An Argument for Separate Analyses of Attitudes Toward Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Men, Bisexual Women, MtF and FtM Transgender Individuals

Abstract

While past research has certainly investigated a variety of correlates of U.S. attitudes toward lesbians, gays, bisexual men, bisexual women, male-to-female (MtF) and female-to-male (FtM) transgender (LGBT) individuals, there are no U.S. quantitative studies that could be located that examined attitudes toward each of these groups separately. This is especially important because efforts to combat prejudices are likely to be most successful if they are based in research that explores how attitudes are both similar and different across specified targets of prejudice. Toward that goal, this essay underscores the significance of examining U.S. attitudes toward LGBT individuals as separate constructs. Both the gender and sexual orientation of the target of prejudice and the gender and sexual orientation of the respondent are highlighted as important constructs that should be considered when investigating U.S. attitudes toward LGBT individuals. First, I review previous U.S. studies that have examined attitudes toward LGBT individuals. Second, I offer arguments for how the intersections of gender and sexual orientation may affect attitudes toward LGBT individuals. Third, I discuss future considerations in studies of attitudes toward LGBT individuals in the context of multiple intersectionalities. I suggest that U.S. initiatives to reduce sexual stigma, gender nonconformity stigma, and transgender stigma should be grounded in research that highlights prejudicial attitudes as they vary by the target of prejudice and the respondents’ characteristics.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank the editors and the anonymous reviewers for their guidance with this essay.

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Correspondence to Meredith G. F. Worthen.

Appendix A. Definitions

Appendix A. Definitions

While it is certain that many of these “definitions” are changing constantly and may offer debate themselves, I feel it is important to offer a working definition of these terms as a way to discuss the issues relevant to this essay. Presented in alphabetical order:

Biphobia:

A fear of those in the bisexual community (see Weiss 2004; Welzer-Lang 2008). Biphobia can be present in anyone: heterosexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, etc.

Bisexual Man:

Those who self-identify as a “man” as their gender category who are sexually, romantically, physically, and/or emotionally attracted to both men and women. The sex (male/female) of these individuals may or may not align with their gender category (man/woman). This definition is limited, as it does not provide an adequate space for queer or genderqueer individuals (see Nestle et al. 2002). It is important to note that “bisexual” is a term that has many negative connotations and is therefore limited as a self-selected category by which individuals define themselves (see MacDonald 1981; Weinberg et al. 2009).

Bisexual Woman:

Those who self-identify as a “woman” as their gender category who are sexually, romantically, physically, and/or emotionally attracted to both men and women. The sex (male/female) of these individuals may or may not align with their gender category (man/woman). Some limitations are noted above (see “Bisexual Man”).

Cisgender:

A label for individuals who have a match between the sex they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal gender identity (Schilt and Westbrook 2009).

Cisnormativity:

The assumption that it is “normal” to be cisgender (Schilt and Westbrook 2009).

FtM:

Transgender individuals who have transitioned or are currently transitioning from having female/woman sex and/or gender characteristics to having male/man sex and/or gender characteristics (see Gerhardstein and Anderson 2010).

Gender:

A socialized construct that may or may not be associated with an individual’s sex organs. I include the categories of “man” and “woman” as an individual’s “gender” in this manuscript. It is important to note that this definition is also somewhat biased and limited, as it does not offer a space for genderqueer individuals (see Nestle et al. 2002).

Genderqueer:

Individuals who perceive and/or describe their gender identity as neither man nor woman, or as between or beyond genders, or as some combination of multiple genders (see Green 2010).

Gay:

Those who self-identify as a “man” as their gender category who are sexually, romantically, physically, and/or emotionally attracted to men. The sex (male/female) of these individuals may or may not align with their gender category (man/woman). This is limited, as it is true that many identify as “gay” that do not fit this definition, for example “gay woman” has been used (Kasindorf 1993).

Heterosexual:

Those who self-identify as a “man” as their gender category who are sexually, romantically, physically, and/or emotionally attracted to women and those who self-identify as a “woman” as their gender category who are sexually, romantically, physically, and/or emotionally attracted to men. The sex (male/female) of these individuals may or may not align with their gender category (man/woman).

Heteronormativity:

The assumption that it is “normal” to be heterosexual (see Jackson 2006).

Heterosexism:

The bias that heterosexuality is “the only way to be” and those that are not heterosexual are somehow “wrong” (see Hill 2009; Jackson 2006).

Homophobia:

A fear of those in the gay and/or lesbian community (see Herek 2004). Homophobia can be present in anyone: heterosexual, bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender, etc.

Lesbian:

Those who self-identify as a “woman” as their gender category who are sexually, romantically, physically, and/or emotionally attracted to women. The sex (male/female) of these individuals may or may not align with their gender category (man/woman). As noted above, it is certainly true that some women who are attracted to women identify as “gay” (Kasindorf 1993).

MtF:

Transgender individuals who have transitioned or are currently transitioning from having male/man sex and/or gender characteristics to having female/woman sex and/or gender characteristics (see Gerhardstein and Anderson 2010).

Sexual Prejudice:

Negative attitudes toward an individual because of her or his sexual orientation (Herek 2004). According to Herek (2004), sexual prejudice conveys no assumptions about the motivations underlying negative attitudes, locates the study of attitudes concerning sexual orientation within the broader context of social psychological research on prejudice, and avoids value judgments about such attitudes (p. 19).

Sex:

A biological construct, usually assigned at birth in relation to an individual’s visible genitalia. I include the categories of “male” and “female” as an individual’s “sex” in this manuscript. This definition is biased and limited, as it does not offer a space for intersex individuals (see Preves 2003).

Sexual Stigma:

As defined by Herek (2007): “sexual stigma” is negative regard, inferior status, and relative powerlessness that society collectively accords to any non-heterosexual behavior, identity, relationship, or community. Sexual stigma is socially shared knowledge about homosexuality’s devalued status in society (p. 906–7).

Transgender:

Working from Schilt and Westbrook’s (2009) definition of “cisgender,” I use “transgender” as a label for individuals who do not have a match between the sex they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal gender identity (see also Grossman et al. 2005).

Transphobia:

A fear of those in the transgender and/or transsexual community (both MtF and FtM) (see Nagoshi et al. 2008). Transphobia can be present in anyone: heterosexual, bisexual, gay, etc.

Transsexual:

I only use “transsexual” when citing other researchers who used this term in their studies. There is some contention in the trans community regarding the term “transsexual” because it may refer to certain biases related to those who have the ability to receive/pay for surgeries and those who do not have such resources (see Roen 2002; Serano 2007).

Trans Umbrella:

This term describes the conceptualization of transgender as an umbrella that encompasses a wide range of people who play with, disrupt, or blend Euro-American cultural beliefs about binary sex and gender (see Davidson 2007, p. 60).

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Worthen, M.G.F. An Argument for Separate Analyses of Attitudes Toward Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Men, Bisexual Women, MtF and FtM Transgender Individuals. Sex Roles 68, 703–723 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-012-0155-1

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Keywords

  • Attitudes
  • Bisexuals
  • Gays
  • Gender
  • Intersectionalities
  • Lesbians
  • Prejudice
  • Transgender
  • Stigma