The myth of the violent, self-hating gay homophobe

Science of Us
By Cari Romm
June 16, 2016

In the three days since 29-year-old security guard Omar Mateen killed 49 people at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, reports have begun to emerge that the shooter may have been gay himself. The FBI is now investigating whether he had accounts on Grindr or other gay dating apps, and whether he patronized Pulse in the past, as some have claimed.

Several news outlets, meanwhile, have reported on the possibility that Mateen was driven to violence by his own self-hatred. (“It’s far too early to be definitive,” one law-enforcement official told Reuters, “but we have to consider at least the possibility that he might have sought martyrdom partly to gain absolution for what he believed were his grave sins.”) It’s a notion that one study, at least, seems to support: A buzzy piece of research from 2012 has suggested that homophobia is often the result of a person reacting to their own same-sex attraction. “In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves,” one of the study co-authors said in a statement at the time, “and they are turning this internal conflict outward.”

But overall, the research tends to support the opposite idea. Psychologists have a term for when gay, lesbian, and bisexual people absorb negative ideas about their sexual orientations: It’s called internalized homophobia, and there are a few important things that research has shown about how it works. First, it can cause a raft of mental-health issues, including depression, suicidal tendencies, and problems forming stable relationships. And second, although we don’t know what drove Mateen to do what he did early Sunday morning, we do know that internalized homophobia almost never manifests itself as violence — more often than not, people suffering from internalized homophobia focus their negative feelings inward. An “internal conflict turned outward,” to borrow the phrasing, is far outside the norm.

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Did internalised homophobia spark Orlando nightclub attack?

BBC News, Washington
By Jasmine Taylor-Coleman
June 15, 2016

Reports that Orlando gunman Omar Mateen had been a regular at the gay nightclub he attacked and used gay dating apps have led to speculation that he was motivated by internalised homophobia. But what is it, and could it have anything to do with the worst shooting in recent US history?

Investigators are still trying to establish what led a 29-year-old security guard from Florida to murder 49 people and injure dozens more as they partied in popular gay nightclub Pulse.

They are examining indications Mateen was inspired by radical Islamism, following revelations that he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and the FBI had investigated him twice previously for terror links.

Mateen's father also suggested his son had harboured strong anti-gay views, fuelling many people's belief that the attack was motivated by violent homophobia.

But as more information emerges about the killer's history, a more complicated picture is developing. Witnesses said Mateen had visited the Pulse club as a guest several times over the past three years and interacted with men on gay dating apps. His ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, told CNN it was possible he had hidden feelings about being gay.

It has led experts to question whether the gunman was spurred on - at least in part - by a powerful self-loathing about his own sexuality. Could he have been driven to hate and hurt others because he hated himself?


"It's a really simple concept unfortunately," says Ilan Meyer, a senior scholar for public policy and sexual orientation law at the University of California, Los Angeles. "All members of society are taught about conventions. We learn about stigma and prejudices about certain groups from a very young age.

"So when a person begins to recognise that he or she is gay or lesbian, there is already that negativity."

Messages about homosexuality can come from multiple places, including family, school and the media, experts say.

Intolerance can be covertly communicated, perhaps through slurs or pejorative statements such as "that's so gay", or overtly, such as bullying or anti-gay teachings in religions that do not accept LGBT rights.

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What happens when gay people are told that homosexuality is a sin

By Source, Fair use,
Think Progress
By Zack Ford

In the immediate aftermath of the shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, Christian conservatives known to be anti-LGBT expressed sympathy for the victims and their families, suggesting that radical Islam was wholesale to blame for the attack. Many avoided mentioning that LGBT people were the victims — at least until a few days later, when they began reminding everybody what they truly think about gay people.

“Yes, we can oppose gay marriage and still oppose the slaughter of gays,” Steve Pauwels insisted at BarbWire.

“Yes, Christians do believe homosexual actions are sinful. But we also believe that mass shootings are sinful, and lying is sinful, and gossip is sinful, and so are laziness, torture, theft, rape, dishonesty, abuse,” Mary Tillotson argued at The Federalist. “As a Catholic, I go to confession about once a month to repent, seek mercy, and renew my own commitment to rid myself of sinful behavior. We all sin.”

“It is true that many Christians hold to the Bible’s teaching on the sinfulness of homosexuality and that upsets some gays,” wrote Rick McDaniel at the ChristianPost. “But here is an opportunity to simply receive love and support and it is rebuffed.”

There’s a reason it is rebuffed.

Conservative Christians have long argued that their condemnations of homosexuality are couched in love, complete with the catchy slogan, “love the sinner, hate the sin.” But that message — that homosexuality is a sin — is harmful in and of itself.


Dr. Ilan Meyer, who has long studied the impact of minority stress on the LGBT community at the Williams Institute at UCLA's School of Law, told ThinkProgress that "the message that homosexuality is a sin is not really simple. It is at the core of homophobia." Because it's an explicit tenet instead of just a prejudice, it creates the sense that nobody is really to blame for the harm that belief causes.

"Religious condemnation is internalized by religious LGB people and their families, leading to a sense that the LGB person cannot be accepted and respected — not simply because of personal rejection of a family member — but because it is the Word of God," Meyer said. "That is a high authority that is difficult to argue against." The church community sees the LGB person as a sinner, and thus feels it has permission to disdain the person and ostracize them, including excommunicating them in some traditions.


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T Q&A with Jack Simons


Tucson Weekly
By Natalia Navarro

Jack Simons is a researcher involved in the Tucson branch of the federally funded Generations Study, a long term investigation into the experiences of individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, and bisexual. Simons and collegues have interviewed more than 50 Tucsonans and they are looking for more. Similar interviews are being conducted by Generations Study researchers in San Francisco, New York, and Austin, Texas. Simons also works as a school counselor at Esperero Canyon Middle School.


What is the goal of the study?

I think it is important to know that this is advocacy based research so the aim is to improve policy and also to develop an understanding of how intersections of identity have played into who they are.  Also, we hope to highlight the need for more support within the healthcare field for the sexual minority communities as well. It's really about making systemic changes that will benefit the LGB (lesbian, gay and bisexual) communities.

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Unique study compares health of LGB age groups

The Bay Area Reporter
By Matthew S. Bajko

A unique study enrolling participants in the Bay Area is comparing the health and well-being of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in three distinct age groups.

Researchers involved in the project say it is the first to take a historical approach to examining how different generations of LGBT people have been impacted by both discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity and the advancement of rights won by the LGBT community during their lifetimes.

"No study has been done like this before," said Phillip L. Hammack, an associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Psychology at UC Santa Cruz who is one of the Generations study's seven investigators. "The vast majority of research on LGBT people doesn't take a historical perspective. What I mean is, for example, most research out there focuses on people's experience in the moment."

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