Friday, January 22, 2010

Could Bigotry be a mental Illness or is that an Ableist suggestion?

Well in some comments at Questioning Transphobia i've upset a lot of people by supporting the idea that the bigotry of homophobia and transphobia are likely mental ilnesses. Caused by strongly unconciously supressing ones own homosexuality transgenderness or trans-attraction.

I had reached that conclusion because I'd read of studies that over 80% of those strongly homophobic had themselves strong sexual arousal to homoerotic imagery.

Now i was told this is ablist. Indeed perhaps i have made ablist assumptipons. Everyone does tend to accrue some logical fallacies from society so some degree of such is unsurprising and I'm happy to confront challenge and defeat any such i may not realise i have.

On the other hand it's also possible that my conclusion is correct but people understandably do not wish to in any way share a catagory with such people and wish to avoid any taint-by-association from the strongly bigoted being given an umbrella label that also applies to them. I can understand that, the thought that the murderers of Trans people might themselves be members of our own community that lash out from self hate is an unpleasant one in the extreme to me too. Though the DNA evidence on the vibrater in the Angie Zapata trial in that case at least does seem suggestive of this.

The idea of course goes into several hotly contested areas, aside from the emotional aspects, such as what constitutes a mental illness, what influences exist on behaviour, what responsibility people can have for their behaviour if/when we are all not purely reasoning beings 100% of the time which of course throws into chaos a great deal of our legal system which operates under the assumption that we are all 100% under total reasoning calm control of our every action.

One of the issues that seems to be involved is one of behaviour. To suggest that behaviour may be influenced by mental illness seems from my understanding of the comments in response to mine to be considered ablist. I certainly can understand the fear caused by past practices of institutionalisation and abuse of human rights by loss of personal agency that might fuel this. Suffering regular varying severity cognitive impairment myself caused by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome though i can certainly say that my behaviour personally does seem to be effected by my symptoms both in reflexive unconsciouis actions as well as in varying degrees of ability to reason which cn result in very different choices made under similar circumstances just with the variable of severity and type of cognitive symptoms. Something that I find the experience of profoundly distressing.

It seems to me however that to dissmiss effects on behaviour that can result from symptoms or likely ractions to symptoms of disability is itself problematically ablist.

That a dangerous all-or-nothing thinking may be involved and that attempts to avoid the stigmatisation of people with varied cognition as dangerous and needing to be removed from self control may also result in unfairly abandoning people who have behavioural effects a a consequence of their condition to rot in prisons blamed for the effects of their illness or diversity and blamed for the societies failure to cope with the possibility that individuals, all individuals I might add not just those with mental illness or neurologically diverse etc, are not wholly 24/7 in total control of their every act. If there are important shades of grey there the danger could exist that the efforts to avoid stigma and injustice for some if the shades of grey are not acknowledged and considered could result in stigma and injustice for others.

However i'm well aware i could be totally wrong about this. I may in fact have been making very ablist assumptions and therefore reaching warped and incorrect conclusions from the available data. Additionally the available data i have could be critically incomplete or plain incorrect in the first place.

So then the question is what is in error in this and why is it? Is it ablist to consider that unconsciously repressed homosexuality leading to homophobia would be a psychological illness? Is it ablist to consider that mental illnesses and other cognitiove variation could effect behaviour? Or conversely is it ablist to hold people responsible for the effects on their behaviour which may stem from such?

I have no desire to oppress disabled people, being one myself, nor the mentally ill or neurologically diverse. But that doesn't mean i cannot be disasterously wrong either.


LadyVIolence said...

HOW did I guess that Julie Bindel would look EXACTLY LIKE Lina Bavaro?! Ugh

LadyVIolence said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LadyVIolence said...

