The discussion on latent homosexuality found its way into the public arena when the July 26 edition of MSNBC hyped Ann Coulter’s interview with host Donny Deutsch, which she said of former President Bill Clinton exhibts “some sort of latent homosexuality.” When Coulter was asked by the host if she was indeed calling Clinton a “latent homosexual,” Coulter replied, “Yeah.” “The level of rampant promiscuity by Clinton does show some level of latent homosexuality.” In support of her assessment, of Clinton, Coulter mentioned “passages” she had memorized from the Starr Report resulting from the investigation into the Monica Lewinsky controversy.
Latent homosexuality is an erotic tendency toward members of the same sex which is not consciously experienced or expressed in overt action. The term was originally proposed by Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, “latent” or “unconscious” homosexuality which derived from failure of the defense of repression and and sublimation permit or threaten emergence into consciousness of homosexual impulses, which give rise to conflict manifested in the appearance of symptoms. These symptoms include fear of being homosexual, dreams with manifest and “latent” homosexual content, conscious homosexual fantasies and impulses, homosexual panic, disturbance in heterosexual functioning, and passive-submissive responses to other males.
The Freudian position on latent homosexuality is summarized in this quotation by Karl Abraham: “In normal individuals the homosexual component of the sexual instinct undergoes sublimation. Between men, feelings of unity and friendship become divested of all sexuality. The man of normal feeling is repelled by any physical contact implying tenderness with another of his own sex. …Alcohol suspends these feelings. When they are drinking, men will fall upon one another’s necks and kiss each other … when sober, the same men will term such conduct effeminate. … The homosexual components which have been repressed and sublimated by the influences of education become unmistakably evident under the influence of alcohol.”
In keeping with this train of thoughts, it is not unusual for individuals who exhibit characteristics of latent homosexuality often find themselves drawn to ultra-masculine professions, such as policeman and fireman; to name a few. Many professional sports also serve as a magnet for latent homosexuals, especially the more violent and aggressive sports. The two sports boxing and wresting latent homosexuality is quite evident. And where many of the features involved in the act of intercourse between two lovers are present in the ring. For example, in both boxing and wrestling the participant hug, embrace, stroke the opponent’s sweaty and scantly-covered body like any couple engaged in sexual activities. Many psychoanalytically oriented psychotherapists postulate the theory that both the boxer and the wrestler experience profound rage and guilt for their exhibitionist conduct, and for giving in to their homosexual desires. Therefore, each participant is highly-motivated to punish each other, sometime ending in death, for gratifying the unconscious homosexual desire to embrace and make love to another man.
However, the term, latent homosexuality, as commonly used in clinical practice assumes psychological characteristics. It is important to stress that the term is not used in reference to overt homosexual who attempts to suppress his homosexuality and tries to lead a heterosexual life, it applies only to heterosexuals. Many writers and some researchers have questioned the validity of latent homosexuality on both theoretical and clinical grounds. Others have expressed the opinions that latent homosexuality has been a convenient psychopathological “catch-all” category in which many types pathology are assigned, often, with little or no relationship to homosexuality.
Many who questioned the term “latent homosexuality” were indeed skeptical of the “latency” concept. In an effort to put this concern to rest a group of scientific researchers headed by Irving Bieber published their conclusion in 1963 titled; Homosexuality. A Psychoanalytic Study: By Irving Bieber, et al. This study was very broad and extensive. Bieber and his associated proved beyond doubts that the “latency” concept was an appropriate criteria by which latent homosexuality is usually diagnosed.
However, more than four decades after the Bieber’s study was published skeptism about the vilidity of latent homosexuality is generating lively discussions in the public arena. The gladiators at the Freudian gate should know that help is on the way. A modern day version of Bieber and associates in the form of three psychologist: H. E. Adams, L. W. Wright, Jr., and B. A. Lohr, who conducted an experiment to test Freud’s hypothesis. The conclusion was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology 105 (1996), under the title, “Is Homophobia Associates with Homosexual Arousal?” The finding of this study concluded that those who exhabited the most hostile and negative attitudes towards homosexuals demonstrated the hightest level of sexual arousal when exposed to homosexual pornography. In others words, their homophobia was a “reaction formation” designed to protect them from their own internal homosexual desires.
Paranoid Delusions Since the publication of Freud’s analysis of the Schreber case in 1911 psychotherapists and psychoanalysts have accepted the theory that there is a strong connection between latent homosexuality and paranoid delusions. Freud provided a skillful exposition of the theory that paranoid delusions represent various means in which the paranoid individual denies his latent homosexual desires. Freud theory had been confirmed repeatedly in many clinical studies of every researcher who worked with paranoid clients. An intense homosexual conflict is always present in the male paranoiac and is clearly obvious in the individual’s history and clinical material in the early stage of the illness.
Hostility and discrimination against homosexual individuals are well-documented facts. Too often these negative attitudes end in verbal and physical acts of violence against homosexual individuals. In fact, upward of 90% of homosexual men and lesbians report being the subject of verbal abuse and threats, and better than one-third are survivors of violent attacks related to their homosexuality. These attitudes and behaviors toward homosexuals are labeled homophobia. Homophobia is defined as terror of being in close quarters with homosexual men and women, and an irrational fear, hatred, and intolerance by heterosexual individuals of homosexual men and lesbians.
Psychoanalysts use the concept of repressed or latent homosexuality to explain the emotional malaise and irrational attitudes exhibited by individuals who feel guilty about their erotic interests and struggle to deny and repress homosexual impulses. In fact, when these individuals are placed in a situation that threatens to excite their own unwanted homosexual thoughts, they may overreact with panic, anger, or even murderous rage. To better understand this rage I direct the reader to what happened on Jenny Jones show. On March 06, 1995, Scott Amedure (who’s openly gay) appeared with Jonathan Schmitz on Jenny Jones talk show. Amedure revealed that he had a secret affection for Schmitz. Schmitz was not flattered, rather, he felt embarrassed and humiliated; off camera Schmitz expressed anger and rage. Three days after the show Schmitz purchased a shotgun. He drove to Amedure’s trailer and shot him twice through the heart, killing him.
It is commonly agreed among most researchers that anxiety about homosexuality typically does not occur in individuals who are same-sex oriented, but usually involves individuals who are ostensibly heterosexual and have difficulty coming to term with their homosexual feelings and impulses.
Adams, H.E., Wright, L.W., and Lohr, B.A., Is Homophobia Associated with Homosexual Arousal?” Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105 (1996): 440-445.
Bieber, Irving, et al. Homosexuality: A Psychoanalytic Study: Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 32:111-114.
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William L. Smith Ph. D.