Spain is one of the countries that has made the most progress in recent decades in the rights of the LGTBI collective. Unfortunately, violence against these people is still a reality that we must combat. For this reason, every May 17th the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia is celebrated in commemoration of the day in which The World Health Organization (WHO) removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses..
Since that day in May 1990, only 32 years have passed. It may seem shocking that so little time has passed, but the overall state of the world regarding gay rights remains alarming. According to Amnesty International, homosexuality can be a reason for the death penalty in 11 countries of the world, Consensual same-sex relationships are illegal in 70 countries, and the vast majority of them are punishable by prison terms.
In any case, it is not only important that laws and states advance, but also society. Even in Spain —which, according to this article in EL ESPAÑOL, achieved one of the best data on respect for the LGTBI community in Europe in a survey by ILGA-Europe, the Association of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Trans and Intersex in Europe— crimes against these people continue to take place.
The last ones that have taken place have been four serial murders in Bilbao committed by a man who used contact apps between homosexual people to steal their bank details and then kill them. In addition, in less than two months it will be the first year since the murder of Samuel Luiz in A Coruña after a severe beating during which his assailants yelled “fucking fagot” at him. This case was one of the most notorious in the national media during the past summer.
They are not psychopaths
What is the origin of this hatred that leads to these brutal crimes? EL ESPAÑOL has consulted several expert psychologists and they all agree that these crimes cannot be explained by individual psychological pathologies of the aggressors. “You don’t have to be a psychopath to commit this kind of crime”assures Ramón Nogueras, psychologist and author of the book Why do we believe in shit? (Kailas, 2020).
Guillermo Fouce, professor of Social Psychology at the Complutense University of Madrid, describes the perpetrators of physical attacks on homosexuals as people influenced by hate speech. “These speeches delegitimize the victim and make the aggressor consider her inferior. He does not treat her as a human being because he considers that there is a higher purpose that justifies it: to clean up society. This happens a lot in terrorist movements.”
Indeed, Fouce and Nogueras compare these dynamics to some in Nazi Germany. “Were all Nazis psychopaths? Research by social psychologists sought to answer what percentage of the population would be willing to give someone electric shocks to the point of death or serious harm. If all of them were psychopaths, they would be 1%, which is the number that exists in the population. The result reached 60%“, says Fouce.
“This type of violence is a systemic problem that has to do with an ideological approach that is LGTBI-phobia, that occurs in all countries and has been suffered for a long time“, explains José Manuel Peris, advisor on LGBT issues at the College of Psychology in Madrid. “This ideology is reinforced because some men – who are the majority of those who commit these attacks – reinforce their masculinity by attacking these people.”
Nogueras assures that we are currently exposed to messages of hate against the LGTB community: “It is said that they are a lobbywhich have advantages over the rest or which giving a talk at school can make your child gay, which is ridiculous. This generates a breeding ground for there to be people who at one point attack”. In fact, the psychologist explains that we should not pathologize to these aggressors because in this way this problem of society is denied.
Homophobic attacks are not only physical attacks, although these can draw people’s attention to a greater extent. In addition to the more obvious hate speech, songs, video games or interventions by public figures on television can give rise to radicalization.
“In no case are these messages innocent,” says the professor of Social Psychology. “If we think it’s normal to laugh at a homosexual, it is because he does not deserve the same respect and we are dehumanizing him“. Peris also warns that “if masculinity continues to be constructed in a toxic way, in groups where young people try to demonstrate their manhood, LGTBI-phobia is not going to disappear”.
Neither young nor homosexual
In this sense, the most frequent aggressors of homosexual people are men under 30 years of age, according to the Madrid Observatory of LGTBphobia. In addition, they usually act in groups of several members. “Adolescence is a time of great effervescence and search for identity. This is taken advantage of by other aggressors who are dedicated to generating hate speech. They are captured on purpose because they are more impressionable and, in addition, they have more force”, explains Fouce.
When trying to explain this type of violence, some people turn to old theories that suggest that homophobic aggressors are, in fact, repressed homosexuals. Psychologists agree that this theory does not explain the real situation and it is a simplification to the individual. This has been discussed in some media under the name of egodystonic homosexuality.
“It basically refers to a person who is homosexual and takes it badly in a personal way,” explains Nogueras. “It is an archaic term and does not represent reality: homosexuals do not feel bad about themselves, but about the society that makes them ashamed“. In addition, the psychologist explains that it is ridiculous that a homosexual tries to hide his sexuality by attacking because “this behavior is not typical of heterosexuals”.
Nogueras published this week a thread on Twitter in reference to this theory that emerged from a study in 1996. In this project they put a heterosexual and a homosexual pornographic film to a group of homophobic and non-homophobic men and measured their arousal with devices that measure the thickening of their penises during viewing. Homophobic men got boners during the viewing of homosexual pornography.
A criminologist has stated that in homophobic group attacks, the leader is usually a homosexual who denies his homosexuality and suffers for it (ego-dystonic homosexuality). This is a correlation that has been taken from the bottom of the candy box, and that has no basis.
– Ramón Nogueras #Vaccinated (@RamonNogueras) September 8, 2021
“In any case, this experiment has not been replicated again nor have similar results been obtained. It is part of a methodological error, which is to measure arousal with the thickening of the penis, because erections can be had for multiple reasons,” explains Nogueras. This theory also reaffirms the stigma against the LGBT community because makes homosexuals responsible for the violence they themselves experience.
cut the hate
In addition to his work as a teacher, Fouce is president of the Psychology Without Borders foundation where he has dealt with aggressors of this type. The work with these patients consists of rebuilding empathy and destroying the legitimizing discourses. “In addition to education, homophobia must be combated by forcefully applying the law, not only against physical aggressors, but also against those who spread hate speech,” he says.
“Although it is hard to believe, these aggressors believe that their actions have positive consequences: they are reinforced because they think they have done society a favor. Therefore, society must respond and reject these actions. The same thing happens with gender-based, racist violence and other hate crimes,” explains Fouce. Of course, another fundamental aspect to prevent this violence is education.
Although homophobic violence can only be explained by social reasons that influence it, there are two individual variables that predispose to committing it. On the one hand, psychopathy, which, although it occurs in a low percentage, is feasible; and on the other, the authoritarian personality. “Violence is learned and reproduced; These aggressors assume the authority of whom they consider above and exercise it against those who they believe to be inferior. There is plenty of evidence”. For this reason, it is important that education be empathic and combat speeches that legitimize hate.