According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people who have homophobia may actually be suffering from a repressed desire to explore their own sexuality. They may have grown up in authoritarian households where their parents frowned upon any form of sexual curiosity.
Four separate experiments—each involving an average of 160 college students—were conducted to test the theory. These experiments were designed to determine any discrepancies between what the participants said their sexual orientation was and how they reacted to words and images related to homosexuality.
The students were also asked to answer questions about their experiences growing up. Did they have controlling parents? Would their parents object to them hanging out with gay or lesbian friends? As a way of measuring their level of homophobia, researchers also asked them to complete words after they had been subliminally fed the word "gay" for 35 milliseconds.
Once the test was completed, researchers found that students with supportive parents were more likely to be in touch with their implicit sexual orientation. On the other hand, those with authoritarian parents revealed a larger discrepancy between explicit and implicit desires. Students who said that they were more heterosexual also appeared to show more hostility toward homosexuals.
While the study has certain limitations, the subject brings thought-provoking questions to light. "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," says Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and one of the researchers for the study. "Homophobia is not a laughing matter. It can sometimes have tragic consequences."
(Screencap from Glee courtesy of FOX)