Researchers have been most effective in uncovering the dark side of homophobia. One researcher, who interviewed over 400 men incarcerated for gay-bashing noted that the gay bashers generally saw nothing wrong in what they did, and more often than not, stated that their religious leaders and traditions condoned their behavior. One particular adolescent stated that the pastor of his church had said, “Homosexuals represent the devil, Satan.”
Another study showed that homophobes were more prone to be aroused by gay porn than others. Somewhere, deep inside, those who bash gays are actually lashing out at somethinginside of themselves. As with other marginalized groups, gays become the object of hatred and scapegoating. On a societal level, we purposely encourage hate for those who are deemed different. Killing a gay person, in an unspeakable manner is often considered lessheinous than killing an individual who is heterosexual. The same can be said for other marginalized groups, such as black and brown people, or women, for example. A rape victim “asked for it” by dressing provocatively, or a massacred black man was deemed as reaching for a weapon.
Societies in which gender roles are strictly defined and where a high patriarchal god is worshiped are also often violent societies. We see that example in the US, one of the most “religious” of advanced democracies. We scream in outrage if a breast is exposed on prime time TV, but say nothing to the fact that our children are exposed to thousands of violent images and messages daily. We teach our young boys to hate gays. How many times have you heard one young boy call another a “faggot” or a queer in jest or anger? Boys are taught that emotions are weak, that demonstrating kindness or love is effeminate or weak. Not manly. I once witnessed a man slash another man, horribly disfiguring his face for life, because one called the other a “faggot” in jest.
I used to run a leadership development workshop and when asked to define leadership values, almost no one ever mentioned nurturing as a valuable leadership asset. Nurturing, relating, bonding, empathizing — these are all deemed womanly (and therefore weak) qualities, not qualities that strong leaders possess (of, course, this isn’t true at all). I’ve heard grown men tell their daughters that they would prefer a whore as a daughter than a lesbian.
Much of physical and psychological violence and hatred is rooted in religious fundamentalism and the social construction of rigid gender roles. The man who allegedly confessed to the hate crime of beheading a gay man in Puerto Rico said he became enraged when he realized the individual he thought was a woman, was a man dressed in women’s clothing. He had picked him up at an area known for prostitution and he freaked when he realized the object of his lust was a homosexual. As I heard this, I realized that this man was attacking something he couldn’t face inside himself. The tragedy being that the gay man dressed in women’s clothing died simply because everything his killer feared was projected onto him. How else do you explain the decapitation if not as some warped, deep-seated, repressed sense of self-loathing?
Hatred is an extreme form of anger but also a form of deep connection. The teachings of the path I follow take anger very seriously, because anger causes so much suffering. I see hate as being rooted primarily in fear. Fear being a powerful core emotion.
When anger is acted out and results in violence, the damage is obvious. Some years ago, I came across the words of the Cambodian monk, Maha Ghosananda, who observed, “When this defilement of anger really gets strong, it has no sense of good or evil, right or wrong, of husbands, wives, children. It can even drink human blood.” This was a tragic comment upon a bloody civil war that had torn Cambodia apart and literally killed almost everyone he knew.
An angry mind is a suffering mind. An angry mind is agitated and unyielding, constricted and narrow in its thinking. Judgment and perspective cannot exist in such an environment. All sense disappears. One feels restless and driven. Nothing is satisfying, everything is tense. What happens during anger is that as the sense of self increases, so does the sense of the other. A major reason anger is so very painful is that it instantly creates a sharp distinction between self and other. An imaginary line is drawn that cannot be passed. For example, if I make the statement, “A homosexual is the devil,” I am drawing a line as well as dehumanizing the object of my fear and wrath.
There is an intoxicating effect to anger along with a strong feeling of self-righteousness. Thoughts rooted in justification take over: “He was dressed as a woman. He was not a real man. He was a freak!” This, combined with feelings of defiance and rectitude (“I am right!”), creates the killing ground for mindless hate and fear. Underlying the delusional intoxication of anger is the pain of a mind so narrowly constricted that it closes itself off from human all connection.
Anger is like a poison in the mind. It generates an unhealthy cycle of cause and effect. Every thought, word, or act has an angry after-effect. Like throwing a pebble into a pond, an act or thought sets into motion a series of ripple effects irradiating out in every direction. We are stuck with what we have done, and with the effects that we have caused.
I believe that the majority of harmful patterns of behavior are rooted in unconscious anger, hatred, and fear. On a more subtle level, angry people gossip about others, spread false accusations about others as a way of justifying their angry and fearful state of mind. Existing in an environment of fear, hate, and anger, they lash out at others and create the necessary condition that maintains their bloated egos. I guess the answer is not to respond in anger, but to generate love instead. However, one can also choose to love from afar. We can choose to minimize our contact with harmful and negative influences.
Unfortunately, sometimes there isn’t a choice: you can become an object of hate and violence simply for being you… for being black, Latinx, a woman, or gay. But the evolved response to hatred and fear is not merely punishment, but a human justice that considers all who have been impacted, including the perpetrators of horrific and hateful acts. As with the hundreds that gathered to donate blood for the injured in Orlando, in order to stop the cycle of violence, we have to create a justice that is rooted in love. For, in the words of Cornel West, “Justice is what love looks like in public.” But more on that some other time. For now, we grieve…
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…