Is homophobia a diagnosable psychological condition?
Mary H. Guindon, PhD, Chair of the Department of Counseling and Human Services at Johns Hopkins University, et al., wrote in a Apr. 2003 article, "Intolerance and Psychopathology: Toward a General Diagnosis for Racism, Sexism and Homophobia," published by the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry that:
"[W]e explore the characteristics of persons who perpetrate pain and injustice on others through racism, sexism, or homophobia. We propose that those who engage in such harmful behaviors are in fact displaying a type of psychopathology that deserves its own particular category... In other words, behind racism, sexism, and homophobia, there seems to be a common core of intolerance that supports and contributes to these attitudes or mindsets in their various manifestations. The traits associated with this form of intolerance, when taken as a whole, seem to be descriptive of a personality disorder.
This is a disorder that deserves full acknowledgment as a psychological problem unto itself. It is not enough to merely note the harm or lament the damage. Researchers and therapists need to develop treatment approaches that have the capacity to alleviate it."
Shama B. Chaiken, PhD, Divisional Chief Psychologist for the California Department of Corrections, was quoted as having made the following statements in the Dec. 10, 2005 Washington Post article titled "Psychiatry Ponders Whether Extreme Bias Can Be an Illness:"
"We treat racism and homophobia as delusional disorders... Treatment with antipsychotics does work to reduce these prejudices."
Elaine C. Spaulding, PhD, faculty member of Walden University, wrote the following information in her article "Unconsciousness - Raising: Hidden Dimensions of Heterosexism in Theory and Practice with Lesbians" published in the 1999 book Lesbians and Lesbian Families, and edited by Joan Laird:
"Homophobia is a psychological event not analogous to sexism and racism, which are organized sociocultural phenomena. Homophobia can also be viewed as a psychological condition arising as the anticipated result of an unconscious social process, namely, the prolonged, successful, and systematic effort to exclude homosexuals from access to scarce or valued economic and social resources, including that of self-esteem."
Martin J. Kantor, MD, author specializing in psychology and gay men's issues, wrote the following information in his 1998 book Homophobia: Description, Development, and Dynamics of Gay Bashing:
"[T]here are aspects of homophobia that are symptomatic, which closely resemble aspects of emotional disorders, so that homophobia is in many ways as much like a mental illness as some homophobics say homosexuality is like one. For example, many homophobes reason like patients with paranoia... Too, homophobes feel that gays and lesbians are out to seduce them like paranoids feel that enemies are singling them out and persecuting them. And like these paranoids, homophobes stay perfectly calm and unflustered until their 'favorite subject' comes up - persecution in the case of paranoids, homosexuality in the case of homophobes, at which time all concerned become equally overwrought, hysterical, panicky, and defensive...
Many homophobes experience the same feelings of weltuntergang (delusion of world decay) that severe depressives and schizophrenics experience, with all concerned suffering from the false belief... that the world... is 'going to hell in a hand basket,' and all because of what gays and lesbians do in bed, or because gays and lesbians want to get married legally."
Jeffrey M. Lohr, PhD, Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arkansas, in a June 7, 2002 interview with the University of Arkansas, published by the Washington Blade, talked about his research to determine whether or not homophobia qualifies as a mental disorder:
"If contempt and disgust drive
homophobia, then it seems more of a moral or social problem than a
psychopathological one. If we start to consider negative attitudes
pathological - implying that there's something medically wrong with
prejudiced people, that they're somehow sick with their own attitudes -
that seems to me misguided."
Norman Dean Radican, Special Adviser for Gay and Bisexual Men at Royal North Shore Hospital, wrote the following information in his article titled "Homophobia Rules," published by the online organization Manhood.com.au (accessed May 14, 2009):
"Unlike other phobias such as the abnormal fear of spiders, or the extreme fear of crowds, homophobia is not a psychological condition but a socially and institutionally conditioned fear. It is a fear created and cultivated primarily in men, and to a lesser in women, by the society in which we live.
In a patriarchal society, gay and bisexual men could be seen as a threat to the construction and maintenance of the socially accepted 'normal' form of masculinity, being a male. If heterosexual men rule, it becomes important to keep gay and bisexual men in their place, on the lowest rungs of the masculine hierarchy of power. One way of achieving this is to create an extreme, generalized fear and hatred of those men who are different. This hatred is also extended to any men, regardless of their sexuality, who don’t live up to the 'normal' standard."
The Family Research Council, a Christian lobbying organization, published the following information on its website, FRC.org, in its July 3, 2002 article titled "Culture Facts," by Suzanne Chamberlin, et al.:
activists are fond of referring to any disapproval of homosexual
behavior as 'homophobia,' thus implying that opposition to
homosexuality (rather than homosexuality itself) is a mental
illness - one characterized by 'an exaggerated... inexplicable and
illogical fear' of gay people...
New research, however, has shown that in this general-use sense, homophobia does not exist.
'Homophobia is not an actual phobia,'
according to three University of Arkansas psychologists. In a recent
study, these researchers showed that homophobia originates not out of
fear or anxiety - as true phobias do - but from feelings of disgust... [This] suggest[s] a social, attitudinal basis for homophobia rather than
a psychopathological one, as the term itself implies."