Sexual Orientation

Paging Dr. Ben Carson: Homophobia Calling

Homophobia, the shadow, and the problem of projection

Posted Sep 22, 2015

A man who is unconscious of himself acts in a blind, instinctive way and is in addition fooled by all the illusions that arise when he sees everything that he is not conscious of in himself coming to meet him from outside as projections upon his neighbour. 
Carl Jung, “The Philosophical Tree”1

Certain biases sneak past intelligent minds without data, critical thinking, or experience. How can this be?

Consider the case of neurosurgeon and presidential candidate, Ben Carson, who had a ready-made theory and evidence in proof of his theory about homosexuality. The theory: being gay is a choice; his evidence: “because a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight—and when they come out, they’re gay.” Later he apologized and said he did not know how all gay people became gay. 

Why didn’t his scientific and rational mind question or critique his words before they came out of his mouth? Why do people become not only ignorant, but collaborators in believing and spreading ignorance especially when it is hurtful ignorance?

Consider the case of Ed—a straight man, a religious man, who believes both of these qualities are part of his goodness, his worthiness. Of course, Ed has impulses—especially sexual impulses—that he considers immoral. Rather than resolve this tension internally, which would instigate a moral conflict requiring true psychological reflection, Ed judges, disowns, and disavows these impulses finding them inconsistent with his religious beliefs upon which his sense of self stands. These impulses are then relegated to Ed’s shadow—an unconscious region of Ed’s psyche.

Consistent with all shadow aspects of people, Ed projects his own “immorality,” his “deviousness,” onto an “other,” in this case our gay sisters and brothers. The result: When Ed thinks about issues facing our gay sisters and brothers, true reflection is rendered nearly impossible because he is not considering the real lives of real gay people, instead he is considering something called “gay” as manufactured by his psyche—aspects of Ed’s nature that he finds onerous.

The door that keeps that shadow closed not only locks out discordant information and critical thinking, but also closes the heart to the feelings for the harm done to those projected upon.

The simple truth—that being gay is an expression of nature’s beauty, truth, and love—is rendered out of reach to his conscious mind, as it is from Ben Carson’s thinking and statement.

It is a psychological rule that the brighter the light, the blacker the shadow; in other words, the more rationalistic we are in our conscious minds, the more alive becomes the spectral world of the unconscious.
—Carl Jung2

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Illuminating the Shadow: Bringing Light to Carson's Biases

There are two assumptions perpetrated by Carson’s thinking. Let’s take them one at a time in order to shine the light of honest reflection into a shadow not only in Carson’s psyche, but the culture at large.

Assumption 1: Being gay is a sickness caused by rape or abuse.

The message here is this: Our LGBTQ sisters and brothers are not acting out of love or nature, in fact, they are not even acting out of their right minds. They are sick; being gay is an illness.

Carson is clearly not alone in perpetrating this viewpoint. For example, the Center for Marriage and Family Studies of the Family Research Council believes that "[M]en who sexually molest boys all too often lead their victims into homosexuality and pedophilia.”

The American Psychiatric Association also held the view that homosexuality was a mental illness for much of the 20th century. However, in 1973, they corrected their error, eliminating this diagnostic category. Being gay was no longer considered an illness. 

The truth is that being raped in prison does not result in a person becoming gay; in fact, it’s quite the opposite: if you are gay, you are more likely to be raped.

The research is not only clear, it is alarming, indicating that “sixty-seven percent of gay or transgender men have been sexually assaulted by another inmate—a rate fifteen times higher than the overall inmate population.” 

The projecting psyche twists the facts so egregiously! Instead of seeing our LGBTQ sisters and brothers as more vulnerable to being abused, they view homosexuality as a sickness that results from being abused.  

Indeed, there is a sickness—it is this kind of thinking!

Assumption 2: Homosexuals are inherently criminal; they are rapists.

Carson’s thinking suggests that mainstream America should fear “them,” should be protected from “them,” should not trust “them,” and should not befriend “them.” “They” are dangerous. This kind of thinking is the hallmark of projection—the creation of an “us and them” that not only makes distinctions, but colors “them” in a cloak of something so negative that “they” can be treated inhumanely.

The research shows this logic to be totally opposite from the truth. Actually, gay folks are not likely to end up in prison because they are inherently criminal, instead, they are more likely to go to prison because they are treated criminally by their families as children.

Many gay youth suffer painful rejection by their families. Twenty-six percent leave their homes and turn to the streets to escape emotional and physical abuse. “Prosecutors frequently file charges against these youth for being “incorrigible” or beyond the control of their parents or guardians, based largely on the parent’s objections to their sexual orientation.” 

Abuse by families, communities, and an ignorant criminal justice system leads them into jail, not their sexual identity.

Again, the twisted logic of the projecting psyche views a more vulnerable population as the perpetrating population.

This pattern of blaming victims as a way of deflecting and hiding the abuse done by perpetrators, is quite common. Members of marginalized groups are regularly stereotyped as being sick and predatory. For example, Jews were thought to murder Christian babies in ritual sacrifices; and black men in the United States were often lynched after being falsely accused of raping White women.

More recently, the Catholic Church tried to lay blame for the sexual abuse of minors at the feet of homosexuality—it was the homosexual clergy that were at fault, not them. In fact, in 2002, the Vatican responded to allegations of clergy sexual abuse by declaring that gay men should not be ordained.

Once again, the research undermines this thesis indicating that homosexual men are no more likely than heterosexual men to molest children or to be sexually attracted to children or adolescents.

The Worst of It: Shame

I think shame is deadly. And I think we are swimming in it deep.
—Brene Brown3

Carson’s thinking is not just wrong-headed; it is dangerous. Being looked upon as an illness, as a danger, destroys the soul of a person, teaching them to not trust their own thinking, their own feelings and desires, their own spirit—their spiritual and moral rightness.

Simply put, it injects a lethal dose of shame into the psyche. The suicide rate alone attests to the deadliness of this shaming where gay and questioning youth are 3-4 times more likely to attempt suicide.

It’s time to inject a strong dose of critical thinking into our political and social discourse. Furthermore, it’s time for all of us to learn psychological thinking, specifically about the moral problem inherent in belief systems that identify their own light as so bright and true that they can only leave an equally dark shadow in their wake.

[1] Carl Jung, “The Philosophical Tree,” Collected Works 13: Alchemical Studies (1945), 335.

[2] Spuk: Irrglaube oder Wahrglaube? Foreword by C. G. Jung, Collected Works 18 (Zurich 1950), 10.



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