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It probably was inevitable that someone in the media would try to connect Seung-Hui Cho's rampage at Virginia Tech to homosexuality. Sure enough, within days of the shootings, forensic psychiatrist Helen Morrison appeared on CNN and opined about Cho's supposed gay desires.
Cho fit the "typical profile of a mass murderer," Morrison said, adding, "If you read his plays, you see a tremendous amount of warped thinking, even more warped sexuality--what appears to be tremendous fears of his own same-sex urges that he projected onto other people."
But conclusions by such long-distance psychoanalysis are dismissed out of hand by many psychiatrists.
"The American Psychological Association says it's not wise to speculate about a person you have not personally examined," says Jack Drescher, a New York City psychiatrist and author of Psychoanalytic Therapy and the Gay Man. "Anyone who does that is only projecting themselves--their theories or their own psychology."
Jeffrey Montgomery has been following antigay violence and the "gay panic" defense for years as the executive director of the Triangle Foundation in Detroit, and he was in Wyoming during the Matthew Shepard murder trial. About Cho he says, "I haven't seen or heard anything that indicates internalized homophobia."
"Quite frankly, I'm one of the first people to draw a gay connection to what happens, and this one doesn't suggest it in any sense at all," he continues. "If anything, Cho's frustrations appear to be thwarted heterosexual desires." The reports that he was secretly taking photos of women in classes and stalking others indicates that his deepest desires involved women, Montgomery says.
He says it's "just sad" that an expert like Morrison would offer a theory at best glib, at worst irresponsible.
Says Drescher with a sigh: "It's unfortunate that the 24-hour news cycle looks for simple answers to these kinds of questions."