This is FRONTLINE's interview with Karen Franklin, a forensic psychologist
whose dual interests in psychology and the law brought her to question the
roots of anti-gay hate crimes. Her interviews with perpetrators and with San
Francisco Bay Area college students provide badly needed empirical data on the
nature and extent of negative reactions to gays. Franklin does not find one motive for anti-gay violence, but many, with ideological opposition to, and plain hatred of homosexuality, only one among them. In Franklin's view, the focus should be on cultural norms--an attitude that society gives permission for anti-gay violence--rather than on individual psychology.
Many heterosexuals repress homosexual tendencies, Sigmund Freud believed, and some repress them more strongly than others. Homophobia is the name for what Freud saw as heterosexuals' "vigorous counter-attitudes" to homosexuality. For most of this century, many writers on the topic, following Freud, have accepted this relationship between repressed (or "latent") homosexuality and homophobia. But, Dr. Henry Adams of the University of Georgia, was the first to attempt to test the proposition empirically. The results? Individuals who score in the homophobic range on the "Homophobia Scale" demonstrate signficant sexual arousal to male homosexual erotic stimuli.
Once science and medicine stopped asking questions about the pathology of homosexuals, they turned their lens around to focus on the other side: the reasons for negative anti-gay attitudes. In the 1970s and 1980s, empirical scientific studies on homophobia proliferated. In this review, scholar Greg Herek provides an important synthesis and analysis of homophobia research which yields a composite portrait of a person likely to hold negative atittudes toward gays.