Metro Weekly

Gay Asian Americans are viewed as more “American” than their straight peers, study finds

Surveys of university students show respondents perceived American culture as more accepting of gay individuals

Photo: AQUA DC, via Facebook

Gay Asian Americans tend to be viewed as more “American” than their presumably straight counterparts, according to a recent psychological study.

“Research on race is often separate from research on sexual orientation,” says Sapna Cheryan, a University of Washington associate professor and one of four co-authors of the study, which was published in Social Psychological and Personality Science. “Here we bring the two together to understand how they interact to influence judgments of how American someone is considered.”

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 as a man, a woman, a white person, or an Asian American person.

The person’s sexual orientation was either listed as “gay” or was not mentioned, according to PsyPost, a psychology and neuroscience news website.

Participants were then asked to rate the person’s American identity after being posed 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 found that Asian Americans who were identified as gay were perceived as more American than those whose sexual orientation was not identified.

There was no difference between Asian American and non-Asian American participants, in terms of their perceptions of Asian Americans.

“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 told PsyPost. “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, researchers found that gay people were perceived as more accepted in American culture than Asian culture.

And 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.

Of course, the study includes some caveats — chief among them that researchers did not survey Americans of various ages and backgrounds, only university students, which may produce skewed results.

Still, researchers noted that study could serve as a basis for future investigations looking into attitudes about culture and who is “American.”

“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 wrote.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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