by Samuel Dock, Clinical Psychologist (Paris)
Translated by Doughlas Remy from “Psychopathologie de l’homophobie,” Huffpost C’est la Vie, 6/2/13
[Doughlas Remy notes: I thought this article was provocative and deserved inclusion on The Bent Angle. I don’t necessarily agree with, nor can I defend, everything that the author has written. It is simply a window into the current debates about marriage equality in France, and I believe it is a valuable contribution to the discussions.]
In France, homosexual marriage and adoption are the burning issues of the day. It’s now up to the French Assemblée to cull through 5367 proposed amendments to its draft law legalizing same-sex marriages. Professionals of every stripe—sociologists, psychologists, experts on love (if any exist), educators, theologians and clergy, hot-shot lawyers—all have delivered their opinions “for” and “against,” often resorting to wildly improbable arguments and hyperbolic rhetoric. While no one has risked appearing indifferent to the outcome, everyone has carefully avoided expressing any affect, as if there was never any emotion involved but only concern for equality, the law, institutions, religion, children, morality, others— in short, for everything except oneself.
How strange that people have recently become so personally “detached” from this issue. But whatever our good citizens may say, gay marriage has shone a light into dark areas of our unconscious, overcoming resistance better than a nation-sized Rorschach. Whom do you see in the face of France? Whom do you not see there? Remarkably, in the midst of all the brouhaha,—despite the public’s transparent pretense of “objectivity,” despite the impossibility of remaining as cool as marble over any issue involving sexuality, and despite the most astonishing political strategies and the reactionary maneuverings of an astonished religion—an affect has been exhumed! It is the very essence of homophobia. In our country we now have proof that hatred can be stirred up even without Sarkozy.
How are we to understand homophobia? The very word seems inadequate to convey any idea of the hostile behavior that it denotes. Let’s abandon the old idea that the homophobe is a repressed homosexual trying to distance himself from his desires. For once, let’s grant desire the respect that it deserves and protect it from the unspeakable.
Researchers Marty, de M’Uzan, and David have investigated a type of mental functioning in which a subject is literally cut off from his unconscious. His mental life, though socially functional, is essentially frozen and mechanical; it is deficient in emotional connections. The past is a dead zone, allowing only low-affect relations with others. In a clinical setting, this disorder resembles Mazerolle asking Bertinotti the same questions a hundred times. [The author is referring to a recent incident in the Assemblée). She responds, he ignores her and inappropriately starts up a video from a priest. He cannot listen. And for good reason: his problem is not about repression (as in phobia, properly speaking) but about foreclosure, a cavity in his psyche where affects disappear without his being able to re-present them to his conscious mind. This is the meaning of the repetition that one observes among a great many bloggers whose discourse does not evolve over long periods of time. They endlessly repeat the same reasonings in a denatured, devitalized language stripped of affect.
Even while warning against the objectivication of children raised by homosexual parents, these bloggers’ own treatment of the subject is emotionally alienated. They don’t acknowledge the lived psychological reality of children already in such arrangements, much less that of their homosexual parents. These incarnate realities are just “data” kept in the file labeled “unthinkable.” But behind their façade of conventional wisdom there lies a zombified psyche. Its ideological elaborations are only a defense against libidinous and aggressive impulses that they cannot metabolize. Unimpressed by the breadth and depth of current scientific understanding of homosexuality, they react like robots, because inertia is always preferable to discomfort. With this type of homophobia, we must understand that “otherness” does not inspire fear. It is not threatening. It is simply not recognized or acknowledged.
This term designates another even more dangerous clinical condition. The “perverted” narcissist (PN), in an effort to compensate for an weak ego, uses another’s narcissism to shore up his own. His behavioral objective is to achieve an omnipotent mastery over the Other. To this end, the PN must dehumanize the Other, deny his autonomy, undermine his narcissism, and eradicate his desires so that he may implant his own in their place. The process of mental disintegration is relentless but effective. The Other, reduced to the status of an object, finally accedes to the demands of his tyrant. The PN sees in his victim’s abdication of identity a proof of his own power. His object, the Other, exists only to serve the the PN’s project of completing his own ego. If the Other then attempts to step out of this role, he risks feeling inadequate and incomplete, and the PN may reject and abuse him. This situation can become very dangerous.
We can observe such narcissistic perversity in certain homophobic behaviors. Worse, in our current political context, where the rights and responsibilities of homosexuals are up for debate, such patterns of perversity can fold themselves into the general debate and avoid scrutiny of the law. Not surprisingly, since many of those exhibiting such patterns represent the law.
To successfully take control, the PN must first use seduction. This was the “demonstration” phase of early January [when 380,000 opponents of marriage equality gathered on the Champ de Mars in Paris]. To judge from Frigide Barjot’s campy behavior, the compassionate prayers of the faithful, the mothers and the fathers, the candles, the proverbs and homilies, one would think the demonstrators were on the side of homosexuals and that François Hollande is a monster, Hitler himself. But cold and calculating rationality follows quickly on the heels of protest. Opponents of same-sex marriage begin brandishing their scientific studies and their Bibles, they infantilize and belittle homosexuals while spewing dogma at them. Then comes violence.
For the PN, respect for others is in the end only an idea without any substance, and he does not hesitate to mercilessly attack his opponents on the Internet. “I wish they’d all get AIDS,” says one. “They kiss in public. They’re not civilized!” complains another.
So there’s dehumanization. The homosexual is a being who surrenders to his basest instincts, who is maladapted to civilization or to the rearing of children, and who should just be thankful that he is at last tolerated. Some bloggers will go so far as to regret that “no treatment has yet been invented.” But what is it that must be treated and overcome? What else are they fighting but something that is within themselves? They’ll use any means to denounce this reflection where they see only difference and defect. Devoid of self-criticism in their conduct toward their victims, they feel no remorse.
Homosexuals have left the shadows and the narrow confines of their minority status. Having taken on form and contours, they have now become highly visible targets where the PNs may project affects and impulses that they cannot countenance in themselves. At the pinnacle of their perversity, they even deny homosexuals victim status, instead accusing them of bullying, anti-Catholicism, predation, and heterophobia. All this is done with the best intentions in the world, those that delineate the Hell where the dioceses have promised to dispatch the gays. The perverted narcissist deforms the Other. In his own image.
There’s more: There’s the paranoia, the obsessivity, and the coprolalia* of the extreme psychopaths. But at least Oedipus is safe, because this is not so much about sexuality as it is about primitive affects, anger and repugnance, a cavity in language, and a fundamental violence. The last gasp of Narcissus.
*coprolalia: involuntary and obsessive use of obscene language