Internalized Homophobia Turned Outward

What the queer community has suspected for basically forever is true: One of the driving factors causing homophobic opinions and behaviors is one's OWN same-sex desires. A new paper from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology finds that homophobic college students are more likely than other heterosexual-identified students to have a strong attraction to the same sex.

The paper also looks at studies that investigated the impact of controlling parents on homophobia. The results were consistent with other studies showing that overbearing parents can diminish a person's ability to value themselves without conditions, leading to further internalized and externalized homophobia.

Given the headlines of hypocrisy from anti-gay public figures (Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, George Rekers – the list goes on), this result is unlikely to come as a surprise to many of us. What's new to me in this paper is looking at the combination of parenting and sexual attraction.

Science Daily reports "… participants with supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation, while participants from authoritarian homes revealed the most discrepancy between explicit and implicit attraction." This is a really interesting point to me, but I do wonder if it would continue to apply in an older cohort – the study was done on college students, who are still pretty young and generally still under a certain amount of control from their parents.

What I would like to see studied further is how a controlling religious environment in adulthood would be similar to or different from a controlling parental relationship for adults who have been out of their parent's homes for longer. Is a 40-year-old in a strict church going to have the same problems with self-acceptance as a 19 year old with controlling parents? I suspect there would be real similarities there, but some studies would be necessary to know for sure.

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Benny Vimes

Benny Vimes

Benny Vimes is a queer polyamorous transman, curious skeptic, and enthusiastic seeker of knowledge. He's an undergraduate student in his 30's and loves teaching people about alternative sexuality and gender issues.


  1. April 12, 2012 at 6:59 pm —

    Forget the political implications, I'm interested in the methodology of the study.  Such as, how did they measure attraction to the same sex apart from self-reporting?  (I'm wary of "objective" measures of orientation, as such things have been abused to "disprove" bisexuality.)  The linked article answers my question:

    Students were shown words and pictures on a computer screen and asked to put these in "gay" or "straight" categories. Before each of the 50 trials, participants were subliminally primed with either the word "me" or "others" flashed on the screen for 35 milliseconds.

    A faster association of "me" with "gay" and a slower association of "me" with "straight" indicated an implicit gay orientation.

    A second experiment, in which subjects were free to browse same-sex or opposite-sex photos, provided an additional measure of implicit sexual attraction.

    Knowing nothing about the psychology of priming, I'm not sure how strong a case this is.
    Another thing: How does the difference between homophobic and non-homophobic groups compare to the difference between individuals within each group?

  2. April 12, 2012 at 10:17 pm —

    Yeah, I have some questions about that too.  My area of interest isn't in either psychology or neurology, but I found myself glad that they did NOT do this using primarily pornographic images as the judge of sexual orientation, which I find to be an even less valid gauge of sexual orientation.
    As for your last question, I hope that will be answered in the actual published study.  I'll try to get my hands on it.

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