The Problem With That “Homophobes Are Just Closeted” Study

04/11/2012 1:46 PM |

This guy.
  • This guy.

So I’m sure you’ve seen coverage of this recently-released Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that concluded that often the most homophobic people are just repressing their own gayness.

“Sometimes people are threatened by gays and lesbians because they are fearing their own impulses, in a sense they ‘doth protest too much,'” Ryan told LiveScience. “In addition, it appears that sometimes those who would oppress others have been oppressed themselves, and we can have some compassion for them too, they may be unaccepting of others because they cannot be accepting of themselves.”

Which you know, duh. It’s always the most virulently homophobic mega-pastor that is paying some guy to let him blow him in a bar bathroom. Sure. The study also talks about how authoritarian parents can create homophobes. Which is also interesting, I guess. But the problem with findings like this is that they seem to willfully ignore the fact that our society is structurally homophobic. It’s built into the very bones of how things function. So sure, maybe the reason this guy or that guy latches on to gayness as his pet thing to scream about is because he’s afraid of his own desires, but clearly the real reason that vast swaths of people are homophobic is because we live in a homophobic culture. It’s built into everything! You have to actively work to not normalize straightness and other gayness in everyday life.

This refusal to talk about structural inequalities—and the intersections of oppression they create—is baffling to me, and ultimately harmful. I guess it’s easier to look at some guy tweeting about how he’d kill his kids if they were gay and say “he’s probably just gay himself, lol” than to try and figure out how to address a culture that values straightness, whiteness, male-ness, cis-ness, and wealth to the detriment of everybody else. Like yeah, tearing that down and rebuilding from scratch would be quite a job, and would also require everyone to admit to what extent they harbor bias and benefit from the bias of others.

I guess I’m just not sure what, exactly, studies like this are meant to accomplish. How come people are so homophobic? Is it because under federal law, gay people do not have all the rights that straight people have? Nah, it’s probably something else. To the study-mobile!

2 Comment

  • You’re completely ignoring the fact that PEOPLE CREATE LAWS, and there’s a reason that lawmakers have made those laws. It starts with people. Just like this study.

  • You conveniently left out the part where it says “Ryan cautioned, however, that this link is only one source of anti-gay sentiments.”

    Basically you’re criticizing a study which documents and analyzes one aspect of homophobia because it doesn’t explain every aspect of homophobia. That’s not how science works.

    You honestly think that society is homophobic because federal law is discriminatory, and not that federal law is discriminatory because society is homophobic? Where do you suppose federal laws come from, they fall from the sky?