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
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?