|Title:||Hate Crime or Right of Passage? An Exploration of Assailant Motivations in Antigay Violence|
Clinical and Forensic Psychologist
P.O. Box 1084
Antigay violence has been a topic of growing public concern in recent years. Although up to 94% of gay men and lesbians report being victimized because of their sexual orientation, little has been known about who assaults homosexuals, or why. My dissertation study was the first empirical research into the motivations for, and prevalence rates of, antigay violence among young adults.
The first phase of the research involved an anonymous survey of 484 community college students in the San Francisco Bay Area. A 137-item survey questionnaire asked about respondents' behaviors toward perceived gay men and lesbians. It also asked about their attitudes toward homosexuals, and the attitudes of their friends and parents. The second phase involved in-depth interviews with a smaller group of people who admitted more serious assaults against gay men or lesbians.
I found that antigay violence and harassment was widespread among her non-criminal simple of young adults. One in 10 respondents admitted to physical violence or threats against presumed homosexuals, and another 24% admitted anti-gay name-calling. Most of the assailants were young men who held sexist beliefs toward women, and whose friends opposed homosexuality. Many assailants believed that our culture's attitudes toward sexual minorities - and especially toward people who do not look or act the way a man or woman is "supposed to" - gave them permission to engage in violence against homosexuals.
Using a statistical procedure called "factor analysis," I found that young adults who assaulted homosexuals did not share one single motivation. Instead, they could be divided into four main types:
"Antigay Ideology" assailants, who felt disgust or hatred toward homosexuals, and who tended to see themselves as enforcing society's antigay values; "Peer Dynamics" assailants, who committed antigay acts in order to feel closer to friends, to live up to friends' expectations, or to prove toughness and heterosexuality to friends; "Thrill-Seekers," who assaulted homosexuals for fun and excitement, and to feel strong; and "Self-Defense" assailants, who saw homosexuals as sexually predatory and who reacted defensively to perceived flirtation or sexual innuendo.
Based on the research, I believe that educational outreach to adolescents and preadolescents is a more effective prevention strategy than criminal prosecutions under special hate crime laws.
Franklin, K. Antigay Behaviors Among Young Adults: Prevalence, Patterns, and Motivators in a Noncriminal Population, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, April 2000, pp. 339-362.
Franklin, K. Unassuming Motivations: Contextualizing the narratives of Antigay Assailants, In Herek, G.M. Stigma and Sexual Orientation: Understanding Prejudice Against Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals, 1997.