Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 18, Issue 4, pp 936–958 | Cite as

Heterosexual Allies? Understanding Heterosexuals’ Alliance with the Gay Community

  • Elisabeth O. Burgess
  • Dawn M. Baunach
Original Paper


Prevailing wisdom is that increased visibility of gay men and lesbians reduces levels of sexual prejudice, but less is known about who is more likely to ally with the gay community and how interaction with the gay community influences attitudes toward gay men and lesbians. Using data from 873 heterosexual college students in the US, we examine how alliance with the gay community, a typology which combines measures of personal contact and community contact, relates to attitudes towards gay men and lesbians. Membership in each alliance category differed by gender, race/ethnicity, size of place, traditional gender role and authoritarian attitudes, religiosity, and political conservatism. Approximately one-third of the sample are allies of the gay community with both personal contact and community contact and lower levels of sexual prejudice. By contrast, another 30 % of the sample has no contact (personal or community) and higher levels of sexual prejudice toward the gay community. We conclude that more complex models of heterosexual contact with gay community are more useful than dichotomous models for understanding differences in attitudes towards gay men and lesbians.


Attitudes towards lesbians and gay men Gay community Heterosexual allies Sexual prejudice US college students 



The authors are grateful for the assistance of Kristin McMillen on earlier version of this manuscript and Griff Tester for his thoughtful feedback throughout the revision process.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Gerontology InstituteGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyGeorgia State UniversityAtlantaUSA

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