Monday, August 23, 2010

Homophobia- American Psychoanalytic Foundation Public Forum - Nancy J. Chodorow, Ph.D 1999

...In The New York Times of Sunday, December 6th, there was a long article on how women increasingly outnumber men on many college campuses. The article quoted several college admissions directors and presidents as saying that many colleges are now going "far down the list" and "all the way down" to admit boys. Not once in this half-page article was there a mention, or notice, that admissions policies that take into account categories like race and gender have been under terrific scrutiny for years, that states like my own have passed laws against racial, ethnic, or gender preferences in college admissions. But when it came to men, neither the writer nor the college officers quoted seemed to notice that they were talking about blatant preferential policies.

I bring this up both to begin with an example of a completely unselfconscious permissible prejudice -- it is permissible to make sure that men do not fall below 55% of undergraduate student bodies, even in a time when any other preferential policies are virulently criticized. I also bring it up because I think that it gives us some initial and immediate access to part of what is operating in what we are today calling homophobia, prejudice against homosexuality. Operating in homophobia is that in the most general way our culture, and, I believe, our profession, rests on two contradictory facts. On the one hand, men are considered powerful or dominant, and a male presence in an important institution is assumed. On the other hand, masculinity is a fragile and vulnerable business and needs to be carefully fostered and protected.

Thus permissible prejudices seem natural. These can be taken-for-granted assumptions of basically well meaning people, which have also led, in the case of some analytic traditions and some analysts, to the real abuse of the psychoanalytic situation, when homosexual object choice has been seen as a psychological disorder, and people are thought to be in need of being cured of their sexual orientation -- a distinctly un-psychoanalytic goal. In our society, we pass laws against gay marriage, say that discrimination against gays is okay, and people from ordinary citizens through the senate rail against homosexuality. Homophobia on the individual level usually also has a conscious rationalization in terms of the reasons for the dislike, or discrimination, or hatred. A man explains his gay bashing as a reaction to having had a pass made at him. A senator invokes the Bible.

At the same time, I think we ourselves need to make sure not to assume that there is something special about or innate to homosexuality that makes it more likely to be subject to unthinking or permissible prejudice or to virulent violence. In the context of current anti-gay hate crimes and the recent brutal murder of Matthew Shepard, it is easy to think this…

…Men also kill other men who perform abortions, although, whatever the hate involved here -- and I do think it is extreme -- we still have to notice that this is done with a single bullet rather than with prolonged brutal torture, as in the case of violence against homosexuals.

What seems to be the case is that there is a huge psychic faultline around the sexual body in relation to masculinity. Images of men having sex with other men, a black man having sex with a white woman, a woman who is sexual without having a baby, are for some men extremely threatening.

This brings us back to where I began, homophobia and masculinity. I have begun with extremes, gay bashing and murder. It is here, parenthetically, that I question the term homophobia as a clinical term. Phobias imply fear and avoidance, but homophobia is really a counter-phobia which, in its extremes, leads to attacks and seekings out, and which is constituted by virulent hatred that I think we can only understand in terms of primitive splitting and projection -- more like ethnic hatred of those who are so threateningly like someone that all likeness has to be denied and difference exaggerated. In the Matthew Shepard case it is reported, although it may not be true, that one of the young men said first that they were gay and then that they were not. Within psychoanalysis nothing is so toxic but the extreme, which most enlightened and well meaning psychoanalysts now reject -- the idea that one can and should work in analysis to change a person’s sexual orientation…
Read complete address:

The Psychology of the Closeted Individual and Coming Out – 2007
by Jack Drescher, M.D.

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