Stigma and Sexual Orientation: Understanding Prejudice against Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals


Edited by: Gregory M. Herek

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  • Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Issues


    Beverly Greene

    Gregory M. Herek

    • Lesbian and Gay Psychology: Theory, Research, and Clinical Applications

      Edited by Beverly Greene and Gregory M. Herek

    • AIDS, Identity, and Community: The HIV Epidemic and Lesbians and Gay Men

      Edited by Gregory M. Herek and Beverly Greene

    • Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Among Lesbians and Gay Men

      Edited by Beverly Greene

    • Stigma and Sexual Orientation: Understanding Prejudice Against Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals

      Edited by Gregory M. Herek


    • Laura S. Brown, Ph.D.
    • Ellen Cole, Ph.D.
    • John P. De Cecco, Ph.D.
    • Oliva Espin, Ph.D.
    • Linda Garnets, Ph.D.
    • John C. Gonsiorek, Ph.D.
    • Arnold Kahn, Ph.D.
    • Douglas Kimmel, Ph.D.
    • Gary Melton, Ph.D.
    • Letitia Anne Peplau, Ph.D.
    • Pamela T. Reid, Ph.D.
    • Esther Rothblum, Ph.D.
    • Royce W. Scrivner, Ph.D.
    • Charles Silverstein, Ph.D.
    • Mark Snyder, Ph.D.
    • Leonore Tiefer, Ph.D.


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    Evelyn Hooker, Ph.D., 1907–1996

    This volume is dedicated to the memory of Evelyn Hooker, a pioneering psychologist who was not afraid to use the scientific method to question the prevailing assumptions of her time. Her research helped to lay a foundation for the modern movement in psychology that is affirmative of minority sexual orientations—lesbian, gay, and bisexual. She was an inspiration, mentor, and friend to scientists, clinicians, and teachers from all over the world. Her passing leaves a gap in our lives that will not soon be filled.


    This volume, the fourth in the annual series Psychological Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Issues, is devoted to research on the phenomenon variously referred to as homophobia, heterosexism, and simply prejudice based on sexual orientation. Empirical study in this area has advanced at a rapid pace in the 1990s. Researchers increasingly are using more sophisticated theories and methods to investigate stigma and sexual orientation, and their reports are appearing more frequently in general scientific journals.

    This mainstreaming of research on antigay stigma is important not only because it offers the promise of finding better ways to combat prejudice, but also because studying homophobia will enrich the study of intergroup attitudes in general. Understanding prejudice based on sexual orientation inevitably raises a wealth of important questions relevant to other forms of stigma—about the nature of concealable stigmas, the expression of prejudice through violence and discrimination, the dialectic between cultural ideologies and individual attitudes and values, and responses to stigma by its targets.

    The first six chapters of the present volume address the nature of antigay stigma. The authors consider attitudes, values, and stereotypes, as well as homophobic assaults and public opinion. They also examine antigay behaviors outside the laboratory—in the courtroom, on the streets, and in the voting booth. Karen Franklin reports findings from her study of perpetrators of hate crimes. Her data highlight the importance of understanding situational factors that give rise to assaults based on sexual orientation. Drury Sherrod and Peter Nardi report data from a large-scale study of homophobia among prospective jurors in 15 different states. Mary Kite and Bernard Whitley consider the underlying sources of the frequently observed gender difference in heterosexuals' attitudes toward homosexuality and toward lesbians and gay men. Angela Simon considers the relationship between antigay stereotypes and prejudice, and whether the two are inseparably linked. Geoffrey Haddock and Mark Zanna discuss the role of personal values and authoritarian personality traits in antigay attitudes. Douglas Strand reviews national survey data to disentangle various components of heterosexuals' attitudes—his distinction between attitudes toward basic civil liberties and attitudes toward broader civil rights policies represents an important step toward improving our understanding of the multiple manifestations of cultural and psychological heterosexism.

