Academic journal article
By Negy, Charles; Eisenman, Russell
The Journal of Sex Research , Vol. 42, No. 4
Attitudes and affective reactions to lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals are generally negative throughout the United States. Herek and Glunt (1993), for example, found from a national telephone survey that roughly half the respondents indicated that homosexuality was "perverse" and that gay and lesbian individuals were "disgusting." Various authors have noted that anti-gay attitudes and sentiments may be even more pronounced among African Americans. For example, Fullilove and Fullilove (1999) have commented that "homophobia is very common in the African American community" (p. 1,123). That sentiment was echoed by Kennamer, Honnold, Bradford, and Hendricks (2000), who reported that homophobia appears to be "a major part of the African American culture, driven by both religious forces and political forces" (p. 522).
Knowing more about African Americans' views toward LGBs is important. Such information may aid clinicians and counselors who provide services to African American clients for whom homosexuality is or forms part of their presenting problem(s). Also, knowing more about African Americans' attitudes toward LGBs and homosexuality may provide some insight into the cultural experiences of African American LGBs, who typically must contend and interface with their heterosexual counterparts in the Black community (Herek & Capitanio, 1995). Further, homophobia among African Americans has been criticized for being an impediment of African American LGBs' ability to come to terms with their sexual orientation (Lewis, 2003).
Finally, various critics contend that homophobia among African Americans is partly responsible for slowing African American mobilization against the AIDS epidemic in their communities (e.g., Brandt, 1999; Fullilove & Fullilove, 1999; Morales & Fullilove, 1992; Peterson & Marin, 1988).
A modest number of studies have investigated African Americans' views of LGBs and have yielded contradictory findings. Some of those studies have failed to find significant differences in homphobia between African Americans and Whites (e.g., Glenn & Weaver, 1979; Herek & Capitanio, 1995; Irwin & Thompson, 1977; Marsiglio, 1993). Other studies have found African Americans, on average, to be more homophobic than Whites (e.g., Hudson & Ricketts, 1980; Lewis, 2003; Schneider & Lewis, 1984; Tiemeyer, 1993; Waldner, Sikka, & Baig, 1999).
The more noteworthy of those studies is the one by Lewis (2003), who attempted to compare the opinions of approximately 7,000 African Americans and 43,000 Whites on homosexual relationships, civil liberties for gays and lesbians, and employment rights of homosexuals. Lewis compiled data from 31 national surveys conducted between 1973 and 2000, mostly by news or popular survey organizations, such as the Times Mirror and Gallup polls. His goal was to identify demographic variables, including education and commitment to religion, that may account for racial differences in opinions in these three areas.
The findings were somewhat paradoxical. Even after controlling for frequency of church attendance, education, age, and gender, he found that African Americans were more homophobic than Whites. More specifically, Lewis found that African Americans were 11 percentage points more likely than Whites to condemn homosexual relations as "always wrong" and 14 percentage points more likely than Whites to see LGBs as deserving of "God's punishment" in the form of AIDS. Moreover, African Americans indicated that they would support removing pro-gay books from their public library by 6 percentage points more than Whites and would be less willing to allow an openly gay person make a speech in their community by 4 percentage points more than Whites. Ironically, however, African Americans were more supportive than Whites of gay civil liberties and significantly more opposed to antigay employment discrimination than Whites. …