The straight and narrow on homophobia

What if bullying isn’t about hate but envy?

A STUDY PUBLISHED IN APRIL concluded that homophobia is more pronounced in people who identify as straight but demonstrate same-sex attraction in psychological tests. “These are people who are at war with themselves,” the authors observed, then suggested a link to hate crimes: “People in denial about their sexual orientation may lash out because gay targets threaten and bring this internal conflict to the forefront.”

 That repressed homosexuals are predisposed to anti-gay sentiment is not surprising. But that doesn’t mean every playground bully grows up to be gay. Presumably straight Dharun Ravi, for instance, spied on and joked online about his gay Rutgers roommate, Tyler Clementi, who subsequently committed suicide. (Ravi is set to be sentenced Monday.) In April, the Rev. Sean Harris of North Carolina, married for 22 years, advised parishioners to beat their children if they suspected them of being gay. However, if the study’s premise holds — that homophobia is the manifestation of an internal conflict — what conflict are heterosexuals expressing when they “lash out”?

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