(removed comment to fix typos and poor sentence structure)

"I’d like to be able to hold people accountable for their actions." That is what their butthurt is about and that's what all butthurt is about these days. People want revenge, they want apologies and people to accept their "responsibility."
Well, fuck their ablism accusations, not everyone CAN be held accountable! Julie Bindel definitely sounds homo/transphobic to me, and in the way she ignores all contradicting evidence (CH1YO and theists anyone?); lies; warps facts to suit herself and speaks in general, she also sounds mentally fucking ill.

No, calling a transphobe mentally ill is not "conflating" them with bigots. You weren't saying "mentally ill people are bigots!" Which the reaction shown would've been correct had you said that, but you actually said the opposite, which made it seem to me that people appeared to lack reading ability.

Also talk of "moderation" as in possible banning?! For proposing a logical idea?!

Honestly... fuck their shit.

Lisa Harney said...


No one was threatened with banning. Putting comments on moderation just means that they have to be approved before visible.

Your analysis of what accountability means is completely off the mark.

Also, transphobes are bigots. That's what transphobia is - bigotry against trans people.


I came over here to discuss what you were talking about on that post, but given the atmosphere in your comments, I'll take it up with you in e-mail if you're willing.

Battybattybats said...

LadyViolence, that Julie Bindel resembles someone who also happens to be an unethical abuser of human rights is mere coincidence. And lead to poor judement of the innocent who might bear the same resemblance but be good people.

Lisa Harney, I'm sure LadyViolence can entertain a calm rational disspassionate discussion if i ask her nicely, which i do. But your welcome to email me any time on this or any other matter if you wish.

Also Lisa Harney, i think (correct me if im wrong LadyViolence) that LadyViolence was trying to say that to suggest the bigots are bigots because of mental illness is not to say that all mentally ill people are bigots.

Regarding yours and Lisas points about accountability... well this is the total crisis in western civilisation isn't it, the woolly mammoth in the room.

How can someone be truly responsible for their actions if their judgement which leads to that action is in som,e way impaired or influenced?

That we are all functioning with unconscious minds, biological drives, instinct, fatigue, the effects of blood sugar and the like before we even approach the effects of medication, alcohol, other drugs, injury to the brain regions involved in decision making etc all calls into serious question the foundations of our notions of responsibility and criminality doesn't it?

Thats the serious philosophical crisis in Western Civilisation part of the problem. Lets look at the rest.

Lisa Harney does not the study on homophobia, if accurate and not bunk, demand of us to consider the possibility that there are TWO kinds of bigotry? The lesser but more pervasive kind of general ignorant bigots, the ones who are so because they merely grew up with it (perhaps those more easilly swayed from such a view?) and then the repressed self-hating indivdual, the 80% of the strongest homophobes from that study.

Perhaps we'd need to re-classify bigotry, coin a new term to be able to discuss seperately socialised ignorant bias from the strong vehement self-repression form? Clearly the two would interact, where would the self-repression emerge if it were not for growing up in a biased society? And of course the bias of society would be fuelled by the hate-speech of these repressed individuals.

If so not only would the codependant interaction and magnification of these forms be important in understanding them in individuals and society it'd also be vital in defeating them.

Also there's some interesting points about mental illness discussed over at Taking a Third Option

LadyVIolence said...

-_-' Lisa I'm just Batty's partner who's ranting. Just ignore me. =)

I didn't mean anything by my comment other than I felt my partner was being attacked so I ranted to let off steam so please let's move on from my comments and maintain normal discussion or I will seriously just delete my comments.


dyssonance said...

In the US, at least, the concept has a legal ramification in that it provides actual justification for the trans panic defense, which, in and of itself, is widely considered to be homophobic (including by myself).

Then there is the nature of the evidence set forth thus far -- as a psychologist, I[d prefer to see some studies done with better controls, especially to distinguish this as something other than a cultural phenomenon (which, as a sociologist, is readily established).

Oh, and I finally found your place.

Battybattybats said...

Hi Dyssonance!

While the possibility that catagorisation could provide a defence in some legal systems is an unpleasant idea, nevertheless it's not usually considered ethical to classify things dependant on the preferable outcome but rather solely on where they belong.