    Perhaps one of the most important conclusions that may be drawn from these six chapters is that the phenomenon we are studying is not monolithic. Verbal expressions of opinion are not necessarily predictive of verbal expressions of belief, or of behavior in situations with strong demands for antigay conduct. Moreover, the types of attitudes routinely tapped in social psychological laboratory studies appear to be different from attitudes toward policies relevant to gay rights and civil liberties for gay people.

    The authors of Chapters 7, 8, and 9 consider the consequences of antigay stigma and related phenomena for the well-being of lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals. Joanne DiPlacido places this question within the broader framework of health psychology studies on coping and stress. Ilan Meyer and Laura Dean report findings from their study of gay and bisexual men in New York. Anthony D'Augelli provides a thoughtful discussion of the special challenges that cultural heterosexism creates for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth. These chapters point us toward an attempt to understand both how so many lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals successfully face the challenges created for them by societal prejudice and what we can do to best assist those who are victimized by that prejudice.

    What can psychology and science do to confront homophobia and antigay stigma? The final two chapters in this volume focus on some ways in which law and policy have been influenced by heterosexism, especially in regard to the family relations of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. Andrew McLeod and Isiaah Crawford discuss the nexus (and frequent disjunction) between legal and scientific approaches to gay and lesbian families. My own chapter critiques a survey study conducted by Paul Cameron and his colleagues, which, despite its serious methodological flaws and lack of scientific credibility, has been used in the legal and policy arenas.

    Like the previous books in this series, the current volume is sponsored by the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian and Gay Issues (Division 44 of the American Psychological Association). I extend my thanks to all of the contributors, especially those who generously provided constructive feedback on chapters other than their own. From the very beginning of my work on this volume, it has been my good fortune to have the invaluable assistance of Mary Ellen Chaney and the help and patience of Dale Grenfell and Terry Hendrix of Sage Publications. I sincerely thank them. Finally, I thank Jack Dynis for his advice and unwavering support throughout this and so many other projects.

    Gregory M.Herek
  • About the Editor

    Gregory M. Herek, Ph.D., is a research psychologist at the University of California, Davis. His empirical research includes studies of heterosexuals' attitudes toward gay men and lesbians, violence against lesbians and gay men, public attitudes concerning the AIDS epidemic, and the impact of AIDS on gay and bisexual men. He has published numerous scholarly articles on these topics. His most recent book is Out in Force: Sexual Orientation and the Military (coedited with J. B. Jobe and R. M. Carney, 1996). In 1992, he coedited (with K. T. Berrill) Hate Crimes: Confronting Violence Against Lesbians and Gay Men. He is currently writing a book on antigay prejudice. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the American Psychological Society (APS). He is the recipient of the 1996 APA Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology in the Public Interest. His other awards include the Outstanding Achievement Award from the APA Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns (1992) and APA Division 44's annual award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Lesbian and Gay Psychology (1989). He is past chair of the APA Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns.

    Dr. Herek's other professional involvements also have focused on lesbian and gay concerns and AIDS issues. In 1993, he testified on behalf of the APA and five other national professional associations at the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee hearings on gay people and the U.S. military. In 1986, he testified on behalf of the APA at the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee's hearings on antigay violence. He also has assisted the APA in preparing amicus briefs in court cases challenging the constitutionality of state sodomy laws, child custody for lesbian and gay parents, and military policies excluding lesbians and gay men. In addition, he has served as consultant and expert witness in numerous legal cases involving the civil rights of lesbians and gay men.

    About the Contributors

    Isiaah Crawford, Ph.D., is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, Loyola University, Chicago. He received his doctoral degree from DePaul University in 1987. His research interests focus on HIV/AIDS prevention and clinical intervention, attitudes toward marginalized group members, and professional practice and training.

    Anthony R. D'Augelli, Ph.D., is Professor of Human Development in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at Pennsylvania State University. A community psychologist, he is coeditor (with Charlotte J. Patterson) of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identities Over the Lifespan (1995) and Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identities and the Family (1998). His primary research interests focus on coping processes among lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths.

