Why You Need To Quit Calling Homophobes Closet Cases.

A comment over at The Journal:

Homophobia is often a symptom of latent homosexuality. Homophobes need to be encouraged to accept their orientation.

I quote it because it’s so common. We hear this all the time. Someone expresses wildly homophobic views, and the response is that they must be closeted themselves. They’ve got some issues to deal with, amirite? Some personal stuff they need to work out. Wink. Nudge. Know what I mean?

Yeah. I know what you mean.

Sometimes you’re right. Lots of people do respond to internal conflicts by acting out. Loads of vehemently homophobic people are closeted. But I’ve got a few issues with ‘homophobes are all queers’ being our go-to explanation.

It’s homophobic.

You’re a straight ally or a happy out queer. You don’t go around using homophobic slurs- except maybe with your BFFs in private, because that’s different. Until, that is, someone starts loudly proclaiming that queers are evil sodomites who’re bound to hell and should be kept far, far away from children. Against them, all bets are off, and you just know that the best way to get under their skin is to call them the thing that they hate the most. And y’know what?  I’ll bet you also do it because it’s fun. We don’t get many chances to make gleeful insinuations about someone’s orientation. That’s normally considered impolite, isn’t it? But when it comes to loud homophobes, we can gleefully let out our gossipy sides and speculate to our heart’s content.

It’s a pity that by doing that, we’re throwing queers under the bus. We’re perpetuating the idea that there’s something salacious about queerness. That it’s okay- even in very particular circumstances- to mock someone’s internal struggles with a homophobic society.

Closet cases’ orientations shouldn’t matter. You advocate homophobia? I’ll come down like a ton of bricks on your views. What goes on inside your head is irrelevant to me, in all but one instance.

You see, to be honest, homophobic closet cases are one of the few kinds of homophobes I’d have genuine sympathy for. I get that coming out is terrifying. I get that internalised homophobia can mess you up. Those things damage us all, and closeted homophobes have been damaged even more than most of them. I oppose their views utterly- and at the same time I wish them the best and hope that they’ll learn to accept and love who they are. But I know that’s one hell of a tough road.

Which brings me to straight people.

Straight people are off the hook.

A hell of a lot of the speculation about loud homophobes’ orientations seems to come, not from queers, but from straight people. The straight people who we know and love, who call themselves allies and love us right back. Lots of the time, it comes from straight folks who walk the ally walk as well as talking the talk- the people who march beside us, defend us even when we’re not around, listen when we tell t hem how it is, support us. I love you guys to pieces, by the way!

But when you say that the loudest homophobes are closeted LGBT folks, you erase the fact that the vast, vast majority of homophobia doesn’t come from closeted people. It comes from straight people. Casual, everyday homophobia overwhelmingly comes from straight people (and yes, by the way, I know that all of you aren’t like that). The vast majority of people who vote against marriage equality are straight. The vast majority of the people who draft gender recognition legislation that enshrines gatekeeping, divorce, diagnoses and compulsory surgery are cis. The people who think that knowing we even exist should be kept from kids, because we’re too ‘confusing’? Mostly straight and cis. The people who treat us ever-so-slightly differently, who tokenise us, who judge us by how closely we conform to stereotypes? Mostly straight and cis. And, yeah, most of the people who brainwash, reject and demonise us are straight and cis too.

But if we joke that homophobes are all homos, we let straight people rest easy. Homophobia becomes something that isn’t just targeted at LGBTQ people. It’s something perpetuated by us too. Homophobia stops being straight people’s problem.

It erases the structures that make closet cases into homophobes.

Do homophobic closeted queers exist? Hell yeah! Is it a disproportionate thing? I think it is! Do closeted homophobes come from nowhere? No.

Every closeted homophobe is themself a victim of decades of oppression. They’re not demons. They’re seriously, horribly damaged people who have been twisted into caricatures of the antithesis of what they should be. They’ve been so profoundly distorted by the communities they grew up and live in that  It’s gotta be horrible, and they didn’t start it. Our society is riddled with homophobic structures both overt and subtle. Homophobic queers are the crowning glory of a society that tells us that who we are is shameful and disgusting. If we want to fix that? We have to look a little deeper. We have to quit looking at the weeds and dig out the roots.

Isn’t that just letting closeted homophobes off the hook?

I hope not!

There’s a huge difference between the responses that we have to homophobes who’ve been outed, and the idea that every single homophobe gets tarred the the queer label. If we know that a particular person is a hypocritical, lying piece of shit who’s, say, using their massive public influence to turn people against LGBT folks while secretly messing around with people of a distinctly similar gender to their own? They’re fair game. Homophobes in general, though? Let’s remember that they’re far more likely to just be garden variety hetero bigots.

And just because I can, have some Roy Zimmerman:

Why You Need To Quit Calling Homophobes Closet Cases.

