“I think…it moved (Jason Alexander as George Costanza (1)).”
We seek to control and suppress that which we fear. In 1996, scientists conducted a study on the nature of homophobia (2). 64 self-reported heterosexual men (35 of whom were admittedly homophobic) were shown various forms of erotica, including heterosexual, lesbian and male homosexual pornography. Simultaneously, electronic sensors measured penile circumference. The results were telling. While all the men in the study had an erectile response to images of heterosexual and lesbian sex, only the homophobic men were sexually stimulated by the homoerotic pornography.
The study proved what most people already instinctively suspected. Men who secretly harbor homosexual feelings are far more likely to be outwardly prejudiced towards gays. One only has to watch current sensational media reporting to confirm this reality. From haters in the pulpit, like Ted Haggard, to the bathroom exploits of former Senator Larry Craig, gay haters seem to be more likely than non-haters to crop up in compromising homosexual positions. For these men, the fear of their own homosexual orientation is so great, they must outwardly and aggressively reject that which they fear the most, not realizing that their adamant disavowals only serve to illuminate to the world their inner truth, they hate the gay men inside themselves.
The attitudes of homophobic men shine light on the bigotry of the conservative right too. In contemporary American society, hostility against gays and lesbians is the only culturally sanctioned prejudice that is still openly tolerated. The excuses for such blatant prejudice are revealing. Homophobes insist gays on the loose will “recruit” the young, that gay marriage will undermine the institution of marriage itself and that if we condone homosexuality, everyone will be trying it. Each of these foolish justifications illuminates the inner fears of the teller. Our young cannot be recruited if they are not already gay. The institution of marriage can only be strengthened by the addition of more adherents. And, if homosexuality is universally accepted for the natural human condition it is, homosexuals will be released from the bigotry that currently poisons their lives. Heterosexuals, who are not homosexuals, will not be flocking to join the cause any more than homosexuals have been able to convert themselves to heterosexuality. The only people who fear such lunacy are those who secretly harbor homosexual desires themselves.
The ultimate defense for homophobes when all other logic fails is the time-tested, coverall for all irrational discourse, religion. The Christian fundamentalist stance on homosexuality is based on a few selected Bible passages condemning men lying together. Leviticus, a book of numerous inhumane and murderous recommendations for sinners suggests, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination (18:22),” but only a few lines earlier, the same text recommends, “You shall not approach a woman to uncover her nakedness while she is in her menstrual uncleanness (18.19).” Later on in Leviticus 20, the author goes on to suggest capital punishment for homosexual acts, but it also recommends that if a man should sleep with both his wife and his mother in law, all three should be put to death. And, anybody having sex with animals needs to be euthanized along with their victims. Other sins punishable by death include working on Sunday, various forms of permaculture and being a victim of rape. Some sins are abominations but not capital crimes including touching dead pigs and mixing clothing fibers (cotton/linen blends are particularly heinous). Why isn’t Pat Robertson up in arms about the reintroduction of the McRib sandwich or the millions of sins that can readily be purchased on WalMart’s clothing racks?
In fact, the Bible that homophobic evangelicals love to cite to justify their bigoted judgments says a lot of silly things that are no longer relevant to our modern culture. Science has refuted the idea that a flat Earth is encased by a dome in the sky and that homosexuality is a condemnation by God for straying too far from the religious “truth.” Homosexuality occurs in exactly the same proportion across history and across all human cultures, which means it is a biological trait that is part of the human genome, in other words, completely natural. The 2,500 year old “science” of the Bible has been more than adequately debunked, and it is simply ignorant to insist on Biblical “truth.”
What can we glean from the hate-filled homophobic rants of evangelical Christians? He who shouts the loudest is probably harboring the gayest fantasies. So, the next time a gay-hating bigot spews his rhetoric your way, enlighten him about the subconscious, fearful origins of his ire. At best, he will examine his inner proclivities and come to terms with his own dichotomy. At the very least, spreading the word about the nature of irrational hate, that it is self-loathing projected onto the world, will help to clarify crimes of hatred for what they are.
Homophobia is but one manifestation of a wider cultural paradigm that insists homosexuals, Arabs, Jews, Women, people of color or any group that is outside the predominant power elite are “others” and that their humanity is not as viable or equal to those within the select, privileged group.
The same aura of self-perceived human supremacy enslaves the natural world too. The economic interests of corporations are viewed as more important than an old growth forest, Alaskan wilderness or oceanic gulf. As long as the arrogance of human elitism exists, it will leave a swath of destruction in its wake.
“Prejudice and contempt, cloaked in the pretense of religious or political conviction, are no different. They have nearly destroyed us in the past. They plague us still. They fuel the fanaticism of terror. They torment the lives of millions in fractured nations around the world. These obsessions cripple both those who are hated, and of course, those who hate, robbing both of what they might become (President William Jefferson Clinton).”
1- Watch Seinfeld clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-UQ7a7d5W0
2- Adams, Wright and Lohr, “Is Homophobia Associated with Homosexual Arousal?” Full article available on the World Wide Web at https://www.psychologytoday.com/files/u47/Henry_et_al.pdf