Why are so many anti-gay religious right bigots so gay?

The anti-gay sons of anti-abortion activist Flip Benham have set off many-a-gaydar in their day. And today, they did it again.

The Benham boys, David and Jason, rose to fame outside of the religious right earlier this year when their show on HGTV got canceled after reports that the twin brothers have some serious issues with gays and Muslims.

The Benhams have compared gay marriage to Nazi Germany, and have labeled Islam “the enemy.”

In religious right circles the Benhams are now famous for being yet another “victim” of the gay. (The religious right, along with Republicans generally, self-declared themselves to be perpetual victims years ago. Whatever the issue, when they found they couldn’t win on the merits, the GOP trotted out the victim card. The Benhams were no different.)

They also, according to today’s report from Sirius (and HuffPo’s) Michelangelo Signorile, aren’t very different in another way as well. I’d written before about how odd it is that so many of the most anti-gay men in the conservative movement come across as so darn gay. Well, the Benhams don’t disappoint.



Mike posted audio of his recent interview with the Benham brothers, you can hear it below. But he also describes what could only be described as the Benham brothers flirting with him at the recent religious right Value Voters Summit:

They’re affable, and, if I didn’t know better, I’d say they’re a bit flirty. As I began to interview them, the first thing they did was comment on my outfit, both men running their fingers along my sports jacket. “Man, this guy is sharp,” one of them said. “Look at this guy! I like this guy.” (Listen to the audio below.) Honestly, had I not known anything about them and the controversy, I’d have thought I’d just met a pair of gay twins — that is, until seconds later, when, with gleaming smiles on their faces, they quoted Bible verses, warned of the “depth of depravity” to which the culture has sunk and explained how “Satan has chosen homosexuality to slap an agenda over.”

(I should point out that I don’t believe they knew I’m gay or knew anything about my background as a journalist, though of course my name and affiliation were made clear to them.) Then, at the end of the interview, they once again were commenting on my clothes. “Thank you,” one of them said. “We loved it. You’re a sharp guy.”

Later, I ran into them again, with one of them greeting me with, “Hey, stud.”

Mike poses the question as to whether the Benhams’ seeming-gayness is a sign of how far gay liberation has come:

So have gay men actually liberated many straight men to the point that they can appropriate “gayness” even while still being virulently anti-gay? And is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Well, from my experience, men who act gay tend to be gay. Or at least bisexual. I have yet to meet a rabid heterosexual male who acts like a flaming queen. And it is odd — some would even call it queer — how many of those heterosexual queens work for the religious right.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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38 Responses to “Why are so many anti-gay religious right bigots so gay?”

  1. jernfrost says:

    Might be some truth to this. From an article I read in scientific American a few years ago, the theory then was that being was cause by both genetics and environment, but that the influence of genes could vary wildly from each gay person to the next.

    Thus there are likely some gay people with weak genetic influence for being gay who could theoretically turn straight or chose to live straight. Perhaps many of these are those bigoted right wing anti-gay types.

  2. UncleBucky says:

    People should really ASK the obvious offenders this question: Did you have to choose NOT to be gay? And let them splutter and blink and twist and shout…

  3. ogre12 says:

    if you disregard these passage in the Word then please post so everyone who can see.

    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the
    kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor
    idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor
    thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will
    inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were
    washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord
    Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

    Romans 1:26-28

    For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For
    their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to
    nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and
    were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless
    acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their
    error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them
    up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.

    Leviticus 20:13
    If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have
    committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood
    is upon them.

    1 Timothy 1:10
    The sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,
    liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,

    1 Corinthians 7:2
    But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each womanThe sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,
    liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in
    accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I
    have been entrusted.

  4. Butch1 says:

    When I read this:

    “The family values movement is not anti-gay,” said John F. Schlafly, a 41-year-old attorney who lives with his parents in Alton, Ill., and counts among his clients the Eagle Forum, the conservative group founded by his mother.”

    I began to wonder, what self-respecting 41 year old gay man is still living with his parents? This is one who has his mother’s organization for a client, that’s one.
    Next, I begin to question whether I should believe a weak son who has evidently never left the nest, who still lives with his strong mother and father and has them as an important client, most likely his biggest one and ask myself if he would ever say anything against her or them? This is one republican gay person that I wouldn’t believe or trust especially when it comes to Phyllis Schlafly.

    It’s unfortunate that your mother hasn’t found a way to come around and connect with you on this. It sounds like her homophobia is stronger than her love and that is really a shame. Religion, if that is what did it, can mess up more lives. I hope she can get comfort from her religion; it’s mighty lonely talking to someone in prayer who never responds back to you when you have your own flesh and blood on this earth, whom you are supposed to love and you let this silly religion get in the way of it. They find a few verses and condemn people whilst forgetting all the other transgressions they do not want to follow in that same bible. Hypocrites. If it has nothing to do with religion I wonder what could have made her homophobic?

