The Real Sources of Their Hatred

Neither individual nor overall theology genuinely account for the virulence of people’s reactions to homosexuals. There is an emotional component to them.

Matthew Shepard 1976-1998

The real source of the viciousness of this reaction is unconscious. Any successful, productive member of society who is gay triggers an automatic threat reaction from insecure individuals who have been brainwashed with a certain stock set of ideas. The sheer existence of a successful gay, with different ideas and worldview, presents a threat because he or she demonstrates that a homophobe’s own ideas and stereotypes may prove not to be infallible.

An insecure individual needs infallibility. He needs to control or dominate his environment. Thus there arises the feeling that, if someone else is granted rights, those rights come at his own expense. And, like dogma, such feelings are not subject to discussion; any objection to them is dismissed as spurious and irrelevant by definition. There may even be a fear of rape; in the animal world (and parts of ours), rape is a sign of being dominated, a loss of status.

What does all this contribute to an understanding of homophobia? There are two research studies that provide essential data for an explanation.

First, the Kinsey Report, which in 1948 proclaimed that 4% of men are homosexual, 60% are heterosexual, and 36% are somewhere in between – the term is ‘bi-sexual.’ Whether these specific percentages are exact is fairly irrelevant; the important contribution of this study is the existence of a range of same-sex attraction, not just a black-white heterosexual-homosexual opposition.

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Dr. Fritz Klein in his The Bisexual Option (1978) offered the ‘Klein Sexual Orientation Grid’ to correct perceived problems with the Kinsey scale. Unfortunately, it is also structured in a way that, in the bisexual range, implies that attraction to one gender diminishes as attraction to the other increases. Klein, Fritz.
The Bisexual Option, Second Edition. London: Routledge, 1993.
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Kinsey, Alfred C., Wardell B. Pomeroy, and Clyde E Martin. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Company, 1948 (now Indiana University Press, 1998).
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The other study specifically addressed homophobic reactions, and it fundamentally explains why they occur.

“Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?” Adams, Henry E.; Wright, Lester W.; Lohr, Bethany A. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 1996 Aug., Vol. 105(3), p. 440-445.

This study, done at the University of Georgia, involved 35 homophobic men and 29 non-homophobic men (assigned to these groups based on a widely accepted test called the Index of Homophobia). All described themselves as exclusively heterosexual, both in terms of sexual arousal and experience.

Each participant was shown sexually explicit videotapes, one heterosexual, one lesbian, and one male homosexual. The participants’ degree of sexual arousal was measured by penile plethysmography, which precisely records male tumescence, i.e., to what extent is the person becoming more erect?

Both groups had about the same degree of arousal to both the heterosexual and lesbian videos. In contrast, however, homophobic men were significantly aroused by the male homosexual video, whereas the control (non-homophobic) men were not.

The participants own subjective assessments of how much they were aroused tracked fairly closely with the results of the objective physiological measurement, with the exception that homophobic men significantly underestimated their degree of arousal by the male homosexual video.

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Homophobia also correlates with a lowered knowledge about AIDS, a lowered empathy for those with it, and a lower level of social intimacy.
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So the problem underlying virulent homophobia is one of an unacceptable, suppressed bisexuality, not anything the Bible does or does not say. Since a person with this problem cannot even admit to himself that it exists, it can’t really be dealt with … and his reactions will be emotional ones, i.e., not subject to rational discussion, particularly if anyone suggests that the underlying problem is that person’s suppressed bisexuality. This means that, in a discussion or confrontation, the only one who will be able to maintain his cool (probably) will be you. You cannot ‘win’ such a discussion and may not even survive it.

You may be tempted to ask the homophobe if he has a background in language studies – or if he even knows what languages the parts of the Bible were written in; but face facts here. Argument is not going to change an irrational, unconscious fear and hatred. Trying to reveal the causes for that fear/hatred is most likely only going to make the reaction intensely worse. Your only rational choice is to withdraw from a direct confrontation and trust that living a life that follows the principles of Christ will serve by the example it sets that you are a valid child of God, no matter what ugliness others spew forth.

The next logical link is the six or seven passages in the Bible that supposedly condemn homosexuality.