If the legal system regarding mental illness requires extreme reform that is a seperate but equal or more important issue to accurate classification.

Then there are issues of crime prevention. An effective treatment against transphobia if it is a treatable illness (which if the repression notion is correct means that it would involve the transphobe having to acknowledge and deal with their own transgenderness or trans-attraction) would then be in the public interest to promote and make available and would reduce the incidence of transphobic violence or reincidence amongst offenders. Of course from what I understand the USA is far less likely than many countries to implement effective crime-prevention and rehabilitation srategies.

Now as for questions against the study itself. Indeed that is the crux of the matter. If there are methodological flaws in the study then that may indeed change the conclusions we must follow from them.

What methods of experimentation could seperate purely cultural phenomena from a psychological problem if to have such a psychological problem one would have to unconciously or consciously repress transgender/transatraction/homosexuality in response to experiences of transphobia. Would that not mean that it could be a culture-of-transphobia dependant psychological problem even if it is a distinct psychological problem? How could we sort that out?

Glad to have you comment here Dyssonance. Your most welcome.

timberwraith said...

Wow, BBB, you certainly have raised a thorny issue.

I think you bring up some very good points. So, we have a person who is LGBT, but the environment they live in has produced severe levels of self-hatred and deep repression. They turn that self-hatred outward and hurt others via acts that are rightfully characterized as bigotry. What do we call this?

Could one say that the bigotry they are expressing is a symptom of the underlying disorders of self-hatred and repression? Or do we call it something else?

I can certainly remember what I was like in my teens before I came to accept myself as being transgender. To put it bluntly, I was a homophobic asshole… as were my peers. Was I suffering from the emotional fallout of growing up in a community of bigots or was I just an asshole? Perhaps a little of both?

I think the larger context is that entire communities can become emotionally and cognitively unhealthy on a macroscopic scale. For example, the local culture of my hometown contained an incredible mix of prejudice and bigotry. From what I could see, children raised in that environment were quite likely to grow up to be severely prejudiced adults. (The main reason I didn’t turn out to be a flaming bigot is because being a trans kid rendered me an outsider to the local culture and consequently, the influence of that culture didn’t stick as an adult.)

From my experience of interacting with my immediate family, I can certainly attest to the fact that many of them are intensely disordered people. At the very least, their ability to perceive and understand the world has been severely impaired by a very rigid pattern of organizing their perceptions of people. It really pisses me off and I want to hold them accountable for being hateful assholes, but at the same time, I have difficulty holding them fully accountable because I remember how horrible the culture of our hometown was. It was pretty bad—so bad that I warn people away from living in that community and raising children.

Sadly, there are communities that are so socially, emotionally, and cognitively corrosive that they produce large numbers of truly messed up people—people whose beliefs and perceptions are incredibly harmful to others. On a macroscopic level, there is certainly a disorder of some kind taking place and it damages people under its influence. When this phenomenon expresses itself on an individual level, what do we call it? Do we lump it in with mental illness or do we call it something else? How do we hold people responsible for acts of discrimination and hatred while recognizing that they come from communities that tend to warp people in horrible ways?

Very uncomfortable questions are these.

Mostly, I try to remember these things when I encounter someone who is incredibly bigoted. I try to remember my roots and remind myself, “there but for the grace of the universe go I.” Even so, that certainly doesn’t stop me from challenging people on their bigoted perceptions and beliefs. What it does do is help prevent me from dehumanizing them.

Battybattybats said...

Good points Timberwraith.

Certainly to end Transphobia we need to understand it and find it's weak points. We need to understand how it is spread and why, especially how and why it often resists attempts at education despite all the reason and facts thrownat it.

The two-forms-of-bigotry model with the most fervent being the self-repressed type would be very useful, if true.

Seeing the transphobes, of either form, as victims of transphobia also who propagate their transphobia like an infectious disease may help us develop effective strategies to treat transphobia as well as to prevent it's generational spread.