Racial stereotyping of gay men: Can a minority sexual orientation erase race?

Elsevier, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Volume 83, March 2019, Pages 37-54.
Authors: 
Christopher Petsko and Galen Bodenhausen

Decades of research indicate that the traits we ascribe to people often depend on their race. Yet, the bulk of this research has not considered how racial stereotypes might also depend on other aspects of targets' identities. To address this, researchers have begun to ask intersectional questions about racial stereotypes, such as whether they are applied in similar ways to men and women, or to children and adults. In the present studies, we examine whether men who are described as gay (vs. not) become de-racialized in the minds of perceivers. That is, we test whether gay (vs. non-gay) men are perceived as less stereotypic of their own racial or ethnic groups. Results consistently support the de-racialization hypothesis, regardless of whether targets are Black, White, Asian, or Hispanic. Moreover, when Black and Hispanic men are described as gay (vs. not), they become stereotypically “Whitened” in addition to seeming less stereotypic of their own racial groups. This “Whitening” effect is explained by Black and Hispanic men's seeming more affluent when described as gay (vs. when not), an effect that holds even when controlling for changes in these men's stereotypic femininity. Collectively, these findings underscore the point that race and sexual orientation are not orthogonal in the minds of perceivers. A minority sexual orientation can alter the racial characteristics ascribed to men, reducing the perceived presence of race-typical traits and, for low-SES men, increasing their perceived “Whiteness.”