Hate gays? Maybe You’re Gay

Have you noticed the paradox that sometimes people who are vocal opponents of gay rights at some point turn out to be gay themselves? Did you hear that the person responsible for the mass shooting at a gay club earlier this week had been a regular visitor of that club and chatted with men via online dating services like Grindr? How to make sense of this paradox?

Six studies done a few years ago by Weinstein et al. (2012) help to understand the paradox. In the studies nearly 800 participants were first asked to rate their sexual orientation. After that an implicit sexual orientation test was done. Implicit association tests have been used in psychological research for years to measure attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. This is done by procedures which ask people to categorize very quickly photo's presented on a computer screen. This article explains how implicit sexual orientation was measured in the Weinstein studies.

The studies identified a category of participants who consciously rated their heterosexuality very high but who showed same-sex attraction in the implicit test procedure. The individuals in this group were more likely to favor anti-gay policies and to show hostility to gays. As it turns out, these individuals were frequently raised by controlling parents who were prejudiced against homosexuals. It seems that the way they were raised made them want to fight the homosexuality not only within themselves but also outside themselves.

The combination with fundamentalist religious beliefs (on a side note, are there any non-religion based moral objections to homosexuality? I can't think of any) can make the situation extra toxic. If the Orlando shooter was indeed gay and thought being gay is evil according to his religion and also believed it was forbidden and impossible to leave his religion, he found himself in an impossible situation. Given that mindset, killing gays and having himself killed almost begins to sound logical. What a tragedy.