Researcher Documents the Declining Significance of Homophobia

Mar 06, 2012, 16:23 ET from Oxford University Press


NEW YORK, March 6, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The following is being released by the Oxford University Press:

Groundbreaking research from the UK documents an erosion of homophobia in British high schools. Despite media narratives and older research discussing high levels of homophobia within school systems, sociologist Mark McCormack, a qualitative sociologist at Brunel University in England and author of The Declining Significance of Homophobia found that there has been a radical change in attitudes toward homosexuality among British male youth.

Research has traditionally shown that students perceived as gay were bullied and marginalized by their peers. McCormack's research, however, demonstrates that such experiences are no longer dominant in British High Schools. This is evidenced in two key ways: 1) the positive experiences of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) students, and 2) the attitudes and beliefs of teenage boys in the schools.

Highlighting the inclusiveness of male youth, and demonstrating how radically attitudes have changed, several of the students who participated in McCormack's study argued that schools were homophobic for not having openly gay students, or even enough curriculum content on gay issues. Thus, among this new generation of male youth, it is homophobia that is stigmatized. As one student said, "It's actually homophobia that's bad now. If you were homophobic, you would be too embarrassed to say anything." Where once homophobic language was rife in school settings, McCormack finds such language is now condemned by students.

The erosion of homophobia has meant that heterosexual boys no longer care whether others perceive them as gay. This has enabled these boys to engage in tactile behaviors that would have once caused great stigma because of the association with homosexuality.

These changes amount to a radical redefinition of masculinity and heterosexuality among British youth. McCormack attributes these changes to the broader culture—to the success of the gay rights movement, the democratizing power of the internet, the sexualization of culture and the visibility of gay people more generally.

While these findings are situated in a British context and history, they have important implications for other countries where a softening of homophobia is evident. For example, a recent survey of over 200,000 first time college undergraduates across 270 colleges in the United States found that 64.1% of male freshman support same-sex marriage (and this does not account for those supporting civil partnerships).

McCormack feels the radical change in attitudes toward homosexuality and gendered behaviors in the UK offers a hopeful vision of the future of American masculinity and tolerance in the U.S.  

SOURCE Oxford University Press