What is the real root of homophobia

Disturbing roots of homophobia

Those who have an aversion to homosexuals often suffer from mental illness. Psychotic symptoms such as alienation and irrational ideas occur particularly often together with a basic homophobic attitude. This was the result of a study by various Italian universities, published in the "Journal of Sexual Medicine". Even people with so-called immature defense mechanisms, who have not learned to deal with conflicts like adults, are more prone to hating gays and lesbians than established personalities.

The same applies to adults who learned insecure or fearful attachment behavior as children: "This can lead to distrust and fears of other people, including fear of homosexuals," says Emmanuele Jannini, Professor of Sexual Medicine in Rome and one of the study directors.

The researchers looked at what mental health problems coexist with aversion to gays and lesbians. It also showed that depressives and neurotics rarely develop a negative attitude towards same-sex love. The researchers see a great need to research the connections between mental illness and homophobia. They hope that this will give them a new approach in the fight against hatred of gays and lesbians: "These are important aspects for prevention work," says Jannini.

But there are also critical voices. Other researchers warn against associating homophobia too strongly with mental illness or even inferring from it that homophobia is a disease. Because hatred of gays and lesbians is not considered an anxiety disorder in the clinical sense, although the word "phobia" suggests it. Homophobia is assigned to the social phenomenon of “group-related enmity” such as racism, sexism or xenophobia. The view of mental problems can only be a “partial aspect”, thinks Volker Heins, professor at the Institute for Cultural Studies in Essen (KWI): “Anything else would mean that you can treat these people or give them medication.” But that means withdrawing the political confrontation with homophobia. Heins assumes that “great cultural processes” create a hostile climate towards homosexuals. This is shown by the example of Russia, where video bloggers filmed in an experiment how a gay couple was attacked in public: "It is very often political backgrounds that lead to certain forms of sexuality being demonized," explains Heins.

Social psychologist Ulrich Klocke warns against “pathologizing” people who hate same-sex love. "This shifts the phenomenon to a group with which you have nothing to do with yourself," says the researcher at the Humboldt University in Berlin. It is understandable that people who, because of their mental illness, believe that someone else wants something bad for them are also hostile towards groups such as homosexuals. But the main causes of homophobia lie elsewhere: "That has a lot to do with a lack of contact and ignorance," says Klocke. Homophobia is also often associated with rigid gender roles and religious fundamentalism.

Tolerance towards homosexuality is very different in Europe. Liberal countries are also relaxed about lesbians and gays, a US study found. In the Netherlands, for example, only 2.2 percent of the population are considered homophobic, in Denmark it is around seven percent. In Germany, 26.6 percent of citizens have an anti-lesbian and gay-hostile attitude. In Russia, on the other hand, it is 78 percent, in Romania almost 86 and in Lithuania even 87.5 percent of the population.