Research into positive prejudice towards gay men

Published: 8 February 2016 at 11:47

Positive stereotypes may hinder gay men

Study by Anglia Ruskin looks at how ‘stylish and witty’ stereotype can be damaging

Psychologists at Anglia Ruskin University are exploring the issues around “positive prejudice” towards gay men in the UK.

Due to popular TV shows Sex and the City and Will & Grace, and movies such as My Best Friend’s Wedding, the common stereotype of gay men is that they are stylish, witty, and emotionally available.

Academics believe even seemingly positive stereotypes have the potential to be damaging as they paint gay men as one dimensional figures and prevent people from seeing someone’s true personality. 

The study is being led by Ashley Brooks, a PhD student at Anglia Ruskin University under the supervision of Dr Daragh McDermott, Principal Lecturer in Social Psychology.  

Brooks said: 

“We commonly see the ‘gay best friend’ being played out in popular media, and this is also becoming increasingly prevalent in real life interactions between heterosexuals and gay men.

“Because these attitudes appear positive on the face of it, they gain widespread acceptance and remain unchallenged despite their potential to cause long-term damage.”

The research team are aiming to survey 1,000 people in order to measure the extent of these attitudes, which may be expressed in a positive way but may transmit stereotypical or negative messages.

Dr McDermott said: 

“On the face of it, stereotypes associated with gay men, such as being fashionable or witty, appear positive and may even hold some truth to them.  

“However, by their very nature these stereotypes pigeonhole what it means to be gay and lead to unrealistic expectations of how gay men are expected to behave.

“Gay men who don’t fit the common stereotype are often marginalised for not living up to these expectations, which can have an impact on their mental health. 

“Understanding the changing nature of attitudes towards minority groups, such as gay men, is important for psychologists to help promote a more inclusive society.”