Study finds gay Asian Americans are viewed as ‘more American’ than straight Asian Americans

Gay Asian Americans tend to be rated as more American than their presumably straight counterparts, according to new research published in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

“Research on race is often separate from research on sexual orientation. Here we bring the two together to understand how they interact to influence judgments of how American someone is considered,” said study author Sapna Cheryan, a University of Washington associate professor of psychology.

In two studies of 1,336 individuals recruited from a university campus, participants were randomly assigned to read a description of a person, who was described either as either a man, a woman, a white person, or an Asian American person. The person’s sexual orientation was noted as “gay” or wasn’t listed.

The participants were then asked to rate the person’s American identity with several questions like: “How American is this person?”, “How fluently do you think this person speaks English?”, and “How integrated is this person in American culture?”

The researchers found that Asian Americans who were identified as gay were perceived to be more American than Asian Americans whose sexual orientation was not identified. There was no significant difference observed between Asian American and non-Asian American participants.

“One possible extension of this work is that gay Asian Americans may be less likely to have their American identities questioned than straight Asian Americans,” Cheryan said. “At the same time, being gay puts people more at risk for other forms of prejudice based on sexual orientation.”

In a third study of 75 university students, the researchers found that gay people were perceived as more accepted in American than Asian culture. A fourth study of 101 students found that gay people were viewed as more American when their country of origin was perceived as less accepting of gay people than the United States.

“American culture is perceived as more accepting of gay people compared to Asian culture. As a result, gay Asian Americans are perceived as more likely to be American than their straight counterparts,” the researchers explained in their study.

The study — like all research — includes some caveats. The generalizability of findings could limited because the sample was predominantly college students.

Future research could address whether the findings extend to other ethnic groups as well.

“For example, countries in the Middle East and North Africa tend to have anti-LGBTQ laws, and gay people associated with these cultures may be assumed to be more American than their straight counterparts,” the researchers noted.

The study, “Gay Asian Americans Are Seen as More American Than Asian Americans Who Are Presumed Straight“, was authored by Mika Semrow, Linda X. Zou, Shuyang Liu, and Sapna Cheryan.