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Michelle R. Hebl, Charlie L. Law & Eden King

In: The SAGE Handbook of Prejudice, Stereotyping and Discrimination

Chapter 21: Heterosexism

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In this chapter, we provide readers with an overview of much of the psychological research that has been conducted on heterosexism. We begin by discussing the history of heterosexism research and describe ways in which heterosexism differs from other ‘isms (i.e., sexism, racism). We then consider characteristics associated with (a) exhibiting heterosexism, and (b) being the target of heterosexism. We situate our review within the context of social interactions and describe the misunderstandings, prejudice and discrimination, disclosure behaviors that often occur. Finally, we consider the interaction consequences of heterosexism and potential remediation strategies.


Heterosexism is an ideological system that reinforces the denigration of nonheterosexual identity, behavior, relationship, or community (see Herek, 2004). By ‘nonheterosexual,’ we refer to any identity, behavior, relationship, or community in which ...

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