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Anti-gay zeal greatest in those fearing own gayness?

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“Well the cowboy may brag about things that he does with his women,
But the ones that brag loudest are the ones who are most likely queer.”
--Willie Nelson, “Cowboys are Frequently Secretly (Fond of Each Other)”

For some time I’ve been mystified by the obsessive hostility by some in our nation toward folks of the same sex who want to marry. I always figured if you don’t want a gay marriage, then don’t have one. But then I happened on a scientific survey on homophobia (the irrational fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality or homosexuals according to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary), and the motivation behind at least some of the condemnation became clear to me.

At the University of Georgia, researchers conducted an experiment involving 35 homophobic men and 29 non-homophobic men (as measured by the Index of Homophobia). All of the men participating in the experiment considered themselves exclusively heterosexual. This study, published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Volume 105, No. 3, August 1996, described how each of the participants was shown sexually explicit heterosexual, male homosexual and lesbian videotapes. The level of sexual arousal of each man was determined by a technique that measures swelling in the penis.

Sexual arousal for the homophobic and non-homophobic men was found to be similar when they viewed both the heterosexual and the lesbian sexual activity. However, when the two groups viewed the video of two men engaging in sexual behavior, a significant statistical difference arose. In this instance, the group of homophobic men showed a considerable increase in sexual arousal while the group of non-homophobic men did not. The implication of this study is that homophobia in men is a reaction to their own repressed homosexual urges.

Of course, for some time many therapists have believed that prejudice against homosexuals involves projection—the transfer of fear and repulsion about one's own homosexuality onto others. In other words, men (and women) who cannot accept their same-sex desires (suppressed or conscious), release their intense feelings of self-hatred through the condemnation of other people's homosexuality. Some men, confronted with insecurities about their heterosexuality, attempt to appear hypermasculine—highly competitive, sexually aggressive, domineering with women, physically imposing, tough, unfeeling and detached—to mask their self-doubt.

Predictably, some homophobes, rather than coming out of the closet themselves, turn to selected passages from the Bible as a moral justification for their intolerance of gays, most frequently quoting Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; such a thing is an abomination.”

But you might want to be little cautious in taking the Good Book too literally. In a conversation with a radio talk show host who had referenced Leviticus 18:22 when calling homosexuality an abomination, Josiah Bartlet, President of the United States in the NBC series “West Wing,” responded:

“I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another? My Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?”

Anti-gay behavior may be considered the last socially acceptable form of bigotry by some in this country. But history marches on. And the natural impulse toward greater individual freedom and full rights for all will not long be denied. We have seen the advances in black civil rights and women’s rights. And in the not-too-distant future, we will look back on the discriminatory laws condemning certain sexual acts, the laws restricting gay marriage, the laws intended to prohibit gay couples from adopting children, the laws blocking committed gay and lesbian couples from all of the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, and wonder how in the hell we allowed such bias and injustice to exist in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
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