Attitudes toward Homosexuality among U.S. Residents of Mexican Descent

Article excerpt

Many authors have noted that homosexuality is stigmatized among U.S. residents of Mexican descent and, more generally, in Latino communities in the United States (Ayala & Dfaz, 2001; Diaz, 1998; Diaz, Ayala, Bein, Henne, & Marin, 2001; Flaskerud, Uman, Lara, Romero, & Otherset, 1996; Gonzalez & Espin, 1996; Marin, 2003; Morales, 1990). However, relatively little empirical research has directly examined attitudes toward homosexuality among Latinos or Hispanics. Of the research that has been published in this area, most studies have focused mainly on comparing the direction and intensity of those attitudes to other groups (e.g., Latinos' attitudes versus those of non-Hispanic Whites or African Americans).

For example, Crawford and Robinson (1990) found that Latinos in an ethnically-diverse convenience sample of male high school students were significantly less antigay than their non-Hispanic White counterparts. Bonilla and Porter (1990), using data from the General Social Survey, found that Hispanics did not differ from Whites but were more tolerant than Blacks in their moral judgments about homosexual behavior (although a majority of all three groups judged homosexual behavior to be "always wrong"). Compared to the other groups, however, Hispanics were less supportive of free speech rights and civil liberties for homosexuals. Bonilla and Porter found no differences in attitudes between Mexican-Americans and other Hispanics.

Other studies have failed to find substantial intergroup differences in attitudes. Using a 9-item scale that tapped opinions about civil rights and civil liberties for gay men and lesbians (e.g., equal rights in employment, adoption, and marriage), Sherrod and Nardi (1998) found that gender was more important than ethnicity in predicting attitudes: Latino and non-Hispanic White males expressed more antigay attitudes compared to Latino and non-Hispanic White females and all African Americans. Moreover, the magnitude of the intergroup differences in this sizable convenience sample (N = 3,542) was small--less than 2 points on a 27-point scale--suggesting that they may have had little substantive significance (see also Alcalay, Sniderman, Mitchell, & Griffin, 1989-1990).

The psychological components of attitudes toward homosexuality and toward gay people among adults of Mexican ancestry in the United States remain largely unexamined. Only the previously mentioned study by Sherrod and Nardi (1998) examined the correlates of such attitudes in depth and, like most other published research in this area, it did not differentiate among cultural subgroups of Latinos. In that study, higher levels of sexual prejudice in Latinos were associated with having few lesbian or gay close friends and with describing one's own political ideology as conservative. In addition, Latinos' anti-gay attitudes were associated with agreeing that religious beliefs are always important in guiding their daily decisions.

Sherrod and Nardi's (1998) exploratory study provides a useful starting point for a social psychological analysis of Latinos' attitudes toward homosexuality, although it has important limitations, It did not use a validated attitude measure with known psychometric properties and did not differentiate attitudes toward lesbians from attitudes toward gay men. Furthermore, the study did not examine how cultural variables might affect attitudes within the portion of the sample identified as Hispanic. Indeed, the reported analyses did not differentiate among cultural groupings of Latinos. Finally, the questionnaire apparently was administered only in English, thereby excluding respondents whose preferred reading language was Spanish.

Empirical research is needed that describes the direction, intensity, and correlates of attitudes toward lesbians and gay men within specific U.S. cultural groups of Latinos. Moreover, such research should address the cultural context of these attitudes by examining how individual Latinos' attitudes toward homosexuality are related to their personal ethnic identity and feelings about Latino and U. …