The Origins of Homophobia

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Also on this website:

Toby Johnson's books:

GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness

GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe

SECRET MATTER: updated, revised & expanded edition from Lethe Press with Afterword by Mark Jordan

GETTING LIFE IN PERSPECTIVE: A romance novel set in the 1980s and the 1890s.

THE FOURTH QUILL, a novel about attitudinal healing and the problem of evil

TWO SPIRITS: A Story of Life with the Navajo, a collaboration with Walter L. Williams

CHARMED LIVES: Spinning Straw into Gold: Reclaiming Our Queer Spirituality Through Story


About ordering

Books on Gay Spirituality:

White Crane Gay Spirituality Series

  Articles and Excerpts:

Read Toby's review of Samuel Avery's The Dimensional Structure of Consciousness

Funny Coincidence: "Aliens Settle in San Francisco"

The Simple Answer to the Gay Marriage Debate

Why gay people should NOT Marry

Wedding Cake Liberation

Gay Marriage in Texas

What's ironic

Shame on the American People

The "highest form of love"

Second March on Washington

A Bifurcation of Gay Spirituality

 The cause of homosexuality

The origins of homophobia

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

What is homosexuality?

What is Gay Spirituality?

My three messages

What Jesus said about Gay Rights

Queering religion

Common Experiences Unique to Gay Men

Is there a "uniquely gay perspective"?

The purpose of homosexuality

The Reincarnation of Edward Carpenter

The Gay Succession

Interview on the Nature of Homosexuality

What the Bible Says about Homosexuality

Mesosexual Ideal for Straight Men

Varieties of Gay Spirituality

Waves of Gay Liberation Activity

Why Gay Spirituality: Spirituality as Artistic Medium

Easton Mountain Retreat Center

Andrew Harvey & Spiritual Activism

The Gay Spirituality Summit in May 2004 and the  "Statement of Spirituality"

"It's Always About You"

The myth of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara

Joseph Campbell's description of Avalokiteshvara

Avalokiteshvara at the Baths.

You're Not A Wave

What is Enlightenment?

What is reincarnation?

How many lifetimes in an ego?

Emptiness & Religious Ideas

Experiencing experiencing experiencing

Going into the Light

Meditations for a Funeral

Meditation Practice

The way to get to heaven

Buddha's father was right

Advice to Travelers to India & Nepal

The Danda Nata & goddess Kalika

Nate Berkus is a bodhisattva

John Boswell was Immanuel Kant

The Two Loves

Curious Bodies

What Toby Johnson Believes

The Joseph Campbell Connection

Campbell & The Pre/Trans Fallacy

The Nature of Religion

What's true about Religion

Being Gay is a Blessing

Drawing Long Straws

Freedom of Religion

The Gay Agenda

Gay Saintliness

Gay Spiritual Functions

The subtle workings of the spirit in gay men's lives.

The Sinfulness of Homosexuality

Proposal for a study of gay nondualism

Priestly Sexuality

 "The Evolution of Gay Identity"

"St. John of the Cross &
the Dark Night of the Soul."

 Eckhart's Eye

Let Me Tell You a Secret

Religious Articulations of the Secret

The Collective Unconscious

Driving as Spiritual Practice


Historicity as Myth


No Stealing

Next Step in Evolution

The New Myth

The Moulting of the Holy Ghost

Gaia is a Bodhisattva

The Hero's Journey as archetype

Marian Doctrines: Immaculate Conception & Assumption

Teenage Prostitution and the Nature of Evil

Allah Hu: "God is present here"
Adam and Steve

The Life is in the Blood

Gay retirement and the "freelance monastery"

Seeing with Different Eyes

The mystical experience at the Servites'  Castle in Riverside

The Great Dance according to C.S.Lewis

The Techniques Of The World Saviors

Part 1: Brer Rabbit and the Tar-Baby
Part 2:
The Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Part 3:
Jesus and the Resurrection
Part 4:
A Course in Miracles

The Secret of the Clear Light

Understanding the Clear Light

Mobius Strip

Finding Your Tiger Face

How Gay Souls Get Reincarnated

In honor of Sir Arthur C Clarke

Karellen was a homosexual

About Alien Abduction

What are you looking for in a gay science fiction novel?

The D.A.F.O.D.I.L. Alliance

More about Gay Mental Health

Psych Tech Training

The Rainbow Flag

Ideas for gay mythic stories

Kip and Toby, Activists

Toby's friend and nicknamesake Toby Marotta.

Harry Hay, Founder of the gay movement

About Hay and The New Myth

About Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, the first man to really "come out"

About Michael Talbot, gay mystic

About Fr. Bernard Lynch

About Richard Baltzell

About Guy Mannheimer

About David Weyrauch

About Dennis Paddie

About Ask the Fire

About Arthur Evans

About Christopher Larkin

About Sterling Houston

About Michael Stevens

Our friend Tom Nash

Book Reviews

Be Done on Earth by Howard E. Cook

Pay Me What I'm Worth by Souldancer

The Way Out by Christopher L  Nutter
The Gay Disciple by John Henson

Art That Dares by Kittredge Cherry

Coming Out, Coming Home by Kennth A. Burr

Extinguishing the Light by B. Alan Bourgeois

Over Coffee: A conversation For Gay Partnership & Conservative Faith by D.a. Thompson

