And then came the headline that surprised exactly no one and delighted a great many, even as it openly terrified countless thousands across the Deep South, Utah, and Kansas, as well as pretty much the entire GOP. The poor dears.
"Homophobes might be secretly attracted to people of the same sex" is what the headline read. I mean, obviously... I mean, of course you already know what the researchers discovered, you and every conscious human within a 10,000-mile radius who also snickered, rolled her eyes, and then sighed heavily with the obviousness of it all. It is not always the way?
Really, who doesn't already know? Who among us with the slightest acumen toward self-reflection doesn't fully understand that the more you wail against something, the more violently outspoken or hateful you are against this or that perceived indiscretion, sexual proclivity, perversion, deviance, expression, delight, taste sensation, the more certain it is that said deliciousness secretly attracts you, turns you on, and makes you enormously, terrifically scared?
Case after case, priest after priest, GOP senator after megachurch pastor after spittle-flecked Tea Party zealot -- all suddenly caught pants-down in a bathroom stall, in a leather bar, in a gay chat room, on a Grindr hookup app, living out their real and honest selves even as they rail and oppose and thump their Bibles everywhere else. Hypocrisy, thy name is Homophobe.
Which is, essentially, exactly what the study found. One's level of homophobia lies, quite frequently, in direct proportion to one's own brutally closeted desire for homosexual sex. Result: self-denial, self-hatred, wailing and thrashing and Prop 8-ing against an unfair world.
But before we dance and snicker too much, perhaps we should acknowledge that there is more to this study, and the common adage, than meets the jaundiced eye. Behind the humor and the sarcasm, there's a sadness, a brutal truism common to the human melodrama. Shall we have a glance?
It goes something like this: perhaps nasty homophobes are, the study gently suggests, to be empathized with, to be offered a modicum of compassion and understanding, due to the abject tragedy of their ignoble fate. And perhaps this offering is one of the most difficult challenges you can name.
See, in this light, you can say homophobes (and in a similar way racists, sexists, Islamophobes, etc.) have been indoctrinated in the worst possible way. They have been led to their shallow bloodpuddles of misunderstanding by the church, by awful parenting, by violent misrepresentations of God, by shameful media propaganda, bad tattoos, cheap beer, and way, way too much professional sports on weekends. Just a thought.
For most, it probably happened early. Somewhere along the arc of childhood, many anti-everything crusaders were stabbed in the heart with a very narrow idea of how life, love, and sexuality are supposed to look, feel, move. And if, by adulthood, they fail to feel that way -- and more importantly, if one's own desires, deepest longings, and spiritual aches somehow fail to line up with that bogus image (as they almost always do) -- well, someone's gotta pay.
Put another way: hatred is, we all know, a learned experience. Someone teaches you that blacks are scary, Muslims are evil, women are lesser. Someone force-feeds kids the vile falsehood that gay love is an abomination, as opposed to something obvious and common across every species of animal on the planet. I say "force" because kids will never believe it otherwise.
And why would they? ...
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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He recently requested that you please join his Tantric yoga sex cult, discussed how to be outraged in America, and begged, "Oh my God please do not eat this." Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...