Prejudice has existed for as long as humans have inhabited this planet. We fear what we don’t understand. Judgement is programmed into us in order to keep us safe. However, prejudice is the point where this judgement and fear becomes irrational. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons people may be homophobic:
1. In-groups and Out-groups:
One of the most common theories for why discrimination of any sort occurs is the social identity theory. Humans tend to categorise each other into groups based on similarities and differences between group members. If members are similar to us they are part of our in-group and if they are different to us they are part of an out-group. Having an “in-group” gives us a sense of belonging and boosts our self-esteem. To further this effect, people put down people in out-groups. This could explain why cishet* individuals discriminate against LGBT members as they are seen as an out-group. This phenomenon could also explain why the LGBT community has established a greater group identity (for example, having their own flag) – this sense of belonging boosts self-esteem and strengthens the bond between the in-group members.
Much of our beliefs about the world and other people are formed in our childhood. Many people that are homophobic were probably brought up being told that homosexuality is wrong. They see the people around them showing disgust towards it, which makes them believe they too should feel disgusted. This mindset is continually reinforced and sticks into adulthood. The individual then believes homosexuality is inherently wrong, as they personally feel repulsed by the idea. They however do not realise they have been conditioned to feel this way.
Many individuals justify their hatred of homosexuality with religion. When confronted about their homophobia, they may say they are trying to save their fellow man from eternal damnation. However, there are many other sins these individuals ignore. For example, they would not meddle in a neighbours marriage with a cheating spouse. Could this bias in ‘heroism’ have something to do with prejudices held?
In conclusion, there are many possible reasons someone can be prejudice, none of which justify hate. However, being aware of the reasons behind prejudice attitudes is the first step in reducing it.
* Cisgender heterosexuals. I.e. Non-LGBT+ folk.