Dark Knowledge by Kenneth Low

Janet Planet by Eleanor Lerman

The Kairos by Paul E. Hartman

Wrestling with Jesus by D.K.Maylor

Kali Rising by Rudolph Ballentine

The Missing Myth by Gilles Herrada

The Secret of the Second Coming by Howard E. Cook

The Scar Letters: A Novel by Richard Alther

The Future is Queer by Labonte & Schimel

Missing Mary by Charlene Spretnak

Gay Spirituality 101 by Joe Perez

Cut Hand: A Nineteeth Century Love Story on the American Frontier by Mark Wildyr

Radiomen by Eleanor Lerman

Nights at Rizzoli by Felice Picano

The Key to Unlocking the Closet Door by Chelsea Griffo

The Door of the Heart by Diana Finfrock Farrar

Occam’s Razor by David Duncan

Grace and Demion by Mel White

Gay Men and The New Way Forward by Raymond L. Rigoglioso

The Dimensional Stucture of Consciousness by Samuel Avery

The Manly Pursuit of Desire and Love by Perry Brass


I want to propose an explanation for homophobia in human beings. Why do the majority of (straight/heterosexual) people have negative opinions of a sexual minority (gay/homosexual -- and all the alphabet that can go with that)? The answer is in the word "sexual."

I think the answer has to do with psycho-development stages in sexual maturation.

Boys start out sexually aware of our own bodies, and our first sexual arousal is about ourselves and our being able to experience pleasure. (Of course, this is often very confusing and conflicted because nobody explains it properly and the religious people tell us we are sinning by experiencing the pleasure--but "Catholic guilt" is another issue.) There is obviously a kind of "homosexual" quality to self-arousal.

Boys also develop intense friendships with other boys during this period as part of identifying as male and developing a sense of personal ego that is aware of other people's responses to us. So we form these intense (non-sexual, for the most part) relationships.

Then a little while after puberty, straight boys begin to experience sexual arousal from seeing females--and the process of sexual awareness begins.

In that process, the straight boys have to shift their sexual arousal from their own (male) bodies to the bodies of females. And they have to shift their intense friendships from other boys to girls.

Part of doing that is distinguishing between the intense friendships with other boys and sexual attractions and crushes on girls. And the distinction is sexual.

So the sexual side of intense friendships with other boys and the personal arousal by one's own body have to be supplanted in the interests of sexual maturation.

I think that process of supplanting/suppression results in the thought "I am not a girl," and that leads to "I am not homosexual." That's the start of homophobia.

I think that the experience of “homophobia”— i.e., that homosexual acts seem icky—is a built-in psychodynamic to force males to perform as males and to think of themselves as not-female. We all start female. Masculinization is something that happens over time. It happens biologically during gestation; it happens psychologically beginning with puberty. Young men are often compulsively driven to prove their “masculinity”—football and getting concussions is a good example we’re seeing in the news these days. “A real man” doesn’t get hurt.

For gay boys the process works very differently. There is a smooth transition from arousal for one's own body to arousal for the bodies of the boys one has formed these intense friendships with. There'e no moment of turning away from the boys to the girls.

On the other hand, of course, the gay boys likely experience rejection by their straight boy friends. And so there starts the internalizing of homophobia in them.

There's yet another level of this that has to do with toilet training and awareness of one's anus and confusion about feeling pleasure around defecation.

Much of straight male homophobia, I think, has to do with fear of being anally penetrated -- rather than fear of feeling intense feelings for one's friends. It isn't so much homosexual love that the straight men fear as homosexual sex which is understood to mean being anally penetrated, because genital penetration is how straight men have sex with women.

This is, after all, what the Biblical injunction seems to be about: you shall not have sex with a man the way a man has sex with a woman.

Actually, of course, what that rule can be interpreted to say is that when you have sex with another man, you shouldn't treat him the way you'd treat a woman. This was a rule in a very primitive and violent culture in which women were treated as chattel. So you were supposed to treat other men as equals. (And you weren't supposed to fuck the vanquished in battle because that kind of male warrior behavior was just dishonorable.)

The worst victims of homophobia, oddly enough, are straight men who get strait-jacked into a set of rules about seeming masculine.  One of the ongoing cultural jokes is about the man sitting forlorn on the side of the bed while a woman assures him that "that can happen to anybody"; too often what he is anxious about is the possibility that his momentary impotence is a sign of homosexuality. (Though that doesn't make any sense, does it?)

Perhaps the real issue involved in all this is human beings feeling comfortable in their bodies and positive about the wonderful possibilities offered by having physical bodies with organs of pleasure. We should rejoice in our incarnation and experience our pleasure as a positive thing. Our bliss--at the level of orgasmic pleasure AND deep interpersonal love and affection--creates gift waves into the spirit plane.

There's more on this topic: See

Q&A about Jungian ideas in gay consciousness

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Toby Johnson, PhD is author of eight books: three non-fiction books that apply the wisdom of his teacher and "wise old man," Joseph Campbell to modern-day social and religious problems, three gay genre novels that dramatize spiritual issues at the heart of gay identity, and two books on gay men's spiritualities and the mystical experience of homosexuality. In addition to the novels featured elsewhere in this web site, Johnson is author of IN SEARCH OF GOD IN THE SEXUAL UNDERWORLD and THE MYTH OF THE GREAT SECRET (Revised edition): AN APPRECIATION OF JOSEPH CAMPBELL.

Johnson's Lammy Award winning book GAY SPIRITUALITY: The Role of Gay Identity in the Transformation of Human Consciousness was published in 2000. His Lammy-nominated book  GAY PERSPECTIVE: Things Our Homosexuality Tells Us about the Nature of God and the Universe was published by Alyson in 2003. Both books are available now from Lethe Press.

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