Notes on Internal Homophobia (from friday 4th july f2b)

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Joined in 2008
July 8, 2008, 14:51

hey people… was asked to chuck up my notes on internal homophobia from friday night. They’re just my own notes to myself for the talk, so nothing formal or proper, but its a really interesting topic, with a quite a bit of research on it in the psych literature. anyway, here it is…

First things first… just to define homophobia… homophobia does not necessarily mean an extreme fear or phobic response to homosexuality, rather, it is generally referred to as a set of negative attitudes and beliefs about homosexuality. They’re actually trying to change the term to “homonegativism” or “heterosexism”

Definition of internal homophobia?

Internal homophobia is therefore defined as…

“A gay person’s own negative perceptions of same-sex attracted people or sex same relationships” (McLaren).

“Inner fears of being gay and not being willing to be identified as such…” Joseph Pearson extends on this definition and suggests that “its alright ok to not want to suffer the emotional pain from rejection, victimisation, harassment and persecution because of one’s sexual orientation, however it is NOT alright to wish to not be homosexual when on is.” He then goes on to say, ‘in fact we should celebrate that our sexual orientation contributes to our uniqueness’, and he then quotes the famous scripture:

“ for you created me in my inmost being, you knit me together in my mothers womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”

How does Internal homophobia develop?

First and foremost it seems that external homophobia is a big reason for internal homophobia… if there was no stigma or prejudice in the general community would there be such a thing as internal homophobia?

An area of research suggests that internal homophobia may develop as a form of “minority stress” – which simply refers to the anxiety and emotions related to being a minority group within a community…. Again this makes logical sense, and for me this hits home… I grew up in a healthy, fairly wealthy, Caucasian family, who love me heaps, and so until I came to terms with the fact that I was gay, I had never been in a minority group or experienced any kind of group-based prejudice… and so identifying myself as a homosexuality carried with it the injustice and stress related to a being in a minority group. And so it is suggested that these stresses can very much contribute to the development of internally homophobic attitudes.

It has been reported that close to around half of Australians believe homosexuality is wrong, and thus it is clear that as gay men in Australian, we live in a society that condemns our sexuality, and this is suggested to be a significant contributor to internalised homophobia. Now, that is just society in general, let alone coming from a Christian environment, where that percentage SEEMS to be at about 100% of people (little exposure to alternative views), so it would be no surprise that internal homophobia is extremely present among those from Christian backgrounds.

Im sure you’ve heard that rumour about really homophobic people are most likely to be gay themselves… well perhaps this isn’t all that far from the truth… psychologists have suggested that stigmatised individuals will engage in defensive reactions as a result of their experience of prejudice, and will use defence mechanisms to reduce emotional harm, and one of these mechanism is internalisation and projection of the prejudiced attitudes, and this is most common and likely in early developmental stages (ie teenage years).

– it makes logical sense too… no one in their right mind likes to be discriminated against or to suffer prejudiced attitudes towards them, and so if this is happening, one clear way to alleviate this distress is to jump on the bandwagon of the “discrimatOR” and adopt homophobic/prejudiced attitudes yourself.

– I used to be one of those Christians that prayed for rain on the mardi gras weekend….. apologies to those that marched and got wet.

DISCUSSION POINT…. These a just a few that I have pulled out of the literature… what other reason/factors could be contributing to the development of internal homophobia.

– Crap homosexual role models (Lloyd and AVB and F2B have been a great role model for me – and thus have alleviated some of my internal homophobia)

– Sexual abuse

– Others?

How can it be identified and measured?

As you probably read in AVBs email or on the facebook site, Joseph Pearson had a internal homophobia quiz, with which if you answered yes to any of the questions than its probable that you are, at least to some degree, harbouring homophobic attitudes.

These questions of that quiz were:

– Do you think its better when gays and lesbians are more “straight acting” because men should be men and women should be women?

– Do you cringe when a gay or lesbian character is shown on TV or in a movie?

– Do you wish you were not gay or lesbian?

– Do you pretend that you are straight?

– Do you only desire to have shared sexual experiences with other of the same sex and not shared companionship?

– Are you afraid that others will reject you if they find out that you are gay or lesbian?

– Do you purposefully refrain from speaking with a gay or lesbian person in a work setting or public place, because others might think you are gay?

– Do you have indiscriminate sex?