24 thoughts on “Why You Need To Quit Calling Homophobes Closet Cases.

  1. 1

    I hope you have better success than I do at convincing people of this. All I keep getting is the defence that (as you mention) the homophobe in question is more deeply wounded than (s)he (almost always he in my experience, but that’s another matter) would ever be by any other label. And somewhere in the labeling there’s often a mockery that would be deemed completely homophobic if directed at somebody out – but it’s okay to snicker at someone’s voice or walk because someone’s supposedly in the closet? People who give the impression that they think it’s fun (again, as you mention) to use characteristics for which so many of us in all sincerity were insulted or bullied as their “grounds” make me want to retaliate in kind, though I haven’t yet. When other non-straight people resort to the closet label, I’m completely nonplussed.

    1. 1.1

      I don’t know. I think I agree with some of what you say but not too much. Often the closet cases are much louder in their homophobia than the hetero homophobe. It’s a good tactic to turn the tables on them if only to shut them down. Sure, pity them if you want, but don’t forget they perpetuate homophobia much more loudly and vehemently than do those of us who call them out. You can tell a closet case phobe from a hetero one anyway.

  2. 2

    […] “But when you say that the loudest homophobes are closeted LGBT folks, you erase the fact that the vast, vast majority of homophobia doesn’t come from closeted people. It comes from straight people. Casual, everyday homophobia overwhelmingly comes from straight people (and yes, by the way, I know that all of you aren’t like that). The vast majority of people who vote against marriage equality are straight. The vast majority of the people who draft gender recognition legislation that enshrines gatekeeping, divorce, diagnoses and compulsory surgery are cis. The people who think that knowing we even exist should be kept from kids, because we’re too ‘confusing’? Mostly straight and cis. The people who treat us ever-so-slightly differently, who tokenise us, who judge us by how closely we conform to stereotypes? Mostly straight and cis. And, yeah, most of the people who brainwash, reject and demonise us are straight and cis too.” Why You Need to Quit Calling Homophobes Closet Cases – Consider the Tea Cosy […]

  3. 5

    I’ve seen so many women accuse men (namely celebrities) of being closeted whenever those men don’t want to be identified as gay.

    1 – If it’s OK for gay men to deny their orientation because they don’t want to be the object of homophobic persecution (and until such time as we’ve eradicated homophobia, or assured protection to its victims, it is OK for people to want to keep themselves safe), then it’s equally OK for straight men to also deny being homosexual because they too do not want to be the victims of homophobia; because their reasons are the same, not different.

    And 2 – These are the same women who campaigned tirelessly for “No means no” when it came to sexual harrassment and rape. We’ve come a long way since the days when it was believed that a No means Maybe, and a Maybe means Yes. Women have earned the right to be taken seriously and to not be accused of protesting too much. And now, the same women claim that any man who says that he’s straight when they believe him to be gay (sometimes want him to be gay, because that is their fetish) must just be protesting too much, and the more they deny it the gayer they must be.

    Double standards go both ways.

    1. 5.1

      Oh my god THIS. I’ve recently stopped talking to a feminist friend of mine because of these exact reasons. Well…that, and she decided to tell my colleagues that I’m a racist for speaking out against extremist Muslims, and that I go around loudly talking about any Muslims I see. I mean, sure, resort to high school slander because I don’t share the same views as you when it comes to Muslims (not even Muslims in general, I was referring strictly to the extremist kind), but don’t do it in a professional place, especially when my job is to ENSURE THAT PEOPLE ARE TREATED EQUALLY. /endrant

      1. Oh my god THIS? Sorry, but it’s one thing for a gay man to stay in the closet in order to avoid persecution, violence, or losing their income, absolutely. But the problem with a lot of the closeted guys is that they take it one step further. Not only do they stay in the closet, but they nail it shut with an array of homophobic remarks and behaviours to ENSURE people don’t think of them as gay. That’s a problem, and it’s one that a lot of people ignore. Closeted men, when they choose to express homophobia, often do so more vigorously than most, and are a real problem for the rest of us who have had the courage to come out. I am completely aware that I am commenting in a female space here, and I don’t want to sound like I’m being a misogynist and ‘talking down’ to anyone here, but at the same time your topic is a personal one for me as a queer male and I don’t think any of you really have a grasp on the complexities of homophobia in males. There is an awesome piece by Kimmell entitled “Masculinity as Homophobia”. If you haven’t read it, do so, because it is amazing.

