Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Homophobia-Is Putin Gay?

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | May 2, 2014 3:40 PM

A gym buddy and I were talking about Russia today. He said that Putin is "a homosexual," citing the public pose without shirt, the extreme homophobia and the anti-gay politics he advances in his dictatorship. In that case, the term for his attitude and behavior would be the old Freudian "reaction formation." However, unless there's some real proof of Putin's sexual orientation, these arguments for his gayness don't hold any muster with me. There are lots of  chest show-offs, on and off of Dancing With the Stars, who aren't gay and even politicians and autocrats can succumb to exhibitionism of a juvenille nature. In fact, he's newly divorced and may want to attract women or men-or both. We can't know.

As for reaction formation, in which someone expouses or lives just the opposite of what he or she is afraid personifies him/her, there's no proof here either. This defense, named by the old pro Sigmund Freud, for example, describes the latent lesbian who fights her tendencies and desires and convinces herself that she despises that form of sexual orientation. The antisemetic Jew, the rascist who has some ancestry of another race from what he appears to be, the ex-smoker who campaigns vehemently against all smokers are some examples of this psychological stance. It's possible that Putin hates himself and, thus, other gay people and, therefore, bans and punishes them. However, it's equally possible that he's hetero and just doesn't like or approve of anyone who differs from or defies his narcissistic self, which he projects on the population he largely controls. Insisting on homogeneity (no pun intended) is a way of warding off independent thinking and self-sufficient behavior.

A similar phenomenon exists in families, for example, a parent who is disgusted at his gay child's choices. That parent may be latently gay or not. Usually, not, just threatened by ambiguity, the unknown and the different. Prejudice often results from fear, lack of understanding, ignorance, and cognitive dissonance or not making sense of conflicting facts, which all overlap.

I don't know Putin, nor do I want to, but homosexual or not, he's a bully. That much we know.

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