Saturday, June 27, 2015

Homophobia: An Analysis from the Gender Role Protection Theory

Yesterday we started our family vacation, which involved driving about 500 miles. Since I spent the whole day in the car, I missed the news that our Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges, which extended the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause to homosexual marriage. As a long-time supporter of gay rights, this came as exciting news. I'm celebrating by enjoying a nice continental breakfast in a small slightly-redneck-ish town in Northern California. By coincidence, I'm preparing to officiate my niece's wedding.

Anyway, a quick perusal of my Facebook news feed reveals the expected dichotomy of opinion - many people celebrating wildly; a few others bitching about judicial activism and predicting the end of the world as we know it. That last sentiment is interesting. Until recently, I never really understood the visceral disdain some people have for all things gay, especially from people that supposedly support the idea of individual liberty. Even the religious argument doesn't make a lot of sense considering the ultra-religious don't really get their panties in a bunch over other crimes against the Bible to the point where they protest. Why would anyone give a fuck about complete strangers getting married? It made no sense to me... until I stared playing around with the reasons we have gender roles.

Before I get into the explanation, read the explanation of my Gender Role Protection theory and my analysis of liberal and conservative beliefs first. They're short; it won't take much time. It will properly frame the ideas. Otherwise, it'll make little sense. 

It's okay, I'm not going anywhere.

Got it?

Okay, let's get to work. Homophobia has long been an issue that interested me, mostly because a bias against an entire segment of the population based entirely on who they're attracted to seems arbitrary and pointless. Yet homophobia still persist.


My hypothesis provides a pretty simple answer. At the heart of it, homophobia isn't about hate. It's about vulnerability. I've noticed a weird phenomenon. Pretty much without exception, my conservative friends have strong anti-gay attitudes. Until, that is, they get to know one or more masculine gay males. If they only knew gay males that had an effeminate personality, the bias persisted.

That's when I connected the dots. Effeminate males are assumed to exhibit feminine traits. Remember my chart from the last two posts? Femininity is the protected group, not the protector group. That's important because it brings another weird Sheepdog behavior (usually but not exclusively found in males): Sheepdogs are always evaluating others to determine if they have the chops to protect the herd. That's the same motivation behind hazing behaviors and rites of passage - they're tests for physical, psychological, and emotional fitness.

This is absolutely necessary because the sheepdog has to know the fellow sheepdogs has their back. When you're going to war, mutual protection is absolutely necessary. That's a fundamental aspect of playing the protector role. This effect is mostly a male construct because there are more masculine men than masculine women, which is a result of evolution. Men, on average, are more physically suited for violence.

We know conservatives, by definition, play the protector role within our society. As such, conservatives are the group that evaluates others for their fitness as protectors. If a conservative views gay men as effeminate, they assume (probably correctly) that they're going to make poor protectors. This is one of the reasons I think the "Will and Grace" stereotype that all gay men are effeminate was done more damage than good. Anyone that knows more than a handful of gay men knows this is nothing more than a stereotype. In fact, masculine and feminine traits seem to occur in the homosexual male population at pretty much the same rate as the heterosexual population. 

This is why conservatives getting to know masculine gay men tends to shatter the homophobia. Through personal experience, they recognize the effeminate gay male stereotype is just that - a stereotype. It's as if the conservative Sheepdog suddenly thinks "Wow, I've been wrong about these gays all along! I can totally rely on this masculine gay dude when we're protecting the tribe!"

Just like that, the homophobia disappears. Maybe all we need to do is start getting people to understand the homosexual population is no different than the heterosexual population.

So it doesn't quite work like that with all conservatives, but I've witnessed this very thing enough to at least consider this as one potential cause of homophobia. Some religions complicate matters, and this says nothing about the Sheep that may harbor homophobic attitudes, but it's a start. And sometimes that's all that's needed. While yesterday's Supreme Court decision was a huge victory for personal liberty, it also opened the door for an eventual (and more emotional) showdown between the Fourteenth Amendment-protected rights for gay marriage and the First Amendment-protected right of religious liberty. It's in our best interest to investigate the actual causes of homophobia. Until we really understand the construct, any attempt at reconciling the differences between these two groups will fail miserably. And that hurts all of us. 


1 comment:

  1. There are a few other issues at stake; 1) that a man may have been sexually molested in his childhood, 2) sexually harassed as a young man, and 3) and this is the most common with the loudest homophobes -- that the guy himself is secretly gay or bisexual, and his homophobia is an outward expression of self-loathing.