Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 45, Issue 1, pp 117–131 | Cite as

Ecological Covariates of Subtle and Blatant Heterosexist Discrimination Among LGBQ College Students

  • Jun Sung HongEmail author
  • Michael R. Woodford
  • Larry D. Long
  • Kristen A. Renn
Empirical Research


Sexual minority college students report experiencing interpersonal heterosexism, ranging from subtle insults to blatant physical violence. Such negative experiences can complicate developmental tasks common to adolescence and emerging adulthood. Studies examining the nature of heterosexism on college campuses have focused on blatant manifestations, yet subtle forms are more prevalent. Guided by ecological theory, we investigate the microsystem (e.g., perceived social support from friends, ambient heterosexism on campus), mesosystem (e.g., interaction between social support and ambient heterosexism), and macrosystem level (e.g., knowledge of gay-straight alliances on campus) covariates of interpersonal microaggressions, avoidance behaviors, verbal threats, and physical threats. Participants consisted of 530 self-identified LGBQ college students from 37 states. Regression results suggest that at the microsystem level, ambient heterosexism was positively associated with interpersonal microaggressions, avoidance behaviors, and verbal threats. At the mesosystem level, perceptions of LGBQ student support within one’s institution moderated the effects of ambient heterosexism on three types of interpersonal heterosexism. At the macrosystem level, students who reported knowing that their campus had a sexual-orientation inclusive anti-discrimination policy reported encountering fewer verbal threats. Directions for future research and implications for campus programming are discussed.


College campus Ecological theory Heterosexism LGBQ Microaggressions 


Author contributions

J.H. conceived of the study, participated in its design and coordination and wrote the manuscript; M.W. collected, secured and provided the data, participated in conceiving the study, in the design and coordination of the study, and in writing the manuscript; L.L. participated in the design of the study, conducted the analyses, wrote the Methods and Results sections and reviewed drafts; K.R. collected, secured and provided the data, and reviewed drafts. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflict of interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jun Sung Hong
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael R. Woodford
    • 3
  • Larry D. Long
    • 4
  • Kristen A. Renn
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Social WorkWayne State UniversityDetroitUSA
  2. 2.Department of Social Welfare, Humanities and Social Science CampusSungkyunkwan UniversitySeoulRepublic of Korea
  3. 3.Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social WorkWilfrid Laurier UniversityKitchenerCanada
  4. 4.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  5. 5.Higher, Adult, and Lifelong EducationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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