Does being gay make Asian-Americans seem more… American?
The idea of who makes the cut in what looks like and feels like an American citizen is outdated. But people go on thinking such ways anyway. Just look at the incident from last year when New York attorney Aaron Schlossberg lost it after hearing restaurant staff speaking Spanish. The belligerent lawyer then yelled out racist remarks and assumed the employees weren’t American.
Sadly, many people still carry these unnecessary assumptions about what makes people “American-enough” or not. And now, it looks like those assumptions even go so far as the intersection of being gay and being of Asian descent.
A new study, conducted by a University of Washington research team, reports that Asian decedents are perceived as more American if they also identify as gay.
“American culture is perceived as more accepting of gay people compared to Asian cultures,” wrote research leads Sapna Cheryan and Mika Semrow. “As a result, gay Asian Americans are perceived as more likely to be American than their straight counterparts.”
The research, which was published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, was exhibited through four different studies. The first focused on 345 adults found around the University’s campus. Each respondent was randomly assigned to read a description of “John.” John was either described as an Asian-American man or a gay Asian American man.
Respondents then answered questions on what they thought of John. It turns out, the gay John “was perceived as significantly more American.”
The second study then had 991 university students involved. This time, the students were told varying descriptions of people. The subjects were either told about a man or a woman. Plus, the description would then describe either someone who’s white or Asian-American. Then, the person would be described as either gay or of an unspecified sexual orientation.
The students then rated the “American-ness” of the hypothetical man or woman. The results found that Asian-Americans were, again, deemed to be more American if they were gay. Meanwhile, White Americans “were perceived as highly American regardless of sexual orientation.”
Researchers then spent the last two studies analyzing perceived differences in “Asian culture” and “American culture,” and they looked at how LGBTQ-ness plays within both. They surmised the results of the final two studies as “a belief that American culture is relatively more accepting of gay people than Asian cultures.” It appears that assimilation and adoption of Western/American culture are still preferable to American people.
This ultimately gives us another look at intersections that are rarely discussed or depicted. Being of Asian descent and being American, being gay and being Asian, and being all of the three.
“Research on race is often separate from research on sexual orientation. Here we bring the two together to understand how they interact to influence judgments of how American someone is considered,” wrote Cheryan.
Unfortunately, Americans seem to like familiar concepts more than foreign/new ones. As such, people who identify as gay and American are favored more than people who come from and acknowledge/celebrate other cultures. This prejudice then opens the way for situations like the New York lawyer described above.
But, it’s not all bonuses and boons for gay Asian-Americans. As researchers wrote during their reflection of the data:
“Gay Asian Americans may be less likely to have their American identities questioned than straight Asian Americans. At the same time, being gay puts people more at risk for other forms of prejudice based on sexual orientation.”