  5. Butch1 says:

    It becomes more difficult as we get older; he may just decide that he has “made his bed . . .” and he can perhaps “flirt” a little and see what happens and if someone calls him on it he can say the took it the wrong way. I have known people like that and it’s unfortunate that is how they get their kicks.

    I knew I was “different” from a very early age and I knew I was always attracted to my own sex whether at a very young age it was sexual or not remains to be seen. I did have sexual relations with boys my age at a very young age and what’s interesting is a few grew up to be straight. For them it was experimentation. I didn’t know what it was called at the time, but I knew what I was attracted to and that most boys grew to be attracted to girls. Our society forces that upon us and it’s ironic when they say we are the ones who are trying to “indoctrinate” their children so keep your children away from gays. It’s been the other way around for as long as I can remember.

    To badly misquote and paraphrase Shakespeare: “I think they doth project too much.” ;-)

  6. TampaZeke says:

    Here’s an article that was written when he was outed. She has GREAT relationship with her son because he fully supports her and counts among his clients, the Eagle Forum.


    My mother is like Phyllis Schlafly but my relationship with her is very different from that of the Schlaflys. I call my mother out every chance I get and we don’t have a close relationship because of her homophobia.

  7. ChrisDC says:

    Thanks for understanding. For all I know, he and his wife have some kind of understanding about this. Or maybe not. To put it in context, we’ve all known each other since elementary school, he’s a year older than me, and we’re all in our early 50’s. The first time I heard the word “gay” was when Harvey Milk got elected in San Francisco, just after my 14th birthday.

  8. Butch1 says:

    I see; that’s a different story. Thanks for the input. Eventually, he may come around when this reaches a point where he cannot live a lie anymore.

  9. Butch1 says:

    Considering how this woman has a gay son herself, you would think it would have changed her thinking just a little. No, she has a stone heart. I do not know the relationship she has with her gay son and he with her.

  10. Butch1 says:

    You may have something there and the fact that they are brothers and twins makes it “okay” and an exception to the rule.

  11. Butch1 says:

    Yes, it’s a constant battle they continue to fight with themselves and need to prove daily to others that they are “still” straight by deriding gays for being who they are. This proves to themselves that they are not gay. It’s really a strange mental mess they have created using religion as their “beard” having worked themselves into when they do this in my opinion.

  12. ChrisDC says:

    I get your point, but I didn’t give you enough information. What he does is just say, “No. I can’t see it,” and changes the subject. (Personally, I think the problem is that he sees it in the mirror.) Having said that, he doesn’t rant. He just adamantly refuses to talk about marriage equality. We’re not out of conversation territory, yet. We’re both lawyers. I work in civil rights and am a marriage equality advocate. He works in family law, and the intersection means it’s going to keep coming up. In the meantime, I’m publicly vocal and he’s publicly silent. He’s my cousin, and he’s working through something. I’m not ready to end the conversation. (If he were ranting, though, you’d be right.)

  13. Butch1 says:

    Perhaps when he goes into one of his homophobic rants it’s time to shut him down with some of this. He can always deny it, but some of the family will start wondering from that point on about him. Planting the seed will be the whole point of this and he will be in constant denial from that point on. I think many people are starting to realize that a person who “protests too much” is usually hiding something.

  14. wmforr says:

    Angry as Hell that a man would prefer another man to her, when there are so few men who would give her a passing glance in the first place.

  15. Stev84 says:

    They are the poster boys for twincest porn.

  16. BillFromDover says:

    Simply because God created then in his own image?

  17. caphillprof says:

    I too have suspected that much of the opposition comes from men passing as straight and their wives. Some of it is sour grapes. Some of them may regret having made the easy but wrong choice.

  18. ChrisDC says:

    I’ve often thought that, one day, the fight over gay rights is going to be seen as a civil war between gay men who don’t have a choice and bisexual men who wish they didn’t.

    Being flat-out, 100% absolutely gay hasn’t been easy, but I’ve become grateful for the lack of ambiguity. My straight friends who are completely straight, quite frankly, don’t feel too strongly one way or the other about the issue. It literally doesn’t cross their minds.

    Of everybody in my extremely conservative family, the one relative I have who is the most vehemently opposed to marriage equality also happens to be the one relative whom I know is bisexual. And married to a woman. (He doesn’t know that I know about the guys he’s hit on over the years — many of whom have come to me and asked me how to fend him off without hurting his feelings.)

  19. GreenEagle says:

    At the risk of judging a book by its cover, I want to add that it stuns me that no one will comment on the fact that Glenn Beck is clearly in the same category. I challenge anyone to watch him even with the sound off for thirty seconds, and not have their “gaydar” tripped. It isn’t even a close call. God, I know tons of gay people that do not have the mannerisms that many people think indicate they are gay, but with Beck, it isn’t remotely in a grey zone.

  20. Thom Allen says:

    The fact that they both felt comfortable enough to go up to a strange man and fondle his clothes without even asking is creepy. If they do that often enough, they’re liable to get punched out at some point.

