What does it mean to be heterosexual?

Funding Body: European Research Council
Amount: €746,048
Duration: 5 years
Type: Starting Grant (StG), SH3, ERC-2017-STG

Researchers Involved:
Dr Keon West (Principal Investigator)
Dr Martha Guevara (Post-doctoral Research Fellow)

What does it mean to be heterosexual? How do you know if you are heterosexual? Though much research has investigated what it means to be *homosexual*, very little empirical research has investigated the meaning of heterosexuality. Furthermore, most people who consider themselves heterosexual have never given this question much thought. However, a number of recent, tragic events (e.g., the murder of Gwen Araujo and the deadly attack by Omar Mateen) show that our perceptions of heterosexuality can have profound ramifications for our self-image and our treatment of transgender individuals, gay men and lesbians. Across 14 studies Dr West’s research will investigate lay beliefs about heterosexuality, identify the predictors and associated consequences of these beliefs, and investigate the consequences of these beliefs for sexual prejudice. These studies will add meaningfully to our theoretical understanding of sexual orientation and some of the causes of anti-gay and anti-transgender prejudice. On a practical level, they will point to new ways of combating anti-LGBT prejudice, even in some of the most severely prejudiced societies, and have implications for a number of real-world issues such as legal protection and gay conversion therapy.