Outline of “Brain Surgery” talk

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Here’s the outline for “Brain Surgery: What’s in the minds of homophobes?”

How the term “homophobia” came about:
In 1972, at the onset of the stonewall rebellion [July 1969], George Weinberg coined �homophobia�. He defined it as �the dread of being at close quarters with homosexuals.. The revulsion toward homosexuals and often the desire to inflict punishment as retribution�. Mark Freedman later described it as �an extreme rage and fear reaction to homosexuals�. Poet Audre Lorde�s definition in 1978 was, �fear of feelings of love for members of one�s own sex and therefore hatred of those feelings in others�.

The definition of “homophobia”:
Homophobia has little in common with other types of phobia. It should be seen in the framework of prejudice (attitudes) and discrimination (behaviors). Researchers who published papers in recent years generally define it along the lines of prejudice, hatred or contempt towards lesbian and gay people [with extension to other sexual minorities].


“Common types” of homophobes:
In these few slides, i put down examples that i have read of, seen, heard of or experienced e.g. gay bashers.


Wright, Adams and Bernat’s homophobia scale:
You can access the scale from here. There are other scales measuring homophobia such as “The Attitudes Toward Gay Men Subscale” and “The attitudes towards lesbian women subscale”.
*Please note that scales are not just any set of questions put together. Scales are developed and rigorously tested by statisticians so that they measure what they are supposed to measure. Not just by face validity [i.e. the questions "look okay"], but with convergent and divergent validity [it correlates highly with other scales measuring similar things and correlates lowly with scales that measures dissimilar things], consistency [the items are tapping onto the same concept] etc. One item does not give you a meaningful score, answers to all items in a scale are required to compute a score. Not every researcher uses scales… simply because scales are not developed for every concept out there.*


Profile of the homophobe:

Next, i discussed the article which was used in the anti-repeal of 377A.
The reference:
Detenber, B. H., Genite, M., Ku, M. K. Y., Ong, C. P. L., Tong, H. Y., & Yeow, M. L. H. (2007). Singaporeans� attitudes towards lesbians and gay men and their tolerance of media portrayals of homosexuality. Internal journal of public opinion, 19(3), 367-379.

From this article, someone made the conclusion that Singapore is not ready for the repeal of 377A [377A criminalize sex between gay men] because 68.6% expressed negative attitudes, 22.9% expressed positive attitudes, 8.5% were neutral. The participants for this study were acquired randomly and the demographics profile was similar to that of the general population.

But if you read the study for yourself, the study is actually seeking predictors of negative attitudes towards lesbian and gay people. Guess what they found?

There are 3 tables in the journal article. Table 1 displayed results showing predictors. Using correlation, they found that age [older], income [lower], education [lower], conformity to norms [more conformist] and intrinsic religious orientation [versus extrinsic religious orientation] correlate highly with poor attitudes towards LG people. The highest correlation going to intrinsic religious orientation [IRO]. Intrinsic religious orientation is defined as “seeing religion as a driving force in life”.

Using regression, which estimates the unique contribution of each predictor, marital status [these people were significantly older] and IRO were the strongest predictors.

In the second table, the researchers showed that Christians scored the highest in IRO, followed by Muslims, Buddhists and free-thinkers. In the third and last table, the researchers showed that Christians and Muslims were less tolerant compared to Buddhists and freethinkers.

Essentially, the researchers are saying that intrinsic religious orientation is the biggest predictor of negative attitudes towards LG people. And they showed that people of certain religions were more likely to be intrinsically religious and hence more likely to be anti-gay.

Adding to the study above [continuing on the profile of the homophobe]:

1. Male
Majority of gay bashers are in their teens or early twenties. Some have said that anti-gay violence is a control of manhood. Researchers have also shown that men who endorse homophobic and sexist items are likely to endorse hegemonic masculinity items.

2. Heterosexist
Heterosexism is the belief in the superiority of heterosexuals or heterosexuality evidenced in the exclusion, by omission or design, or non heterosexual persons in policies, procedures, events or activities.

3. Misogynistic
Researchers found links between homophobic violence and violence against young women. Those with traditional gender role attitudes tend to express higher levels of homophobia.

4. Authoritarian
Authoritarians have been described as “self righteous individuals who maintain a strong acceptance of traditional values and norms, possess a general willingness to submit to authority, and display a general tendency to aggress against others (especially those who threaten their conventional and traditional values)”.

It has been suggested that there is an underlying trait called “Conservatism”. Conservatism is linked to �national strength and order�. Order, discipline and striving to be successful and powerful. Outcomes of behavior important. Societal norms should be obeyed.

Conservatism has been linked to racism [e.g. lack of support for benefits for Australian Aborigines], sexism [e.g. lack of support for increased job options for women], greater acceptance of rape myth [i.e. rape victims deserve to be raped], lack of support for income redistribution, religious intolerance, homophobia etc.


Homophobia may lead to violence.

A study:
Homophobia and physical aggression toward homosexual and heterosexual individuals. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. 110(1), 179-187.

Basically participants played a game in which winners administer shocks to losers. Shock intensity and shock duration were measured.

The gist of this study is easy to understand. Aggression against gay people may be powered by anger-hostility [angry, irritable, hostile, scornful, disgusted and loathing] and anxiety. Negative affect [afraid, ashamed, distressed, guilty, jittery, nervous, scared, upset...] was not found to be a contributing factor.

Some people pointed out that non-homophobic participants end up shocking their opponents more. Well, the difference for non-homophobic participants is very small like 0.16 seconds. For homophobic participants, the difference is about 1.00, which is many times more. Homophobic participants not only shock “homosexual” confederate more, they also shock the “heterosexual” confederate longer and harder than their non-homophobic participants counterparts [using mean].


Combating homophobia

No one is born homophobic… homophobia is learned. Through direct observation, imitation… participation in rewarding interactions and experience of differential treatment.

And after it is learned, homophobia is sustained by the functions it serves. The functional approach says that people hold attitudes because of the psychological function or need that they satisfy. For example: to make sense of the world, to relate and maintain relationships with others, to protect the self from own homoerotic feelings, to maximize rewards and minimize punishments.

Some ways of combating homophobia:

1. Pointing out inconsistencies
E.g. Correcting myths
[Those who perceive the issue as extremely important to themselves are unlikely to change.]

2. Introducing new perspectives
E.g. Introducing gay friends if that’s an area that they are not sure about. It’s somewhat like correcting myths in a non-verbal way.

3. Providing substantiated information
Only works for those who are willing to think or assess the quality of their perspective’s assumptions and arguments carefully.

4. The contact hypothesis
Equal status contact between gay and non-gay people.

5. The media

The reference:
Remembering Gay/Lesbian Media Characters: Can Ellen and Will Improve Attitudes toward Homosexuals? Bonds-Raacke, Cady, Schlegel, Harris & Firebaugh (2007)

In the experiment, one group of participants was asked to recall a positive portrayal of a gay/lesbian character on TV or movie, while another group was asked to recall a negative portrayal. Will [from Will and Grace] and Ellen Degeneres were mentioned most frequently. When a character was portrayed positively, participants perceived character’s friends as more accepting of her/his homosexuality. It was also found that attitudes towards gay men improved through positive portrayal priming.


* Special thanks to Kai for coming up with the graphics for this talk; to pleinelune for being a dedicated mouse-clicker; to Kelly for organizing this; Alex Au for the catchy title of the talk [i first entitled it blandly as "homophobia"]; photographers [humph and edshutter] and to everyone from Irene’s gang of helpers who came down to run the event… last of all, friends who supported me one way or another. Thank you.

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