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Methinks the Homophobe Doth Protest Too Much

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Homophobes are in a tizzy again because Wal-mart is catering to gay customers. And in California, homophobic Republicans were jumping through the roof because Democrats wanted gay couples to be able to file joint state tax returns. This would gave aid and comfort, the homophobes said, to 'sexual deviants'.

There needs to be more public awareness that this sort of reaction is a pretty sure sign that the homophobe's own homosexual urges are unusually strong, and that the poor devil is having a lot of trouble trying to keep them down. Men and women who are comfortably heterosexual aren't obsessed with stamping out homosexuality. Normal, non-neurotic people don't care what other people do in the privacy of their own homes. Normal heterosexual men don't spend their Saturday nights hanging around gay bars to beat up gays--they're out with women. It is by no means coincidental that so many homophobes are also misogynists.

A 1996 research study exposed two groups of men--one homophobic, the other tolerant--to sexually explicit heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videos, and while both groups got erections in response to the heterosexual and lesbian videos, only the homophobic men were aroused by the male homosexual ones--confirmation of the suspicion that homophobes are protesting too much.

Human beings are very complex creatures. Yet for some reason we seem to like maintaining simple, one-sided images of ourselves. We carry these absurdly limited self-images about and trot them out to foist on others, like travel photos.

Just as Bush claimed the "American people" had given him a mandate when 48% of the population voted against him, so we ourselves carry within us large "minorities" that we often tend not to acknowledge.

Biographers used to excite themselves over "contradictions" in their subjects' personalities. Literary critics excited themselves over the "contradictions" in fictional characters. Anthropologists excited themselves over the "contradictions" in faraway cultures. But to be human is to be everything that humans are. Everything that anyone has ever done is part of being human, and all that capability is within each of us. Each of us contains a multitude, which we too often try desperately to cram into the appearance of a single lopsided stereotype.

People whose "majority" traits enjoy a comfortable dominance tend to be tolerant of their "minority" traits--both in themselves and in others. It's those whose "minorities" are so strong they threaten to become majorities that tend to become bigots, ideologues, fanatics, fundamentalists.

During the Vietnam War some American soldiers shot and killed Vietnamese men simply for holding hands, as friends there commonly do. Why were they so threatened? Men whose internal homosexual "minorities" are small don't have to be this extreme. .

Sometimes, after years of repression, these large inner "minorities" get the upper hand. The homophobe comes out and becomes a gay rights activist, the rigid Communist becomes a rigid anti-Communist, the ardent atheist becomes an ardent believer. Conversion happens when the inner "minority" becomes too strong to contain.

And, of course, the containing is what makes it so strong. An acknowledged minority trait is stable, but when a minority trait is rigidly repressed it tends to grow in strength, like the heat in a pressure cooker. The individual becomes angry, fanatical, and humorless with the effort to squelch this internal rebellion.

One reason people pretend to be one-dimensional is that all cultures, all societies, all religions, tend to encourage some human traits and disparage others. In order to survive, for example, a hunter-gatherer band needs to encourage cooperative tendencies and discourage competitive ones, while a militaristic society needs to encourage aggression and obedience and discourage empathy and independence.

These cultural emphases are sometimes necessary, but when taken too literally cause untold misery for both those who don't recognize their own "minority" and those they attack for expressing it.