Idealization, splitting, and the challenge of homophobia

Niza Yanay, Eyal Siles

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1 Scopus citations


How can we account for the persistence of homophobia? What makes homophobia so resistant to change? In this paper we discuss the psychic and discursive persistence of homophobia by problematizing the political unconscious. Focusing on Freud's psychic defense mechanisms, idealization and splitting, we show how these forces can be thought of as the psychic work of discourse. To this end we interviewed fathers of homosexual sons who had initially reacted with panic, but eventually came to accept their sons' homosexuality. We discuss the paradox that the fathers' narratives raise: their love and adoration of their (masculine) homosexual sons, and on the other hand their hatred and denunciation of homosexuality. We argue that idealization and splitting in this case operate as regulatory psychic mechanisms in the service of social discourse. This psychic power of discourse reappropriates masculinity (as a fetish) and reinstates the naturalization of heterosexuality and the masculine/feminine binary. The notion of the political unconscious is brought up by concluding that in order to change sexual prejudices we need to understand why we fail to change and how psychic mechanisms work in the service of social and cultural discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-351
Number of pages16
JournalPsychoanalytic Dialogues
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology


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