Does Laughing at Closeted Anti-Gay Politicians Actually Reinforce Homophobia?
There are several studies that reinforcing the idea that all homophobes secretly harbor same-sex attractions. But The Daily Beast’s Samantha Allen thinks the media’s endless fascination with stories of anti-gay politicians getting caught in gay sex scandals — like Ohio legislator Wes Goodman, most recently — actually reinforces a dangerous notion that makes it okay to mock gay people and ignores the other anti-gay legislators who aren’t gay in the least.
Several studies reinforce the “anti-gay politicians are gay” narrative
A 1996 study from the Journal of Abnormal Psychology found that homophobic heterosexual men were most sexually aroused by gay male porn than non-homophobic hetero men.
A 2012 study of 785 college students published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that “self-described highly straight individuals” who “indicated some level of same-sex attraction” were significantly more likely than others to “express greater implicit hostility toward gay subjects” including supporting anti-gay policies.
A 2017 study published in the journal Sex Roles said that men who felt insecure about their masculinity were more likely to make homophobic and sexist jokes to appear more manly.
So it’s hardly surprising when the most vocal anti-LGBTQ politicians end up being caught in gay sex scandals themselves.
How laughing at closeted anti-gay politicians might reinforce homophobia
“The ‘secretly gay homophobe’ theory is far from being a complete explanation of anti-LGBT prejudice in American politics,” Allen writes.
She quotes lesbian comedian Cameron Esposito who tweeted:
“‘Pence is secretly gay.’ Well, I don’t know but much more importantly: Pence is un-secretly an asshole who patrols other’s lives. ‘Homophobe Caught Having Gay Sex’ is a more interesting headline than ‘Queer Person Repeatedly Misunderstood & Targeted by Straight World.'”
Dislike "homophobic bigots are secretly gay" concept b/c
1. Sexuality is a spectrum
2. Puts blame for homophobia back on queer community
— Cameron Esposito (@cameronesposito) November 16, 2016
Allen also cites queer writer Lindsay King-Miller who believes that making fun of closet cases “reinforces homophobia” and “underscores the idea that being gay is shameful and should be hidden.”
Allen thinks that comedy sketches portraying homophobic legislators as gay — the likes of which Saturday Night Live has provided throughout Trump’s presidency — provide “a release valve for society’s lingering casual homophobia,” creating “a context in which it’s safe for liberals to laugh at homosexuality.”
The worry is that if we spend our time attacking homophobic closet cases, it takes the focus off of other everyday anti-LGBTQ politicians while reinforcing the idea that closeted homosexuality is a sort of self-loathing villainy. In actuality, there are lots of closeted people who aren’t anti-gay and lots of anti-gay people who aren’t closet homosexuals.
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