I also stumbled across an internal homophobia scale in the psych study… A bunch of researchers (Ross and Rosser, 1996) conducted a study with homosexual males, and found 4 distinct subscales of internal homophobia through their questionnaire… [see below]…

Factor 1: Public identification as gay

I am not worried about anyone finding out that I am gay

I feel comfortable discussing homosexuality in a public setting

Even if I could change my sexual orientation, I wouldn’t

It is important to me to control who knows about my homosexuality

I feel comfortable about being homosexual

I feel comfortable about being seen in public with an obviously gay person

I would prefer to be more heterosexual

I don’t like thinking about my homosexuality

Obviously effeminate homosexual men make me feel uncomfortable

It would not be easier in life to be heterosexual

Factor 2: Perception of stigma associated with being gay

I worry about becoming old and gay

I worry about becoming unattractive

Society still punishes people for being gay

Most people have negative reactions to homosexuality

Discrimination against gay people is still common

Most people don’t discriminate against homosexuals

Factor 3: Social comfort with gay men

I feel comfortable in gay bars

Most of my friends are homosexual

I do not feel confident about making an advance to another man

When I think about other homosexual men, I think of negative situations

Social situations with gay men make me feel uncomfortable

I prefer to have anonymous sexual partners

Factor 4: Moral and Religious Acceptability of being gayHomosexualtiy is not against the will of God

Homosexuality is morally acceptable

Homosexuality is as natural as heterosexuality

I object if any anti-gay joke is told in my presence

Implications of internal homophobia

Internal homophobia has been seen as the most important barrier to the adoption of a positive homosexual identity.

There is also evidence that internalised homophobia is also related to:

– Higher rates of Depression

– Loneliness and sense of social isolation

– Increase anxiety and stress-related disorders

– Increased substance abuse

– Self-harming behaviours

– Eating disorders

– Increased suicidal tendencies and prevalence

– Can also increase risk of HIV infection

The logic behind this is that internally homophobic gay people are less affiliated with the gay community, and may therefore have less access to safer sex information and resources. They may also develop hypersexual behaviours, due to a fear or discomfort of a relationship, ie higher promiscuity. Also, increased substance abuse leads to poor decision making.

– Can act as a barrier to sense of belonging – Maslows hierarch highlights the importance of “belonging”; and so to think that IH acts a barrier to this, than clearly its something that needs to be addressed.

‘sense of belonging’ has been proposed as a basic human need, necessary for psychological well-being, and those who report diminished sense of belonging are also more likely to report higher levels of anxiety disorders, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

On this note of sense of belonging… research has also shown that peer, romantic and community relationships appear to be more important for homosexual or bisexual individuals, which in my opinion further highlights the fact that for homosexuals this need is not properly met.

Other psychological characteristics associated with internal homophobia are:

– lower self-acceptance

– decreased ability/want to self-disclose to others

– low self-esteem

– self hatred

– self doubt

– belief in one’s inferiority (self-confirming external homophobia)

– self-imposed limits of one’s aspirations (WOW) – stifled vision for the future!

Another finding is that internal homophobia, especially in teenage years, can apparently increase reliance upon the family unit, which in turn makes it difficult to separate oneself and develop a health independent identity.

AGAIN this hits home massively…. I have become increasingly reliant upon my family for a sense of worth… and it has stifled formation of my independent identity.

How can IH be changed/reduced?

Does coming out guarantee that internal homophobia will disappear?


In my experience, and from the literature… NO it doesn’t. But it does help!

Studies suggest that people often try to ESCAPE their internal homophobia rather than deal with it… and it is suggested that these escape behaviours/attempts can lead to a range of negative implications such as:

– hypersexual behaviour (ie HIV risk)

– anonymous sexual behaviours (ie HIV risk)

– avoidance of relationships

– avoidance of intimacy

– and substance abuse

[this has ME written all over it – im an escapee!]


What are some preventative measures that could be taken in each of the 4 subscales? What are ways the IH could be reduced/erased in each of the 4 subscales?

Joined in 2007
July 8, 2008, 19:09

Ah I have so much to say but I seem to remember some comment about my posts being tempered of late and I supose there is no need to ruin that by letting this discussion push both my “homosexual as an idenity” and “idiotic defintions of homophobia” buttons. 😆 😆

Anyway great discussion topic, thanks for the notes Luke.

Joined in 2008
July 8, 2008, 21:29


what do you mean “idiot definitions of homophobia” and about “homosexuality as an identity”?

Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
July 8, 2008, 21:47

thanks Luke….this is great.

I wonder if you can explain the Ross and Rosser research and the scale of the different factors. Im not sure I quite get it.

Did they ask the question

eg I am not worried about anyone finding out that I am gay

……and then respondents could tick options such as

1. Strongly agree

2. Agree

3. Ambivalent

4. Disagree

5. Strongly disagree

Joined in 2007
July 8, 2008, 22:17

This is almost like reading ‘The Velvet Rage’ for the second time in a day, lol. Thanks Luke, good stuff.

Sandy, re: the definition of homophobia. Have you got another term for what we’re talking about? I get that the original meaning of ‘phobia’ is for something quite different… but words do change their meaning and Luke is using the word ‘homophobia’ in the way that it is generally used today. One could start discussing the history of the word ‘gay’ right about now… 😉

Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
July 8, 2008, 23:05

its a bit like that isn’t Orfeo…..or maybe more focused.

as luke says in the article homophobia is not really a clear term defining what we are talking about but as you say its the one that is most commonly used. I’ve often wondered if we could invent a word like homogynist likening it to misogynist, …..sounds to close to a process for milk though lol:

Good idea to stick to the topic and not get sidetracked into the pedantics of language I think. 😀 :

Joined in 2007
July 8, 2008, 23:29

the definition of homophobia. Have you got another term for what we’re talking about? I get that the original meaning of ‘phobia’ is for something quite different… but words do change their meaning and Luke is using the word ‘homophobia’ in the way that it is generally used today. One could start discussing the history of the word ‘gay’ right about now…

Agreed except there has been documented cases of homophobia in its literal sense i.e. intense fear and avoidance. It is how the term was coined in the first place. So people use a word that has to different but very similar meanings. Homophobia is, for all intents and purposes a medical, psychological condition. The word does need to be changed if it is to be used in the more contemporary, broader sense. I could be labeled both outwardly and inwardly homophobic given half the chance and to me its a contradiction in terms.

