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What drives or causes homophobia? Innate and learned fear.
Homophobia in America is generally understood as a negative attitude and feeling toward homosexuality or people who are perceived as being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
World religions such as Christianity and Islam contain passages which reference homosexuality. The Bible has scriptures which are commonly interpreted as condemning. But other interpretations claim no denunciation and that Jesus offered no mentions or references against homosexual behavior.
The Catholic Church claims that homosexual behavior is contrary to natural law and can, under no circumstances, be supported or approved.
Major Islamic sects forbid homosexuality and declare it criminal under Sharia Law in most Muslim countries. In Asia, attitudes can vary from condemnation to intolerance or acceptance.
Scientific research is unclear. Debate between nature and nurture is not resolved. However, general opinion leans and seems to favor biology, meaning homosexuality and sexual orientation is not a selected and “immoral” lifestyle, but has its roots in biological constructs. Research into sexual behavior of other species indicates that most animals and approximately10-20% of individuals engage in homosexual practice – suggesting it a “natural” behavior across the animal kingdom.
Violent mass shootings against African-Americans in Charleston, SC., or the LGBT community in Orlando, FL are horrific. Empathy, compassion, and immediate social and community support is evidence of the innate good of individuals and humankind.
Although murderous hostility by an individual or group expresses human behavior at its worst, it is, unfortunately, not uncommon throughout either “civilized” or violent societies –documented history easily bears this out.
We ask “why” and what is the motive of individuals or groups such as ISIS or others who bring brutality against innocent individuals.
Homophobia, as with racism, indeed any fear or aversion (mild or extremely violent) toward another individual or group is a hard wired, physiological construct existing within in our biology. No individual or culture is devoid of fear.
References to, accusations or feelings of dread, hatred, loathing, revulsion, etc., are nothing more than circuitous synonyms. But they are all expressions of the singular emotion of threat. A root expression of threat, real or perceived, is fear.
Fear, as with all human behavior or expressions, is not a matter of nature vs. nature. Fear is rooted in and initiated by a biological/physiological mechanism; it is a reaction to perceived threat. An individual’s fears/perceived threats can change over time, are shaped and influenced by environmental conditions such as our upbringing or social norms and pressures.
As with racism or other phobias, threat/fear, if stressed beyond our individual threshold, can lead to expressions of violence. So, when we look for reasons, explanations or motives for individual or mass violence, such as Columbine, Newton, CT, Charleston, SC and now Orlando, FL, the common denominator is threat.
Fear is the expression/reaction of our brain/body of perceived or actual threat. Antagonism, animosity, loathing, distaste, abhorrence, etc., are more circular synonyms for the expression of fear.
Threat and the resulting expression of fear are simple and basic conceptually, but the composition – what are their ingredients – is complex. What is a danger to one individual may be exhilaration to another. And this is why an individual’s behavior can never be predicted or anticipated with absolute conviction. We cannot know how life experience is interconnected across trillions of neural connections or, when pulling on or triggering a strand, what reactions will be expressed.
Threat can be external threat – actual or perceived. Threat can be triggered by internal, biological/physiological processes – emotional conflicts: lack of self-esteem, lack of feeling empowered, guilt, remorse, delusions of great rewards, sexual orientation, etc. Any internal emotional conflict can be directed outward and expressed as hatred, disgust, criticism, aggression and destructive violence, or inward with self deprecation, alcoholism, eating disorder or, ultimately, suicide.
To construct laws which prohibit racism, homophobia, hate-crimes, religious discrimination, etc., are helpful, but will not eradicate these states of mind. To proclaim strict gun laws will dramatically reduce crime is also nonsensical.
Progress against violence will only be improved by discovering individuals who have exposed themselves to harbor unstable emotions, violent tendencies or expressing support for dysfunctional leaders or groups, and early childhood and lifetime education of recognizing behaviors of perceived threat and expressions of fear.
This will not be easy, but it must be a primary goal of society, if we expect to effect behavioral progress. Government resources need to be directed toward the capability of recognizing psychopathic behavior.
The Orlando shooter, as other mass shooters, was obviously mentally ill. Social sciences need to redefine their definition of “mental Illness.” To describe a mass murderer as “normal,” up to the moment he enacts violence, is absurd.
We will never halt all violence, but a society can only be as healthy as its individual citizens, not endless rules of law.
(This Article is under development.)
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