If You’re Really Against Gay Marriage…
Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to catch an NPR interview with Chris Colfer, the young (only 21!) actor who plays Kurt Hummel on the TV showGlee. He’s disgustingly talented and engaging; besides his TV role, he’s written and is starring in a new movie, Struck by Lightning, has a deal to write two books for young adults, and was one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2011.
In the interview, he talked about the gay character he plays on the show and about being gay himself, including how he suffered so much at the hands of bullies in junior high that his parents home-schooled him for a year and a half. As I listened to him, I thought about a new study I’d just read about—one that found that virulent homophobes are themselves often gay.
In the study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychologyand involving nearly 800 college students in the U.S. and Germany, researchers asked participants to rate themselves from one to 10 on a scale of gay to straight, then showed them a series of images (pictures of gay and straight couples) and words (like “gay” and “straight”) and told them to sort the images into either of two categories—gay or straight. Unbeknownst to participants, researchers flashed subliminal messages between the images: the word “me” or the word “other.” Because of a process known as “semantic association,” we’re able to sort the images into proper categories faster when we self-identify with the word that precedes them. In other words, if I’m straight and I subliminally receive the “me” before a photo of a straight couple, I’ll choose its proper category faster than if I see the word “me” before a photo of a gay couple.