Internalized Heterosexism and Same-Sex Attraction as Predictors of Sexual Orientation Identity
University of Kansas
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Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals in America continue to face discrimination and prejudice. As a consequence, many LGB individuals internalize negative thoughts and feelings about homosexuality, known as internalized heterosexism (IH). However, the conceptualization of IH as an LGB exclusive construct may be too narrow. If sexual orientation is viewed on a continuum, it is possible that individuals who express same-sex attraction may also possess some degree of IH even though they do not identify as LGB. The study investigated the factor structure of a new scale developed to measure IH with any individual expressing same-sex attraction regardless of sexual orientation identity. The Personal Internalized Heterosexism Scale (PIHS) was completed by 242 participants who expressed having, at least once, physical or sexual attraction to the same-sex. Confirmatory factor analyses showed three factors best represented the data, Negative Affect, Positive Affect and Acceptance. Bivariate correlations were then conducted to examine the relationship between the three components of IH and psychological distress, well-being, self-esteem, and sexual identity development. Higher levels of negative affect were correlated to higher levels of psychological distress and lower levels of life satisfaction, sexual identity development. Higher levels of positive affect and acceptance were correlated to higher levels of sexual identity exploration, commitment, and synthesis. A one-way between subjects Multiple Analysis of Variance explored differences in the three components of IH by sexual orientation identity. Questioning, heterosexual, and bisexual individuals reported higher levels on at least one component of IH compared to lesbian/gay individuals. Lastly, the study explored whether the three components of IH mediated the relationship between same-sex attraction and sexual orientation identity. Implications, limitations and future directions to the current study are discussed.
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