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Gay Asian Americans viewed as more ‘American’ than straight counterparts

Lydia Smith July 2, 2019

People participate in the annual LA Pride Parade in West Hollywood, California (Agustin PAULLIER / AFP/Getty Images)

Gay Asian Americans tend to be seen as more ‘American’ than Asian Americans who are presumed straight, a study has found.

The research, carried out by the University of Washington, focuses on how sexual orientation and race come together to influence others’ perceptions.

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

In two studies of 1,336 people 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 was not 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 study focuses on how sexual orientation and race come together to influence others’ perceptions (Getty Images)

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.”

The other two studies focused on perceived differences between “American culture” and “Asian culture,” and how LGBT-friendly the cultures appear to be.

In one study, researchers wrote descriptions of fake countries that were either presented as less welcoming and accepting of gay people than the US or equally welcoming and accepting.

Participants rated Asian culture as less LGBT-friendly, and a gay person as more American if they were associated with a country of origin that was less LGBTQ-friendly.

The authors wrote: “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 research had some limitations, including that the sample was predominantly university 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 added.

The research was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

More: America, Asia, Discrimination, psychology, racism, science, US

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