  4. 7

    dear sir or vagina:

    regarding pro-gay bigotry:

    as a gay “man” or masculivoid, please keep in mind that i lust for my own gender, i am getting sick and tired of society putting homosexuality into a good light by not stopping to ask themselves anything that can be regarded as “homophobic”.

    why isn’t there a counterpart to the word “homophobia,” and why isn’t it considered a problem (or a “condition”) for anyone to judge gay people in a favorable light based solely on who they sleep with? how many times have we heard “not that there’s anything wrong with that,” with regards to homosexuality? how much is it hammered into our thoughts that “it’s okay to be gay,” and why is “matthew shepard” a household name when names like “jesse dirkhising” are not? it’s because matthew shepard’s situation wcould elicit sadness and pity and would spawn gay-affirmations from the public, and little jesse’s situation would not (jesse was bound, drugged, tortured and raped by gay people…come to think of it, matthew’s murder was more about meth than men. it seems that gay people love their drugs and anything that gets them away from their semi-charmed kinds of lives).

    homophobia. why is it a problem for people to automatically think bad things about “men” who lust for masculinity, why isn’t it a problem for people to automatically think good things about these masculivoids?

    homophobia. it’s like gay people got so tired of automatically being put in a bad light, so they all got together and organized a grand ol’ “pee-wee herman” defense of “i know you are, but what am i” to put their detractors in bad lights and to label whoever is anti-gay as the ones who have problems (or “phobias”), just to keep from facing their own problems. dare i bring up an old madonna-lyric sung by a self-righteous finger-pointer, “YOU’RE the one with the problem,” but gays are ones to point out other peoples’ problems in an effort to keep from acknowledging their own. “you hate me because you’re scared of yourself” and “you hate me because you really envy me,” how blind are gay people to say such things to their opposers without knowing anything about their opposers? don’t they like to say “you can’t judge me if you don’t even know me” and stuff like that? they are blinded by their own spite which they commonly regard as “gay pride,” but maybe we seem like we hate gay people because we don’t want to be around self-righteous people. i know that, as a proud (i was vengeful and spiteful) 18 year-old who was walking down the school’s hallway while smoking a cigarette, i realized that “gay pride” (or the ignorance and belittlement of any opinions, rules or customs counter to one’s own) is a problem that is born of a low self-image. i did what i did because i felt that i was as much of a “little bitty pissant” as was the “country place” that dolly parton sung about. my “pride parade” and all “pride parades” are better defined as “spite parades” – pride is not loud and it is not haughty and it is not ignorant of other human beings’ feelings.

    the roots of “gay pride” are so closely linked to the roots of “a woman can do anything a man can do,” i just feel the need to associate them. as gays hated their “bad light,” vaginas from coast to coast got so tired of automatically being put in a weak and lesser light, so the vaginas all got together and organized the whole “Strongwoman” campaign. nowadays, we don’t hear the word “woman” without hearing “strong” before it…unless, of course, it’s preceded by “violence against,” i guess. you know, because it’s kind of a slap in the face to suggest that the Strongwoman isn’t strong enough to prevent violence from happening to her.


    it is flat-out ridiculous that we use overcompensating placebo-words to placate the egos of members of the gender having the lesser physical statures. from athletic teams to eating competitions to the entry-level requirements of the military – there is a reason that these are all male/female and gender-based. the reason is that women are not strong, the reason is that women can only legitimately compete alongside of men (not with men). still,though, how they want people to know them as strong. this is the reason you rarely hear “woman” not having a prefix of “strong”. it’s like they all got together and organized that “i know you are, but what am i” defense…and called it “feminism: the strongwoman experiment”.

    just as ridiculous as the Strongwoman-placebo, is the overcompensating placebo to placate the gay “men” and their gender-identities. in reality, gay “men” are little boys who haven’t internalized any masculine gender-identity and who therefore feel blessed to be in the presence of naked men. as gay “men,” we rely on men as a crutch or as a seeing-eye dog to bring us to a state of masculine fulfillment, simply because we don’t have enough masculine self-respect to rely on ourselves to fill our void for masculinity. now, despite the gay male’s lackluster sense of masculine self-respect (just ask him who the man of his dreams is), he wants people to know him as a man who is all grown-up emotionally, so it is commonplace to hear gay “men” being referred to AS men – just as much as a vagina refers to her little son as a man – but an asexual “guys” is how we refer to the men who’ve developed both a physical superiority over vaginas and an emotional superiority over gays. the men who are justified both in body and mind AS men are not men in today’s society – they are referred to with as asexual a word as “guys”.

    why is it constantly impressed upon the public that there’s nothing wrong with finding security and fulfillment and something excitably taboo in other members of one’s own gender, why can’t anyone even fathom the self-compromising errs of homosexuality? speaking of which – why is it fine to regard as “men,” every clueless masculivoid who lacks masculine gender-identity enough to want to inspect the masculine gender? why are men who are straight with themselves AS men (and with masculinity in general) more commonly referred to as “straight guys”?

