Sexuality is such a primal urge, that it manifests its energy in a variety of ways; not only in sexual activity. That energy that is part and parcel of one’s sexuality, especially when feared for all sorts of ostensibly “moral” reasons, or the fear that one’s currently repressed sexual complexities will come to consciousness, can be, and frequently is, directed to the perceived source(s) of anxiety provoked by that threat, an anxiety that the homophobic individual can find to be almost unendurable.
In order to deal with … anxiety, Sigmund Freud believed that defense mechanisms helped shield the ego from the conflicts created by the id [our unconscious, tempestuous, drives], superego [the seat of our conscience], and reality.
One of the major defense mechanisms that one can use to minimize his/her anxiety provoked by that threatening stimulus, in this case of his/her sexual issues and/or repression that is provoked by LGBT people, is “displacement,” whereby the person takes our his/her frustrations and anger and directs them to other people whom he/she views as non-threatening.
In the case of homophobic people, Gay people are the precise threat because they bring to the homophobe’s consciousness his/her sexual issues, largely because of the unfortunate equation that Gay=Sex. So, when vulnerable people are brought face to face with Gay people or the issue of equality for Gay people, that threat can be of enormous proportions triggering an anxiety of enormous proportions.
Rather than seeing Gay people as posing no threat, as the defense mechanism of “displacement” posits, Gay people pose an enormous threat to the sexually vulnerable. Otherwise, why would strident homophobes be so insistent in making a veritable career out of defaming Gay people and doing everything in their power to prevent and/or rescind Gay people’s civil rights?
After all, if one is sexually intact, he/she might just not believe that Gay people deserve equal rights and move on with his/her life; might well be amenable to rational discourse regarding the fact that Gay people are romantically/sexually in love with their partners every bit as much as are heterosexual couples.
However, when one is stridently homophobic, not only does rationality play no part in being able to change their minds, but that person often resorts to irrational rhetoric (“traditional family values,” “for the good of the children,” etc.) to lessen his/her anxiety about his/her own sexuality that is brought to consciousness by the very existence of Gay people.
Hence, it should be no surprise when “evangelical Christians” are loath to condemn Ugandan legislation that would go so far as to imprison and even execute Gay people, and only regrettably do so when embarrassed in the public arena.
Probably, if the truth be known, these “evangelical Christians” are quite sympathetic to the criminalizing of Gay people, and would not be all that offended by their imprisonment and, perhaps, even their execution. That’s how much anxiety in their psyches that is provoked by the very existence of Gay people as the latter provoke the sexual issues that the homophobes have likely repressed for so long.
It must be underscored that sexually healthy people do not obsess or condemn others’ sexuality! Why would they?
There is nothing abnormal or immoral about being Gay! Being Gay doesn’t do anything to hurt heterosexuals or anyone else! Many studies have shown that the specter of pedophilia is far more a heterosexual issue than it is a Gay issue! Children raised with two Gay parents do as well as children raised by two heterosexual parents; likely do better than raised in a single parent household!
So, the fight for LGBT equality must be brought home to the homophobe’s psyche from which it emanates!
We must counter strident homophobia by asking such questions as: What are you so fearful of? Why do you evidence lack of sexual intactness by having to bear false witness against Gay people? What sexual issues are you repressing or suppressing so that you seek to deprive fellow human beings of equal rights based solely on their sexuality?
What I am suggesting is that rather than play “defense” in the fight for LGBT equality, we take the “offense” and question and seek to analyze the emotional/sexual repressions and issues that seemingly coerce strident homophobes to make a veritable career out of irrationally maligning their fellow human beings based solely on their sexuality and gender expression.
Ultimately, the issue of LGBT equality rests in the political-legal arenas, but the strident homophobia that seeks to prevent a constitutionally protected outcome for Gay people rests in the warped psyches of the sexually repressed homophobes who, by their bearing false witness and their resorting to irrational arguments to justify their homophobia, show themselves to have frail, if not warped, psyches worthy of public examination and analysis.
Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. He also published a blog called A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights and the website Radical Christianity.