  21. Thom Allen says:

    Salmon-colored undies, being half naked and climbing over each other to later slide down a pole doesn’t necessarily make someone gay. But the probability is astronomical,. Isn’t that Jason second from the top?

  22. BeccaM says:

    Schlafly’s defining characteristics are (1) her misogyny and (2) her raging hypocrisy. Even as she was arguing for legal protections for rigid (and dependent, for women) gender roles, she was a lawyer, author, and radical conservative activist.

    She epitomized the ones who, upon managing to climb the ladder to success, were determined to pull that ladder up after them so no one else could do the same. There were and are many women like this, just like the gays among the conservative GOPers, who see no irony or problem with the idea they support a movement that would ultimately return even them to positions of oppression and 2nd class status.

    For someone like Schlafly, she just flat out presumes that in New Gilead, she’d not only be a Martha, but she’d be running the entire Martha organization.

  23. BeccaM says:

    Bingo. I also refer to it has having replaced actual desires with “I will force myself to want what I am supposed to want.”

    Lived that way for decades before the stress and (to me) inexplicable depression nearly killed me.

    It’s a way of externalizing one’s own psyche, and thus requires pretty much the entire world to act as the support. They need gay people to suffer and be unhappy, not just some but all, because if it’s possible to be otherwise, this means the psychological construct and the denial are threatened.

    In fact, I’d rephrase your remark there, John, as more like “Someone who yearns for some man-on-man action and has not only ‘chosen’ not to do it, but who has also ‘chosen’ to lie to themselves as to whether they desire it in the first place.”

    In short, a denial so strong, they’ll keep saying they’re not gay, they have no same-sex erotic desires, even as they soliciting blow jobs from strangers in public rest rooms.

    As far as the Benham brothers go, they’ve always struck me as having been bed buddies possibly from a very early age, with both incest and extreme narcissism thrown into the mix. They might’ve even convinced themselves what they’ve done (or are doing still?) isn’t really ‘gay’ because they’re identical twins. My theory anyway, in large part because if they weren’t clearly identical twin brothers, the way they look and act around each other, I would’ve assumed right off they were a gay couple, probably married.

  24. He’s not gay, he’s just very comfortable with himself :)


  25. Jack C. Hall Jr. says:

    Exactly….the more you talk about gays…the gayer you are.

  26. FLL says:

    Don’t forget France’s entry in this contest, La Manif Pour Tous:

  27. The Super Christians: Sound of a homosexual, shape of a homophobe!

  28. I’ve always maintained that the only person who truly believes being gay is a choice is someone who “chose” not to be gay. Meaning, someone who yearns for some man-on-man action and has “chosen” not to do it.

  29. dcinsider says:

    John you’ve identified a cultural phenomenon that is worthy of further study. I lack the education to opine on it other than by personal observation.

    These boys are gayer than Paul Lynde.

  30. vickif says:

    I wish all the worst for Schlafley.

  31. Houndentenor says:

    I wouldn’t go so far as to claim that all the homophobes are actually closeted homosexuals. Many are and I won’t bore anyone with the litany of those caught in the act. But such intense obsession with something that doesn’t affect you at all does reveal some hidden fear on their part. Maybe it’s just that they are terrified they might be gay even if they aren’t because they were raised around such intense anti-gay bigotry. And oddly enough they wind up as adults looking about as gay as they could. No matter the cause it does make for quite a spectacle.

  32. Drew2u says:

    Would John Travolta in “Hairspray” playing a closeted Phyllis Schlafley be too meta?

  33. The_Fixer says:

    My first thought was “I wonder if these boys have quite figured themselves out.”

    I mean, the flirty flattery is just too much. I know of a few straight guys who would make a comment, maybe two about a guy’s appearance. Younger guys seem to be more free like that. But it never rises to the level of what these guys said.

    But then I figured that the anti-gay stuff is just them hiding. It must be hell to live like that, in that environment of Super Christians®. They’re tearing themselves down to please the nutcases.

    They’ve got a lot more problems than a canceled TV show.

  34. iamlegion says:

    Because they’ve been raised their whole lives on the milk of hatred. Their family, friends, and all their social upbringing told them “gay is bad” from childhood. And conservatives would rather die than re-examine anything they think they believe; ergo, they double down on the outward expressions of hatred. Conservatism truly is a mental illness.

  35. TampaZeke says:

    That’s funny, I consider Phyllis Schlafley the EPITOME of this phenomenon in homophobic, misogynistic women. She’s always seemed like a raging dyke desperately trying to be a Stepford wife attacking lesbians, gay men and non-conformists of all genders along the way.

  36. keirmeister says:

    Like a ferocious little chihuahua or a boisterous short guy with an overly-strong handshake, we can sometimes overcompensate for our perceived shortcomings or insecurities.

    From my purely Frist-Ablowian analysis, perhaps these Benham boys are behaving accordingly.

  37. S1AMER says:

    Interestingly, one doesn’t observe the same phenomenon with homophobic women christianists — most of them look like younger versions of Phyllis Schlafley or Anita Bryant.

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