    Laura Dean, M.Ed., is Director of the AIDS Research Unit in the Sociomedical Science Division of the Columbia University School of Public Health. She has been studying the psychosocial impact of AIDS in New York City's gay community since 1984. Currently, she is focusing on the gay primary relationship and its connection to health and behavior.

    Joanne DiPlacido, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Central Connecticut State University. She is also the principal investigator for the Women Loving Women Health Project of CUNY, which is supported by grants from the Lesbian Health Fund of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the Wayne F. Placek Fund of the American Psychological Foundation. Her research interests include minority stress and health; lesbian and bisexual women's health issues; lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues in psychology; lifespan development; and psychosocial factors and chronic illness.

    Karen Franklin, Ph.D., is a forensic psychologist and private investigator in Oakland, California. In addition to her doctorate in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology, she holds an undergraduate degree in journalism. Her major research interest is the intersection between psychology and law.

    Geoffrey Haddock, Ph.D., is a Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Exeter in England. He received his doctorate from the University of Waterloo and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan. His primary research interest is the psychology of attitudes, including the topics of attitude structure and the psychology of prejudice.

    Mary E. Kite, Ph.D., is a faculty member of the Department of Psychological Science at Ball State University. She received her doctorate in social psychology from Purdue University in 1987. Her research interests include gender stereotyping, attitudes toward homosexuality, and the academic climate for women. She was recently promoted to the rank of full professor and is currently serving as Graduate Coordinator for her department.

    Andrew McLeod is a graduate student in the clinical psychology Ph.D. program at Loyola University, Chicago.

    Ilan H. Meyer, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Public Health at Columbia School of Public Health and a Project Director at the Harlem Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. He is currently studying mental health problems of gay men and AIDS-related issues in various populations.

    Peter M. Nardi, Ph.D., is Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College, one of the Claremont Colleges. He is the coeditor of Social Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Studies: A Reader (1998), In Changing Times: Gay Men and Lesbians Encounter HIV/AIDS (1997), and Growing Up Before Stonewall: Life Stories of Some Gay Men (1994), and editor of Men's Friendships (1992). He is special features coeditor of Sexualities, a new international journal published by Sage Publications, and the book review coeditor for GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian & Gay Studies. He is politically active in the gay community, having served as chair of the Sociologists' Lesbian & Gay Caucus of the American Sociological Association, cochair of the Los Angeles Gay Academic Union, and copresident and board member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). He has also published several op-ed pieces in the Los Angeles Times on gay/lesbian issues. He is currently working on a project studying gay men's friendships.

    Drury Sherrod, Ph.D., is a social psychologist and a partner in the jury research firm of Mattson & Sherrod, Inc., in Los Angeles. He received his doctoral degree from Stanford University and has taught psychology at the Claremont Colleges, Carnegie-Mellon University, and Hamilton College. He is the author of Social Psychology (1984) and numerous articles on jury behavior, gender and friendship, environmental stress, and attribution theory. He has consulted with and conducted pro bono research for the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

    Angela Simon, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Behavioral and Social Sciences Division at El Camino College in Torrance, California. Her research interests include the study of attitudes toward lesbians and gays and the self- and social perception of emotion. Her teaching interests include social psychology, critical thinking, emotion, and gender.

    Douglas Alan Strand is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. He has served as a consultant to the American National Election Study (NES), developing and analyzing survey content on the topic of homosexuality in the NES 1993 Pilot Study. His dissertation work investigates public attitudes in the politics of “family values.”

    Bernard E. Whitley, Jr., Ph.D., is Professor of Psychological Science at Ball State University. He received his doctoral degree in social-personality psychology from the University of Pittsburgh in 1983. His research interests include attitudes toward homosexuality and academic dishonesty. He is the author of Principles of Research in Behavioral Science (1996).

    Mark P. Zanna, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology at the University of Waterloo. He is the editor of Advances in Experimental Social Psychology and coeditor of the Ontario Symposium. His main research interest is the psychology of attitudes, including the psychology of prejudice.

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