The gay thing is different because the literal meaning (happy) and the adopted meaning (homosexual) are not the least bit similar. Same with other slang terms like sick, cool, mad etc. I have no problem with people claiming others have prejudices or convictions around homosexuality whether in relation to themselves or others, but it simply isn’t homophobia. The word has been adopted largly because its both negativly loaded and easily reciognisable. We all know that homo means same sex. It’s more of a techinal anoyance really… I read too much academica 😉 If I were reading a published manuscript (a book for example) that talked about homophobia I would expect it to mean the medical condition it is. The literal term and the slang term get confused often as they can both apply to individuals and are so closely related in subject matter. Again, not so with other slang terms. A new word needs to be coined if you are going to talk about prejudice against homosexuals… or really, you could just call it prejudice against homosexuals… it works for me.

what do you mean “idiot definitions of homophobia” and about “homosexuality as an identity

I’m realising (again) that I probably should have just kept my mouth shut, I seem to be confusing people and for that you have my appoligies. Hopefully I have outlined the former above, but as to the latter “homosexuality as an identity” *shrugs* really its just a conservative Christian thing, so maybe its not safe to go there at all. If it really bugs you PM me and I’ll explain but Anthony might slap me if I launch into conservative theoretics again. 😆 😆

However take this for example, McLaren defines homophobia as:

A gay person’s own negative perceptions of same-sex attracted people or sex same relationships

Oh please! Everytime a straight guy claimed he didn’t want to be “tied down” in a marriage (a negative perception of a heterosexual relationship) or a woman is called a slut for sleeping with many men (a negative perception of a heterosexual person) we would hardly call it heterophobia would we? I don’t know one person who doesn’t have at least one negative perception of same sex people or relationships to some degree. Every time someone makes the distinction between the gay scene and the gay comunity a negative perception is coming into play (i.e. that the gay scene is intrinsically negative in comparison to the more positive gay community). Under this definition every person is homophobic making the definition completly moot.

This kind of thinking breeds the idea that if you have any kind of a negative opinion about or towards homosexuality for whatever reason then you are homophobic. It anoyes me because it is these definitions that are picked up my the media and used in universities to subdue other perspectives, ligitimised of course because they are written by some academic in a text book.

Anyway enough from me.

Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
July 8, 2008, 23:45

Luke’s use of Maslow’s hierarchy was quite insightful about if there is no sense of belonging then it is often difficult for people to move up into self esteem. Almost like its a barrier. I’d never thought of it that way before. A number commented on the night that this was true for them in their journey.

Reading through Luke’s notes again this afternoon, I saw something that I didn’t see Friday night. that is ……the separation between sexuality and identity.

I know of quite a number that have accepted their sexuality……..but don’t want to publicly acknowledge they are gay or lesbian. Whilst that could be for a number of reasons. The one that seems to be common amongst the people I work with at least…….is a pervading internal, subconscious dislike or hatred of self.

Joined in 2008
July 9, 2008, 10:24

hey avb, yeah i couldnt seem to get the maslows diagram in here, but yeah i too found it interesting to think of it in that way. i had never considered “sense of belonging” as a basic human need, but the more i think about it the more it seems obvious that it is and should be!

as for you questions about the Ross and Rosser article…

they developed a scale to measure IH (ie a questionnaire) with a whole range of questions which they plucked from previous theoretical and clinical research. Then, they got a group of homosexual males (202 in total) to complete the questionnaire. Based on their responses they did a factor analysis (which is a statistical process which searches for groups of data that seem to be related) on the men’s responses, and the data spat out those 4 “groups” of ‘related’ data. From here, the pretty much concluded that those 4 groups can be considered subscales of internalised homophobia. make sense?

Also, the paper doesnt give an example of the response format, but yes as you suggested it would most likely be a likert scale of some form, probably such as “strongly agree” “Agree” “neutral” “disagree” or “strongly disagree”, and there would be different weightings/scores for each response. There are some items that would need to be reverse-scored too, such as the last question under the first subscale (because for that Q a strongly disagree answer would be the most “internally homophobic” response).

hope that answers your questions.

Anthony Venn-Brown
Joined in 2005
July 9, 2008, 13:45

thanks….that helps.

When Phill upgrades our forum we may have featrues for PDF articles, pics and diagrams…….wow….wont that be fun. 😆 😆 😆

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