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Gay Males Discriminate Against Feminine Gay Men

Author: University of Sydney
Author Contact:
Published: 9th Feb 2023
Peer-Reviewed Publication: Yes
Additional References: Gay Male News Publications

Summary: Gay men and heterosexual men prefer masculine-presenting gay men for high-status roles.

Main Document

Gay and Straight Men Prefer Masculine-Presenting Gay Men for a High-Status Role: Evidence From an Ecologically Valid Experiment - Sex Roles.

Psychology study finds both gay men and heterosexual men prefer masculine over feminine gay men for a high-status role, suggesting feminine gay men may face implicit discrimination in the workplace

Both gay men and heterosexual men prefer masculine-presenting men for high-status roles, according to a new study from the University of Sydney, leaving more feminine-presenting gay men disadvantaged and facing internal bias, prejudice, and potential discrimination in the workplace, including in hiring practices and promotion opportunities.

The research published in the prestigious peer-reviewed journal Sex Roles is believed to be the first experimental study to demonstrate status costs for gay men who present with more feminine than masculine qualities across workplace hierarchies. It also demonstrates implicit bias among gay men as a community.

Ben Gerrard is a researcher in gender and sexuality in the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney. He defines feminine-presenting traits as more feminine, as traditionally understood/defined vocal quality, body language, and posture.

Mr. Gerrard says the finding that gay men prefer a more "straight-acting" gay man for high-status roles is disappointing and potentially creates a gay glass ceiling in workplaces.

"Gay men are potentially blocking each other from positions of power and leadership due to this implicit bias," he said. "Men are still expected to conform to more traditional masculine leadership styles, and if they fail to project masculine traits sufficiently, they are at risk of status penalties. This is an example of internalized homophobia among the gay community, and it impacts opportunities for these gay men."

Mr. Gerrard said while gay men appear to enjoy increasing equality and representation in Western cultures, they are still disadvantaged in pursuing high-status opportunities compared to heterosexual men. "The findings point to the need for advocacy and training to counter apparent bias against feminine-presenting gay men in a range of professional contexts and populations," he said.

Testing Internal Biases Against Sexuality and Gender Traits

The researcher created a mock TV commercial casting brief for a campaign promoting tourism in Sydney. The mock campaign aimed to sell Sydney overseas, and the casting call was for an actor who could be viewed as a leader or someone the audience would admire.

The researcher (himself a professional actor) created videos of six shortlisted 'candidates' using professional actors, all gay men in real-life, who acted the same script in both a feminine-gay and masculine-gay manner (manipulating their voice, mannerisms, and posture but otherwise everything else was kept identical).

A survey of 256 gay and heterosexual men was invited to watch the videos and to look for an actor who could be seen as a "leader" who could represent Australia. They viewed a particular actor's feminine or masculine version and placed casting preferences for the role. The researcher found that both gay men and heterosexual men preferred the more masculine-gay male actor for the advert (discriminating against the feminine-gay actor).

Heterosexual men higher in homonegativity and gay men higher in misogyny both showed a stronger preference for the masculine-gay actor over the feminine-gay actor. These findings hold important implications for implicit bias and hiring practices.

Need for Greater Acceptance

More work is required to challenge the prevailing association between masculinity and high status, Mr. Gerrard says, especially in light of contemporary leadership theories, which suggest traits traditionally perceived as 'feminine,' such as warmth, can be more effective in managing modern workplaces.

"We operate in teams-based workplaces now where effective leadership qualities - warmth, empathy, and good communication - are all considered feminine traits, and a more feminine-presenting gay man might be an ideal candidate for a leadership role," Mr. Gerrard said. "And yet we still value traditional masculinity at a senior leadership level as a measure of the capacity to lead because traditional feminine traits are considered too soft or not authoritative enough."

"This homophobic bias is putting pressure on feminine-presenting gay men to conform so they might be passable as a heterosexual man," Mr. Gerrard said. "We need an increase in authentic representation of empowered feminine-presenting gay men - especially in the media: to counter misinformed biases regarding their ability to lead. There needs to be education and awareness within the community and in recruitment processes - around the potential to be unconsciously influenced by these unfair biases."

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Gay Males Discriminate Against Feminine Gay Men | University of Sydney ( makes no warranties or representations in connection therewith. Content may have been edited for style, clarity or length.

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• (APA): University of Sydney. (2023, February 9). Gay Males Discriminate Against Feminine Gay Men. Retrieved April 13, 2024 from

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