TGGP‘s recent post regarding Will Wilkinson’s opinions of some of Gordon Gallup’s hypotheses regarding homosexuality and its stigmas – particularly, why being gay is so commonly viewed as bad across cultures, or why ‘homophobia’ exists – attracted my notice, and inspired some ire.
I posted a snarky remark about how awful some of the evolutionary psychological ‘explanations’ are. But it did make me think a little about what worthwhile explanations might exist.
Simple explanations – which require that we make fewer leaps beyond what we know and into what we might be mistaken about – are better, all else being equal. Are there any explanations for why people could be made uncomfortable by gays?
One aspect of human cognition which seems to be universal is that children go through a phase, soon after they recognize that there are two human genders, in which they are very concerned that they act ‘appropriately’. Whatever ‘appropriately’ is in their culture. But little boys obsessively ensure that they dress, play, and eat the way little boys are supposed to, and likewise with little girls. Being told that they behave like a member of the other group is an insult. Until after puberty, in fact, most children not only have little interest in doing things like or with the other gender, they actively desire not to do so. Girls/boys have ‘cooties’, and so forth. This facilitates learning more about the roles, in sort of the same way that young children want to imitate their parents’ actions. There’s a natural tendency to acquire adaptive knowledge, and in the ancestral environment kids who wanted to learn the things that they’d eventually end up doing to live would have obvious benefits over those who didn’t. (Evolution didn’t anticipate schooling, much less attending school well into adulthood.)
Although sexual orientation isn’t necessarily associated with the personality traits caught up in gender roles, it may be statistically linked with them, and people certainly believe they’re linked.
So: if we learn that a given person is of non-standard sexuality, isn’t it possible that we expect them to cross over the attitudinal and behavioral standards for their gender roles as well, and this violation of expectation makes us uncomfortable? I’ve noticed that people resent those who break a rule if they are themselves expending resources to ensure that they keep it – and the harder the rule is to keep, the more we are angered/annoyed/frightened by those who don’t keep it.
Why can’t homophobia simply be attributed to discomfort at violations of expectations to which most people force themselves to conform?