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Gregory K. Lehne - Homophobia Among Men-Male Role

Gregory K. Lehne - Homophobia Among Men-Male Role -...

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society: The social d.). Chicago: The ~93). The impor- I the in-depth in- lsestudies of male :0-291. dships, women's ~riority of the lat- c male sex role. I believe that it must be elimi- nated for fundamental changes to occur in male and female roles. To support this thesis, I will discuss first whether homophobia reflects an ac- curate perception and understanding of homo- sexuality or whether it is an irrational fear. Then I will examine the social aspects of homophobia and personal characteristics of people who are highly homophobic. Finally, I will explore the social functions of homophobia in maintaining the male sex role, and its effects on society and the individual. Is Homophobia Irrational? Homophobia is irrational because it generally embodies misconceptions and false stereotypes of male homosexuality. These belief systems, or prejudices, are rationalizations supporting ho- mophobia, not causes of homophobia. Levitt and Klassen's 1973 Kinsey Institute study of 3,000 American adults found the following be- liefs about homosexuality to be widespread: ho- mosexuals are afraid of the opposite sex (56% of Homophobia is the irrational fear or intolerance of homosexuality. Although both men and women can be homophobic, homophobia is most often associated with the fear of male ho- mosexuality. Homophobia is not currently classified as a "mental illness" (neither is homo- sexuality), although psychiatrists such as Dr. George Weinberg (1972) have stated,"I would never consider a patient healthy unless he had overcome his prejudice against homosexuality." Homophobia is the threat implicit in "Mat are you, a fag?" If male homosexuality were no more threatening than being left-handed, for example, homophobia would not exist. In many ways, and in all but extreme cases, homophobia is a socially determined prejudice much like sex- ism or racism, rather than a medically recog- nized phobia. Homophobia, as I will show, does not exist in most cases as an isolated trait or prejudice; it is characteristic of individuals who are generally rigid and sexist.Homophobia, with its associated dynamic of fear of being labeled a homosexual,is an underlying motivation in maintaining the [email protected] 1980 by Gregory K. Lehne. Reprinted by per- mission. 237
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238 PART FOUR MEN WITH MEN: FRIENDSHIPS AND FEARS pictures of male nudes, or male homosexual activities (McConaghy, 1967; Turnbull and Brown, 1977). Thus, the evidence shows that homosexual males have no particular aversion to women or heterosexual intercourse, although heterosexual males often do have aversions to male nudes and homosexual activity. Another popular stereotype is that homo- sexual men are similar to women, in appearance and/or psychological functioning. For example, Tavris (1977) reports that 70% of the Psychology Today readership believesthat "homosexual men are not fully masculine." Studies reported by Freedman (1971) as well as Saghir and Robins (1973) suggest that only about 15% of male ho- mosexuals appear effeminate. Effeminacy itself is highly stigmatized in the homosexual subculture.
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