Homophobia Is Associated With Certain Psychological Traits, New Study Finds; LGBT People Still Perfectly Healthy

An activist holds a placard with a slogan over the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin depicted with makeup during a demonstration against Russia's anti-gay legislation on the day of the opening ceremony the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in Hong Kong on February 7, 2014. Gay rights activists around the world have called for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in protest against a law banning the dissemination of so-called 'gay propaganda' to minors. AFP PHOTO / Philippe Lopez (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
Source: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty Images

There is a long-standing and sadly still persistent myth out there that LGBT people are mentally unwell, even though that idea has no credible scientific basis. Now, however, science has gone and done one better with a new study that suggests that in fact it is homophobia that is associated with certain psychological traits, specifically psychoticism, immature defense mechanisms, and fearful attachment style. So, haters might want to reevaluate their position on a lot of things. 

Now, to be clear, this study is not saying that homophobes are mentally ill, or that people who suffer from mental illness are more likely to be homophobic, or even that all homophobic people exhibit the previously mentioned traits. What it is saying is that the more homophobic someone is, the more likely it becomes that they exhibit one of more of these negative psychological traits

So what is this study? Well, it's actually pretty straightforward. Researchers from University of L'Aquila in Italy had participants take several standard diagnostic tests, including one to measure homophobic attitudes, and three tests that measured psychopathologic symptoms, evaluated defense mechanisms, and looked at attachment styles. A total of 551 undergraduates between the ages of 18 and 30 participated. And in the end, the results showed that participants with higher levels of homophobia were disproportionately likely to demonstrate psychoticism, immature defense mechanisms, and fearful attachment style.

Now, what do all those terms mean? Well, psychoticism refers to a personality type that tends towards the aggressive and is more likely to be hostile towards other people. Immature defense mechanisms are about what they sound like — ways of coping with stress or discomfort that are not very mature — and can range from passive aggression to retreating into fantasy. Fearful attachment style refers to the tendency to be uncomfortable with emotional closeness, even though a person still desires emotional attachments. 

None of these things adds up to what you might call a mental illness, but they are all not really ideal psychological traits, either. Put together, they add up to a portrait of someone who is aggressive, has trouble forming meaningful connections with other people, acts in a hostile way towards others, and doesn't deal well with problems. So... basically everything you're not looking to date. 

So why is it that the more homophobic some is, the more likely they are to exhibit these traits? Is there something about being homophobic that affects people in such a way that these traits become more likely to develop? Or is homophobia just a more convincing ideology to people who already are this way? It's way too early to say at this point. 

Still the study is significant. The authors write that despite the fact that homophobic attitudes are common in Western society, little research has been done on what psychological traits might correlate to homophobia. Which is all the more glaring when you consider how many decades of research went into analyzing whether or not LGBT people are suffering from a mental disorder. Homosexuality was finally removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1973, but let's face it — it never should have been listed in the DSM in the first place.

The authors are also aware of the irony. "After discussing for centuries if homosexuality is to be considered a disease," lead author Emmanuele A Jannini said, "for the first time we demonstrated that the real disease to be cured is homophobia, associated with potentially severe psychopathologies."

So there you have it, homophobes. I'd say I'm sorry to break the news to you, but I'm not. 

Images: Giphy (2)

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