BY Dr. Jallen Rix
March 10 2010 3:25 PM ET
I have noticed something in my judgments of other people. I can be armed and ready to give someone the third degree, only to realize that what’s really pissing me off is how similar I am to those I want to accuse. I’ve been contemplating this urge to blame California Republican state senator Roy Ashburn, who was arrested for drunk driving after leaving a gay bar. Ashburn — known publicly as a straight man until he came out on a radio program Monday — consistently voted against bills that would expand the legal protection of LGBT people.
The first way I’ve been approaching the Ashburn story is this: When people like the senator are so repulsed by what they see inside, they can’t even bring themselves to admit it. Further, this self-hate is so strong that some people lash out, even violently, to condemn the characteristic in others. This is denial coupled with projection. Psychological projection, briefly defined, is a defense mechanism often unconsciously used “when a person's own unacceptable or threatening feelings are repressed and then attributed to someone else.”
Why else would some people be so hateful about homosexuality — so negatively vocal about it, condemning it as sin, and finding so-called cures for it — unless it’s what they hate and fear in themselves? At the very least, they have given an enormous amount of attention, energy, and thought to it. Straight men don’t do that. They just don’t think about it. They think about having sex with women. “Reparative” therapists, “ex-gay” ministries, and political leaders fighting to negate homosexuality think about it all the time. Maybe the only way they can allow themselves to dwell on homosexuality is by thinking about it in the negative, but they’re thinking about homo-sex nonetheless.
It’s not surprising that they then get caught behaving in the very ways they condemn. In fact, this behavior is often a kind of cry for help. A closeted man behaves in a risky and irresponsible manner, unconsciously wanting to get caught — forcing his hand — so the inner battle will end. Whether he comes out or not, he eventually reaps what he sows. The pain and injustice he allows to be inflicted on gays and lesbians is unavoidably inflicted on himself. So the senator might have voted against protecting LGBT rights, as he said, to reflect his constituents’ wishes, but his self-hate makes him blind to see that his choices are hurting others as well as himself.
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