Santa Barbara, CA —
A new study proves what a lot of gays and lesbians already suspected: people who are overtly homophobic are often in denial about their own same-sex desires.
"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," University of Essex researcher Netta Weinstein told ScienceDaily.
The study, called "Parental autonomy support and discrepancies between implicit and explicit sexual identities: Dynamics of self-acceptance and defense," examined the results of four other studies in which college students were asked about their own same-sex desires, their parents' attitudes towards homosexuality, and then tested for implicit sexual attraction.
The research documents the role that both parenting and sexual orientation play in the formation of homophobic attitudes and bias. It further shed light on the hypocrisy of anti-gay public figures who are caught engaging in same-sex sexual actions, such as evangelist Ted Haggard.
"In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward," said co-author Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester.
Researchers said they realize that people who are openly living as LGBT often roll their eyes at homophobic "closet cases," but the issues faced by these people are real.
"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," Ryan said. "Homophobia is not a laughing matter. It can sometimes have tragic consequences."
The paper includes four separate experiments, conducted in the United States and Germany, with each study involving an average of 160 college students.
Across all the studies, participants with supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation.
The research study conducted by a team from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex, England, and the University of California in Santa Barbara will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.