New research sheds light on why politically conservative individuals tend to have less favorable views toward gay men and transgender people. The study, published in Sex Roles, indicates that a binary view of gender plays an important role.
“We wanted to explore why those on the political right (vs. left) tend to dislike gay men and transgender people,” said study author Elvira Prusaczyk of Brock University.
“Past research shows that people higher in conservatism (vs. liberalism) are more dogmatic and have higher needs to reduce uncertainty and threat. However, gay men and transgender people violate stereotypical gender roles in society, likely cueing uncertainty and threat. Thus, we were interested in whether traditional views about gender partly explain the link between conservatism and prejudice against gender non-conforming people.”
The study of 2,281 participants found that conservatives were more likely to hold prejudicial attitudes towards transgender individuals and gay men, and this relationship was partially mediated by their agreement with statements such as “These days there is not enough respect for the natural divisions between the sexes.”
“People higher in conservatism (vs. liberalism) were more likely to endorse a rigid and binary view of gender, and this binary belief, in turn, predicted greater prejudice toward gender non-conforming people,” Prusaczyk told PsyPost.
“In other words, gay men and transgender people violate the traditional view of gender (as either male or female), and for those on the right (vs. left), this partly facilitates or justifies their dislike of them. Perhaps over time with more contact with gender non-conforming people, the less threatened people will become and therefore might express less prejudice (based on research from the contact literature).
Surprisingly, Prusaczyk and her colleagues also found that conservatism was a stronger predictor of binary gender beliefs and prejudice toward gender non-conformists among women.
The researchers controlled for education, religiosity, residence, and race/ethnicity. But like all research, the study includes some caveats.
“These data are not experimental, and thus, we cannot suggest causal links between variables. However, the direction of paths is consistent with theory and past evidence. Future work could test the links experimentally and over time,” Prusaczyk explained.
“These results come from large, nationally representative U.S. data, which is a gold standard for producing reliable and accurate effects. The effects are therefore robust and likely represent reasonable estimates of real-world effects.”
The study, “The Roles of Political Conservatism and Binary Gender Beliefs in Predicting Prejudices Toward Gay Men and People Who Are Transgender“, was authored by Elvira Prusaczyk and Gordon Hodson.