A new study has found that encouraging the belief that some people are ‘born gay’ isn’t the most effective way to address homophobia.
Researchers have stated that even those who believe sexual orientation is not a choice can still be homophobic in the same way that those who know race is not a choice can be racist.
University of Tennessee and University of Missouri-Colombia researchers polled 645 college students who answered a questionnaire about their beliefs involving sexual orientation.
The students were given scores for four separate categories:
(1) Discreteness: Sexual orientation groups are clear and have and non-overlapping boundaries. Thus being gay makes you completely different to being bisexual or being straight.
(2) Homogeneity: Believing that members of a certain sexual orientation are all similar to one another.
(3) Naturalness: Belief that someone did not choose their sexual orientation, but rather they are born that way.
(4) Informativeness: By knowing someone’s sexual orientation (SO) you can glean other information about them. In other words, their identity is tied to their SO.
Many participants scored high for category (3), naturalness, but also scored highly for the other three categories.
Researchers concluded that those who took part in the study accept that sexuality is a natural experience, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think they’re not ‘different’ to straight people in other ways.
These beliefs may in turn encourage prejudice and discrimination.
‘We found that people who are high in all four of these beliefs were more likely to be straight, and that people high in all four of these beliefs were more likely to be homophobic,’ Professor Patrick Grzanka told Fusion.
Suzanna Walters, author of The Tolerance Trap, told Fusion that if history is anything to go by, the ‘born this way’ argument could do more harm than good.
“Historically, biological arguments for identity are largely used in the service of quite heinous political movements like slavery, the Holocaust, and the history of racism,” she explained.
‘We need to target these other beliefs, which are largely absent in conversations about the nature and origin of sexual orientation,’ Patrick Grzanka, a professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee, added.