Can LGBT people be conservatives themselves

The scandal broke out when it became known that the Conservative Republican US Senator Larry Craig apparently tried to find a sex partner in the men's room at Minneapolis Airport in 2007. In doing so, he ran into a police officer. The public could not have cared about the homosexual tendencies that he was therefore said to have been. But Craig, of all people, was known for his fight against gay rights in the United States.

The excitement had been even greater a year earlier when the well-known US evangelical preacher Ted Haggard was whistled off by a callboy with whom he had met secretly for years. Haggard had previously publicly condemned same-sex love in his appearances.

Sometimes those who are particularly fierce against homosexuality are gay themselves. Some, like Craig and Haggard, secretly act out their sexuality. But other homophobic people do not admit their own homosexuality. And that is apparently especially true for people with authoritarian and homophobic parents. This is shown by experiments by psychologists from Great Britain and the USA.

"People who consider themselves straight but feel strongly attracted to the same sex in psychological tests see gays and lesbians as a threat because homosexuals remind them of corresponding tendencies in themselves," explains study leader Netta Weinstein from the UK University of Essex .

Tendencies that they reject because of their socialization.

"In many cases," adds co-author Richard Ryan of the University of Rochester, "these are people who are at war with themselves and who turn internal conflict outward." According to the researchers, this fits in with the fact that people who attack homosexuals often seem to be driven by hatred and feel threatened by people with a different sexual orientation.

"We laugh at the blatant hypocrisy [in cases like Craig and Haggard], but actually, these people themselves are often victims of oppression and feel extremely exaggerated feelings of threat," says Ryan. "Homophobia is no laughing matter." Not only because attempts are made to restrict people's self-determination and freedom. It can also lead to violence against homosexuals - up to and including murder, says Ryan.

Tell-tale associations

The researchers had carried out four studies in the United States and Germany, each with around 160 students. Among other things, they examined the discrepancy between the statements about the sexual preference of the participants and their behavior in a test. The students were briefly shown words and terms on the screen that they should classify into the categories "gay" or "straight" as quickly as possible.

The researchers "shaped" the test subjects during the tests by fading in the terms "I" and "other", but only so briefly that the participants could not consciously perceive them.

On the basis of previous studies, psychologists assume that this has an effect on the speed of reaction, so that it is possible to observe what people unconsciously associate more or less strongly. A quick reaction in connection with "me" and "gay" as well as a slower one when "me" and "hetero" appear together, according to the scientists, indicate an unconscious homosexual orientation.

With the help of questionnaires, the researchers also found out how authoritarian the students had been brought up and what attitude their parents had towards homosexuals. Finally, they tested the level of homophobia of the participants.

in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology They now report that in test subjects with supportive, tolerant parents, the stated sexual orientation was more likely to be confirmed by the experiments. If, on the other hand, the upbringing was shaped by an authoritarian, homophobic father, discrepancies arose here. In addition, those in whom the tests did not confirm the stated heterosexuality particularly often showed a negative or even hostile attitude towards homosexuals.

In a predominantly heterosexual society, it can already be a challenge for homosexuals to accept their own personality, says Weinstein. In strict and homophobic families, however, it can be terrible to belong to a sexual minority. After all, the offspring would run the risk of being rejected by their parents if this were found out.

So some of those affected denied or suppressed this part of their personality. However, if they are confronted with homosexuality - and thus with internally condemned tendencies of their own, they can react with particularly harsh rejection.

The conclusion cannot be proven. But "if you reject a group out of your guts, you should ask yourself: Why?", Urges Ryan. "It is precisely these intense feelings that should serve as a call for self-reflection."

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