Causes of Homophobia and Hate Crimes
Voting to allow discrimination against homosexual people in employment and the right to marry, calling a lesbian a dyke to insult her, and murdering a gay man may seem unrelated, but they have some key elements in common. First, they reflect at the most fundamental level humankind’s poor record of accepting and valuing differences among people. The lack of acceptance of racial, religious, and ethnic differences has fueled vicious, inhuman events such as ethnic cleansing, the Holocaust, and the Inquisition. The many religions that define homosexuality negatively also predispose groups and individuals to assume the same view (Negy & Eisenman, 2005).
Second, homophobia and hate crimes are usually related to traditional gender-role identification: Individuals who hold traditional gender-role stereotypes tend to have more negative feelings about homosexuality than do others (Merek & Gonzalez-Rivera, 2006; Morrison & Morrison, 2011). Furthermore, men typically have more negative attitudes toward homosexuality than do women—reflecting, perhaps, the more rigid gender-role parameters for boys and men compared with girls and women in our culture (Herek & Capitanio, 1999; Kite & Whitley, 1998b). Lesbians do not evoke as negative feelings in heterosexual men as gay men do (Mahaffey et al., 2005). This may be, in part,
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Public awareness of hate crimes against gays rose sharply after the 1998 death of Matthew Shepard. Shepard was an openly gay, 21-year – old University of Wyoming student who hoped for a career in diplomacy and human rights. After two 21-year – old high school dropouts pistol – whipped Shepard, crushing his skull, they tied him to a fence outside town and left him to die. Most people were horrified by this crime; 700 mourners came to his funeral. But outside the church, other people carried signs with such messages as "No tears for queers" and "No fags in heaven."
because heterosexual men do not feel uncomfortable about their sexual feelings toward women in general.
Homophobia can have an especially significant effect on the depth of intimacy in male friendships. Men’s fear of same-sex attraction often keeps them from allowing themselves the emotional vulnerability required for deep friendship, thus limiting their relationships largely to competition and "buddyship." Conformity to stereotypic masculine norms and disdain for homosexuality are even correlated with reduced academic motivation in males (Kahn et al., 2011).
Researchers have found that most perpetrators of antigay hate crimes—only males, to date—claim that homosexuality’s violation of male gender norms is the primary motivation for their violence. Perpetrators, often acting in pairs or in larger groups, try to reassure themselves and their friends of their "masculinity" by assaulting a man who has stepped outside the rigid boundaries of male gender roles. The same motivation makes transgendered individuals frequent targets of violence. Increased collaboration for social change between transgendered individuals and groups and gay rights organizations evolved, in part, from understanding the importance of gender diversity (Coleman, 1999).
Another element involved in homophobia and hate crimes may be an attempt to deny or suppress homosexual feelings in oneself. Uncomfortable with his or her own sexuality, the homophobic person focuses on what is "wrong" with the sexuality of other people. However, research studies on the correlation between antigay bias and hidden attraction to men have yielded inconsistent findings (Mahaffey et al., 2011).
Some of the most virulent antigay rhetoric has come from deeply closeted men in positions of religious leadership. For example, the Reverend Ted Haggard promoted antigay sentiments and policy as president of the 30-million-member National Association of Evangelicals and senior pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A regular consultant to former President George W. Bush, the married father of five children admitted in 2006 to participating in "sexually immoral conduct" and left both leadership positions after a man claimed that Haggard had paid him for sex nearly every month for 3 years (Dokoupil, 2009; Signorile, 2009a). The Reverend Steven Baines, an elder in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), explains this dynamic: "[W]hen religion is used to bring repression and darkness rather than liberation and light, it is toxic to both leaders and followers" (Baines, 2006, p. 2).