These days the subject of homophobia is both much mentioned and little understood. What prevails is the sociopolitical view of homophobia as an unfortunate mean-spirited attitude toward gays and lesbians, to be condemned and overcome. What is missing is a scientific theory of homophobia that goes beyond criticizing homophobes, deploring their disastrous effects on the gay and lesbian community, and calling for a stop to the discrimination. What is needed, as Colin Spencer ( 1995) in Homosexuality in History says, is an understanding of the "deeper roots" of homohatred (p. 400). For, as Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen ( 1989) in After the Ball suggest, "to solve [the] problem you must first understand it through and through" (p. 112).
Yet few observers have made significant inroads into understanding homophobia. Those who have studied it in depth have done so primarily as a sideline of their interest in other bigotries. For example, Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford ( 1982) in The Authoritarian Personality occasionally mention homophobia as part of their study of anti-Semitism. Others have focused on homophobia itself but only briefly and superficially. Spencer ( 1995), for example, devotes no more than a few pages to the topic, while Kirk and Madsen ( 1989) discuss the behavioral psychology of homophobia but say little to nothing about the psychoanalytic and interpersonal perspectives.
Gay and straight mental health professionals alike have contributed to the superficial manner in which we have come to view and handle homophobia, each in his or her own way. Gay (and straight but simpatico) observers view homophobia as a problem for gays and lesbians, but not as a disorder of straights. They describe what homophobia means to the gay and lesbian population without first understanding what it means to be homophobic, sparing homophobia from the withering glance of the trained analytic eye, in effect praising it with faint condemnation. Kirk and Madsen ( 1989) even say outright: prejudice is "not 'illness'; and can't be 'cured' by psychotherapy" (p 114), a point with which I and some of my more insightful patients most emphatically disagree.