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Social Inequality Chapter 5 – Sexual Orientation and Inequality. Dr. Roderick Graham Fordham University. Conceptual clarity. Sex Man and Woman (defined by sex organs) Gender Culturally defined roles (behavior, clothing styles) Sexual Orientation What type of sex and

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Social inequality chapter 5 sexual orientation and inequality l.jpg

Social InequalityChapter 5 – Sexual Orientation and Inequality

Dr. Roderick Graham

Fordham University

Conceptual clarity l.jpg
Conceptual clarity


Man and Woman (defined

by sex organs)


Culturally defined roles

(behavior, clothing styles)

Sexual Orientation

What type of sex and

gender you are attracted


Most people want to make this assumption:



Sexual Orientation

However, when people do not fit into this schema, they are labeled “deviant”, shunned and stigmatized.

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The complexity of sexuality and gender

  • We expect people to be heterosexual in their sexuality, and follow the gender roles of being “male/masculine” and “female/feminine”. Your textbook says that this is the Judeo-Christian tendency to use dichotomies.

  • Sexuality is complex, because people do not always fall into simple dichotomies. Here is a 2X2 table of sexual orientation.

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The complexity of sexuality and gender

  • Homosexuals have also developed a series of expected behaviors (roles) that go along with the status of homosexual

  • Ironically, transgendered/transexual people are stigmatized by not only heterosexuals, but also homosexuals, because they do not fit the norm of homosexuality.

  • This video clip from the documentary “Gender Rebel” will illustrate this point…

  • Despite this complexity, the rest of the chapter, and this lecture, focuses on homosexuals

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Public opinions on homosexuality

  • Like many social issues, Americans are conflicted when issues of homosexuality are posed

    • Morally, the majority of the population is opposed to homosexuality. We contrast an individual’s homosexuality with our religious beliefs of personal morality.

    • With respect to civil liberties, Americans see homosexuals as a social group that is being potentially discriminated against. Americans tend to be in favor of giving many legal rights (marriage) to homosexuals.

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Public opinions on homosexuality

Stereotypes about gay men

  • Feminine

  • Emotional

  • Security Seeking

  • Neat

  • Interested in fine arts

  • Creative

  • High pitched voices

Stereotypes about lesbians

  • Independent and independent minded

  • Open and loud

  • Stubborn

  • Not good for children

Attitudes towards homosexuals are negative in part because people hold these stereotypes. These stereotypes violate traditional gender roles!!

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Homosexuals as a status group

  • Homosexuals form a status category with low prestige or social honor.

    • Lifestyle – they are perceived as having similar occupations, dress, and preferences.

    • Tendency to marry within their own ranks - ??

    • Emphasis on interacting intimately –There are many informal friendship networks between homosexuals. Also, they are either stigmatized and shunned and forced to interact only with other homosexuals

    • Monopolization of economic opportunities - ??

    • Emphasis on ownership of certain types of possessions - ??

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Homosexuals as status group

3 videos

  • A recent beating of an openly gay man (Jack Price). This is being prosecuted as a hate crime. This video shows how low status groups are low in prestige, and are often stigmatized. There are serious consequences to being a member of a low status group.

  • A public rally by a gay rights group (Generation Q). This is to show that gays recognize their commonalities, and work together. In some ways, this is an example of a status group organizing itself politically.

  • Just as a bookend, I will show the father of the attacker and his plea for forgiveness.

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Discrimination and legal confusion

  • One of the biggest controversies in the last 20 years involves the question of whether homosexuals should be allowed to marry legally

  • Marriage confers over 1,000 practical benefits that gays cannot have. Also, there is a “symbolic” currency in being married, that gays cannot have.

  • The winner of the controversy over gay and lesbian marriage must win battle over framing the issues as one of civil rights or moral values.

    • Those who are pushing for gay marriage argue that this is discrimination against a social group

    • Those who are against gay marriage say that marriage is a cultural institution that should be kept “sacred”

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Discrimination and legal confusion

  • Title VII of the 1964 civil rights act prohibits employment discrimination based on “sex”. But what does that mean?

  • Courts often conflate (treat as the same thing) gender and sexual orientation, and use the terms sex and gender interchangeably

  • This causes confusion and makes it difficult to decide cases on discrimination

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Socioeconomic profile of homosexuals

  • Hard to measure because homosexuality is stigmatized and it is difficult to get a representative sample

  • Also hard to measure because homosexuality can be fluid, and hard to define

  • But given this…

  • Concentrated in urban areas (most gays reside in cities)

  • More educated people tend to report more homosexual experiences

  • Gay men tend to earn less than straight men, but lesbians earn more than straight women

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Socioeconomic profile of homosexuals

  • Gay men are more likely to be self-employed

  • Gay men are clustered into a smaller amount of occupations, with a greater proportion of gay men working in high status, white collar jobs

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Negative consequences of stigmatization

  • Stigma – a powerfully negative label that changes a person’s self-concept and self-identity (stigmas are master statuses). This can lead to…


  • Homosexual youths are two to three times more likely than heterosexual youths to attempt suicide

    Minority Stress

  • Being seen negatively by your community and society can lead to high stress levels, which in turn affect physical health