club to make sure their kids stay in line.

  • shivas on April 28, 2012 11:43 AM:

    That would explain why one day Mitt came home early and found Santorum on the roof of his car.

  • retired from doing cognitive behavioral therapy on April 28, 2012 11:50 AM:

    My clinical impression is homophobia can derive from strict religious upbringing, toilet training issues, authoritative executive tendencies of parents, as well as an unreasonable fear of slight build indicating one is gay.

  • Mimikatz on April 28, 2012 12:17 PM:

    "People of the Lie" by M. Scott Peck is all about this kind of defense mechanism in many different contexts. Basically, an individual is taught a very strict kind of perfectionist morality and then discovers s/he can't live up to it and has thoughts and feelings, maybe that are even acted on, that are "unacceptable". These are denied and repressed to maintain the fiction that one is as good as expected, sometimes by elaborate defense mechanisms, and quite often projected onto others. Given the attraction the GOP has for authoritarian personalities, it is not surprising so many exhibit this kind of thinking. Liberals have other problems, like a surfeit of narcissistic jerks, but this kind of thinking is pretty common in the GOP. I also recommend Max Blumenthal's "Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Wrecked the Party" or something like that.

  • TCinLA on April 28, 2012 12:27 PM:

    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.

    This is basically how the authoritarian personality is formed, i.e., the will is broken to the authority of the controlling parent. I know directly what I mean, being the only one of three siblings not have my will broken by "Mommy Dearest" - I don't fault the other two, I know what a struggle it was to survive, and it didn't necessarily lead to my being the mot successful guy on the planet, with those kinds of defenses.

    I do recall a far far right internet troll who tried to convince others back in 2002-03 that I must be "a fag" for being "anti-American" by opposing Little Georgie's Invasion of Poland. Surprise surprise, this senior Florida National Guard sergeant ended coming back early from his service in the Imperial Wehrmacht in said invasion, due to being caught out by DADT.

  • TCinLA on April 28, 2012 12:34 PM:

    For Kathryn, c u n d gulag and our other Liberal Luddites - Captcha still has the ability to give you another choice.

    Immediately to the right of the box you write the words in, there are three symbols in small box, click the top one (the one with the circular arrows) and you will get a new Captcha. For those who aren't sure about circular arrows, these are the new symbol for "renew/change"

    And now the Helpful Internet Police, in the person of Kindly Officer TCinLA, returns you to your regularly scheduled Saturday morning time-wasting. :-)

  • slinden on April 28, 2012 12:51 PM:

    i have always seen the strictest homophobes as self-hating gays, and however much damage they might try to wreak socially, they are so damaged themselves that i have immense compassion for them. can you imagine what it must be like to be ted haggard, acknowledging at least now, that he sleeps with men, but still denying that he is gay? and yes, i do see the control freak connection. to actually look in the mirror, to face the reality of who they are could induce complete self-destruction. or if they are strong enough, complete freedom.

  • exlibra on April 28, 2012 1:54 PM:

    It's nice to have a formal study to confirm what one has suspected ("known", in one's gut) for years. I've seen the same thing happen, back in Poland of my youth, in religion; the most pious Catholics (and worst antisemites) were those with a converted grandma or grandpa.

    People who feel secure in their identity -- be it sexual or religious -- usually don't feel the need to force others into uniformity of their own kind. They're more inclined to the "live and let live" attitude.

    And, in the opinion of this Liberal Luddite (love it, thanks, Tom), Craptcha still stinks. The "refresh" possibility is but a slightly different shade of brown.

  • Quaker in a Basement on April 28, 2012 2:45 PM:

    I can’t resist speculating: does Rick “Man on Dog” Santorum struggle with his inner Liza Minnelli fan?

    The sweater vests weren't enough of a clue?

  • Jon on April 29, 2012 1:35 PM:

    Yeah, it's a clear case of "methinks they doth protest too much."

    I really wish the insight would become ubiquitous, so that gay bashing became a clearly self-implicating activity in the popular mind. Oh, the misery of self-loathing deprived of the ability to safely project!

  • Matthew James Goodwin on April 30, 2012 2:51 AM:

    Perhaps "they", can be helped by putting sexual orientation on their ID. IF we have to have gender on an ID why not sexual orientation?

    We do a little checking into statements they've made, on the record votes, their up bringing and bingo! They don't have to hide and hate themselves anymore.

  • John Weiss on April 30, 2012 1:17 PM:

    Do you all actually give a shit whether someone is gay or not? I'm outta here.