    manphobes. from vaginas to gay “men,” they both disrespect real men because they all want masculine identity for themselves (vaginas want to be regarded as “strong” and they want society to give them a facade of the PHYSICAL masculine-identity, while gay “men” want to be regarded as “real men” and they want society to give them a facade of having an acceptable level of PSYCHOLOGICAL masculine-identity). this is why i refer to feminists and gay “men” as “masculine wannabees”.

    mr. dylan terreri, i
    dr. sheldon cooper, ii
    miss abingdon blazavich
    “When I’m hungry, I eat. When I’m thirsty, I drink. When I feel like saying something, I say it.” – Madonna

      1. Mr. Reynolds appears to hate himself rather vehemently. That’s what I got out of it, anyway. (And yeah, “vaginas”? Way to win friends and influence people, dude (?)).
        “Real men.” Are those like True Scotsmen, by any chance?

        1. TBH the only reason I actually let that one through mod (because it does violate my entire comment policy, which is impressive) is because of the massive case of the giggles I got from reading it.

          Especially with the mental images of vaginas giving themselves pep-talks and flexing their guns in front of the mirror. Twas golden!

    1. 7.2

      Just a lot of uneducated ranting here. It belies how little you have dealt with your own issues. And the fact that your rant contains very little more than an attack on women (vaginas as you call them) and effeminate gay men (comparing them to “real men”) unfortunately debases everything you’re trying to get across.

      It would be good for you to do some research into masculinity, before you rant like this. Whilst I respect your right to an uneducated opinion, how much better would it be if you had some actually insight behind it? A lot better.

      A good place to start would be to read Kimmel’s “masculinity as homophobia”. From there you can go on to literally hundreds of offerings from dozens of academics from all around the world, all of whom have spent their lives studying and contemplating the issues you, unfortunately, can only rant about.

  5. 8

    To me, it seems as if people came up with this “homophobes are all secretly gay” excuse simply because they needed just that… an excuse… It’s far easier to believe that there is a reason that these bigots must be dealing with than it is to believe that people just hate… for absolutely no reason other than they’re hateful… I would rather believe that hateful homophobes are that way because they are secretly dealing with their own personal struggles than to believe they just hate for simply no reason… Unfortunately I know that there are people who are just hateful, mean spirited people, who can’t stand anyone that is different from them. It’s sad, but it’s true. Anyway, every one of your blog entries I read takes you one step closer to being my blogging hero! All of your posts are well written, intelligent, and thought provoking, AND you reference Doctor Who and Star Trek (two of my favorite things!) Job well done!

  6. 9

    “You don’t go around using homophobic slurs- except maybe with your BFFs in private, because that’s different.”

    Different according to? I suppose the excuse is that it is “rude” to question the behavior and usage of words of the people you know and it’s just “cool” to be casual and use these perverse words.

    LGBT “allies” are truly some of the most cowardly, two-faced people on earth; they wear their Ally TM badges with pride, only to show an entirely different side of them in more private settings.

  7. 10

    Hi, Aoife. Interesting blog entry here. I’m not sure I agree with your argument that we throw homosexuals under the bus by accusing homophobes of being closet homosexuals. I’ve made this comment from time to time myself, but only to note the irony of it. You do have an excellent point, though: we oversimplify the infinite complexity of human experience when we do so.

    Excellent points and great writing. Thanks!


  8. 11

    Uber wonderful post about a subject we were “discussing” today. With your kind permission, I would like to “steal” most of this post and post it on Open Salon (I’ll post a link here so you can see). Of course, you will receive full accreditation, accolades and your share of the crap it will stir up! LOL

    1. 11.1

      Hi Amy!

      Delighted you like the post 🙂 Quoting from me with attribution is fine, although I really would prefer if you didn’t copy more than half of a post elsewhere. I’m happy for you to quote & discuss, but please do link back to here for people to read the whole thing.

      Have fun! 😉

  9. 12

    I agree wholeheartedly with the article.

    And yet I do believe that when discussing homophobia, it might not be totally useless to underline the statistics (that there are statistically more closeted gays amongst homophobes) and to suggest that those who voice their homophobia too loudly, even in homophobic circles, might find themselves in a spotlight they’d rather avoid.
    By doing this, I do not pretend I will change anything to what the homophobes think. I am merely using their own homophobia as a check against homophobic zealouness. The net intended result is a collective deflation of homophobic behaviour in homophobic circles (and outside), lest one should be labeled as “the homophobic zealot”, i.e. the likely closeted gay. In essence, I am hoping to use homophobia in homophobes as a counterfire, so that the homophobic din might abate.

    The argument should indeed not be framed as “everybody will know you are gay” (which I agree would do all the damage you mention in your article), but as “your homophobic friends might think you are gay — so if you personally believe what you say about gay people, you’d rather avoid that and tone down your homophobia”. AND the rest of us will come down like a ton of bricks on your views — in any case.

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