A new study has confirmed what many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have suspected for some time: that homophobic attitudes are likely to be more pronounced among those who've experienced unacknowledged attraction towards members of the same sex.
Set to be published this month in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the study reportedly comprised four separate experiments, each involving an average of 160 college students, conducted in the U.S. and Germany. The findings provide new evidence to support the psychoanalytic theory that fear, anxiety, and aversion that toward gays and lesbians can grow out of a seemingly heterosexual individual's own repressed same-sex desires, co-author Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester who helped direct the research, told Science Daily.
"In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward," Ryan is quoted as saying. "We laugh at or make fun of such blatant hypocrisy, but in a real way, these people may often themselves be victims of repression and experience exaggerated feelings of threat. Homophobia is not a laughing matter."
According to the International Business Times, the implicit and explicit sexual orientations of participants were measured by how they reacted to words and images with sexual associations during a split-second timed task. The second part of the experiment, Pink News noted, involved subject histories on family upbringing, after which they were invited to look at pictures of gay or straight couples.
The study also found that participants with supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation."In a predominately heterosexual society, 'know thyself' can be a challenge for many gay individuals. But in controlling and homophobic homes, embracing a minority sexual orientation can be terrifying," Netta Weinstein, a lecturer at the University of Essex and the study's lead author, said.
In presenting their study, the authors also pointed to a number of anti-gay figures like Ted Haggard who went on to engage in homosexual acts. "Individuals who identify as straight but in psychological tests show a strong attraction to the same sex may be threatened by gays and lesbians because homosexuals remind them of similar tendencies within themselves," Weinstein was quoted by the Daily Mail as saying.
Meanwhile, other scientists are reportedly skeptical of the findings. "This study is asking the right questions, but it's a pretty big leap to say it's revealing sexual orientation," Psychology professor Gregory Herek, of the University of California-Davis, told Opposing Views.