“All the Gays Are Liberal?” Sexuality and Gender Gaps in Political Perspectives among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Mostly Heterosexual, and Heterosexual College Students in the Southern USA

Abstract

Despite the stereotype that “all the gays are liberal,” sexual identity (sexual orientation) has largely been overlooked in explorations of political attitudes save a handful of studies. The existing research indicates that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people tend to be more liberal than heterosexuals, supporting a “sexuality gap” in liberalism; however, there is significantly less work focused on LGB attitudes toward specific politicized topics, even less research that investigates the role of gender in these relationships, and no existing studies focusing on mostly heterosexuals’ (MH) political attitudes. The current study explores sexuality and gender gaps in political perspectives among college students enrolled at a university in the southern USA (N = 1940). Specifically, sexual identity (lesbian, gay, bisexual, mostly heterosexual, and heterosexual); gender (man/woman); and the intersections among sexual identity and gender are explored as they relate to politicized perspectives (liberal ideology and feminist identity) and support of politicized issues (death penalty and legal abortion). It is hypothesized that liberal social justice perspectives may be particularly common among LGB people as a group and perhaps especially among lesbian and bisexual women due to their multiple oppressed identities. Results confirm sexuality gaps (heterosexual-LGB, MH-LGB, and B-LG) as well as gender gaps among MH and LGB students (MH women-MH men, bisexual women-bisexual men, gay men-lesbian women), though some gaps (B-LG and G-L) are in the opposite direction from expected. In addition, there is evidence of a bisexual woman consciousness that relates to strong liberalism among bisexual college women. Overall, this research seeks to fill the gaps in the literature, expand our knowledge about sexuality and gender gaps in political attitudes, and contribute to new lines of inquiry that focus on MH and LGB people’s perspectives. In doing so, the current study works toward a deeper understanding of ways college students can promote political change and advocate for social justice.

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    Historically, this process can be seen in numerous instances, including the aftermath of the 1969 Stonewall uprising, which is often credited as the watershed demonstration that began the US gay liberation movement. Although the uprising was instigated and supported by two trans women of color, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, these women have been repeatedly erased from discussions about LGBTQ rights. This is likely because Stonewall and its accompanying activism became dominated by White gay cis men starting with the Gay Activists Alliance, while people of color were relegated to the margins of LGBTQ liberation. Today, we continue to see this type of erasure (Stryker, 2008).

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Support for this research was supported by funding awarded to the author from The University of Oklahoma Department of Sociology.

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Correspondence to Meredith G. F. Worthen.

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Worthen, M.G.F. “All the Gays Are Liberal?” Sexuality and Gender Gaps in Political Perspectives among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Mostly Heterosexual, and Heterosexual College Students in the Southern USA. Sex Res Soc Policy 17, 27–42 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-018-0365-6

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Keywords

  • Liberal
  • Politics
  • Gender gap
  • Sexuality gap
  • Lesbian
  • Gay
  • Bisexual
  • Mostly heterosexual
  • Heterosexual
  • College students
  • Social justice