Sexual orientation is all too commonly viewed as an either/or proposition, meaning you’re either gay or you’re straight, and nothing in between. This view is widely held, even by many people within the LGBTQ community itself, as described in a recent set of studies published in the journal Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.
Across two studies involving a total of 288 gay and lesbian participants, researchers examined attitudes toward and stereotypes of bisexuals. Here’s a brief review of their major findings:
· Both gay men and lesbians held more negative views of bisexual persons of the same sex than they did of the other sex.
· Compared to lesbians, gay men were more likely to see bisexual men as having an unstable sexual orientation. Likewise, compared to gay men, lesbians were more likely to see bisexual women as having an unstable sexual orientation.
· Gay men tended to see bisexual men as being “secretly gay,” whereas lesbians tended to see bisexual women as “secretly straight.” In other words, both groups perceived bisexuals (regardless of their sex) as being more attracted to men than to women.
· Lesbians' greater negativity toward bisexual women (relative to gay men) was statistically explained by lesbians’ greater tendency to view bisexual women as being primarily attracted to men. By contrast, gay men’s perception of bisexual men as “secretly gay” did not account for why they held more negative attitudes toward bi men than did lesbians.
These results indicate that not only does bisexual prejudice exist in the gay community, but that there are some interesting gender dynamics at play here. Therefore, if we want to understand the nature of this bias, we can’t collapse across gay men and lesbians in research—we need to look at their attitudes separately.
Moreover, these findings suggest that, while previous research has found that bisexual men are greater targets of prejudice overall than bisexual women, the reverse pattern may be true within the gay community specifically because bisexual men’s same-sex attraction may be viewed as more “authentic” than that of bisexual women.
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To learn more about this research, see: Matsick, J.L., & Rubin, J.D. (2018). Bisexual Prejudice Among Lesbian and Gay People: Examining the Roles of Gender and Perceived Sexual Orientation. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
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