Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Providing Leisure Services for Gays and Lesbians

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Providing Leisure Services for Gays and Lesbians

Article excerpt

EDITOR'S NOTE: Dr. A.H. Grossman is a professor of education in the Program in Recreation and Leisure Studies, Department of Health Studies, New York University, New York, NY 10003.

Research studies on gays and lesbians in leisure studies, which can guide professionals in providing meaningful leisure services to this population, are virtually nonexistent. The purpose of this research update is to highlight research from other disciplines, especially in relation to gay and lesbian youth, from which practical implications for leisure service delivery can be derived.

Homophobia Bias in Initial Gay and Lesbian Research

Homophobia means an irrational dislike for those who are sexually attracted to people of their own sex (Rosan, 1978). It represents the affective or emotional feelings of anxiety, disgust, aversion, anger, discomfort and fear that heterosexuals may experience in dealing with homosexuals (Hudson and Ricketts, 1980). Homophobia is pervasive in American society and is taught implicitly and explicitly by parents, family members, teachers, coaches, professors, clergy, friends and even leisure service professionals. It leads to discrimination and oppression of gay men and lesbians in employment, housing, military service, public accommodations and recreation.

Research has also been affected by these biases. There are very few serious studies of homosexuality, as researchers have pursued more "socially acceptable" areas of study and strong prejudice has made it nearly impossible to locate truly representative subjects. When studies were undertaken, they "began with the assumption that heterosexuality was the expected development always, and attempted to show |what went wrong' to cause homosexuality.... The initial search for an understanding [was turned] into a search for a cause. It was felt that knowing the cause would lead to a ,cure," (Biery, 1990). The questions leading to hypoetheses for research were: "What goes wrong to cause homosexuality?" or "What could be done to prevent homosexuality?" or "What process could be used to |cure' homosexuality?"

In addition to the difficulties in determining cause and effect among independent variables, the research conducted was contaminated by social attitudes about gender, the studying of behavior (whereas sexual orientation consists of feelings), the lack of reliability afforded by large samples and the lack of "control groups." The single most serious problem, however, was the use of nonrepresentative samples. Most of the earlier research was conducted using patients in psychotherapy who were selected whether or not their problems related to their possible homosexuality. These earlier studies served to propagate the prejudice on which they were built. They became self-fulfilling prophecies and remained such until Kinsey's work in 1948.

Core Findings of Early Research

The studies of Kinsey and his colleagues (1948, 1953) legitimatized homosexuality as an area of research by showing the frequency of homosexual contact in the general American population. From the Kinsey studies, it was learned that 28 percent of boys and 17 percent of girls had one or more homosexual experiences. A 1985 nationwide poll by the Los Angeles Times appeared to confirm Kinsey's original data that ten percent of the respondents identified themselves as being gay or lesbian. "From these findings, sociologists have generally accepted a figure of ten percent, or 24 million Americans, as the incidence of homosexuality in the general population--which is more than the number of Americans who golf or bowl or hunt with any regularity" (Biery, 1990).

This growing body of literature challenged the psychopathological view of homosexuality. Gay men, lesbians and their supports pressured the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to remove homosexuality per se (Bayer, 1981) and ego-dystonic homosexuality (Biery, 1990) from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders as forms of mental illness. …

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