Major study into understanding homophobia

17 May 2011 03:03:00.000

PA 158/11

Society as a whole, as well as institutions and communities within it, need to become more aware of the existence of lesbians and gay men, and more committed to making sure their lives and experiences are visible – without fear of rejection and exclusion.

These are the key findings of a project carried out by Dr Andrew Kam-Tuck Yip, an expert in sexuality and fundamental rights in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at The University of Nottingham. Although previous research has shown that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has decreased over the past decades, Dr Yip warns that these figures should be treated with caution.

Dr Yip has just completed his part of a European study ‘Citizen in diversity: A four-nation study of homophobia and fundamental rights’ ( which aimed at taking stock of the contemporary settings of hate on the basis of sexual orientation.  He will present his findings at a conference in Nottingham to mark International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia which is commemorated every year on May 17.

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As well as looking at recent achievements, the project, funded by the European Commission and the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme, looked at old and new manifestations of homophobia across four European countries and asked what can be done to reinforce gay and lesbian rights and their citizenship.

Although there is evidence to suggest that the UK has become a more tolerant place for sexual difference and diversity Dr Yip says that a more nuanced look continues to tell a cautionary tale. He said: “We interviewed lesbians, gays and heterosexual men and women from four ethnic communities in the UK. We found that segments of society, structured by age, ethnicity, gender, geography and religion often demonstrate differential levels of tolerance of the lesbian and gay population.”

Dr Yip’s research showed that while some lesbian and gay respondents were open about their sexuality despite their perceived risk, others still chose to conceal their sexuality as a direct outcome of being sensitive to the negativity surrounding their sexuality.  Others, empowered by the progressive legal reform of recent years, were confident about their sexual identity and rights and have devised a host of strategies to resist manifestations of homophobia within their ethnic communities and society at large.

Dr Yip said: “As a liberal democracy, we have the responsibility to continue to promote a better understanding of sexual diversity and difference, as part of the kaleidoscope of human existence. The law cannot legislate against homophobia broadly. What it can do is to legislate against discriminatory behaviour on the basis of sexual orientation. In other words, ‘covert homophobia’ is ‘legal’ – or more accurately, it falls outside of the remit of the law. Thus, ‘covert homophobia’ is a social issue that needs to be addressed and resources of various kinds need to be made available for such education. The challenge in this respect is that educational efforts need a lot of resources and the outcome often takes time to materialise. Changing entrenched social attitudes, particularly in relation to sexuality and gender, is a time-consuming and energy-sapping endeavour.

“This also requires the lesbian and gay community to be patient and actively engaged in dialogue. The responsibility rests on the heterosexual as well as the lesbian and gay communities.”

‘Citizens in Diversity’ is a study being carried out in Italy, Hungary, Slovenia and the UK. In each country, a legal and a sociological case study were undertaken. Dr Yip has worked alongside Professor Robert Wintemute, a legal expert from Kings College, London.

Dr Yip and Professor Wintemute will present their findings at the International Day against Homophobia Conference at the East Midlands Conference Centre, University Park, on Tuesday 17 May 2011.

Other speakers will include:

Sue Botcherby from the Equality and Human Rights Commission - Homophobia and Inequality.

Dr Paul Iganski from Lancaster University – Understanding the Harms of Homophobic Hate Crime.

Dr Scott Lawley from Nottingham Trent University – Homophobia and LGBT Issues in Sport.

Ashlee Christoffersen from Kiaros in Soho – Experience and Interventions of London LGBT Voluntary and Community organisations.

Dr Mark McCormack from Brunel University – Gay Friendly High Schools

Dr. Luca Trappolin from the University of Padua, will also attend the conference. He is the principal investigator and his institution is leading the Citizens in Diversity project.

More information about the study can be found at:
Citizens in Diversity: A Four-Nation Study of Homophobia and Fundamental Rights project - Dr. Yip’s research – as well as those undertaken by other researchers within this project - will be published in a forthcoming book provisionally entitled Confronting Homophobia in Europe.

The University of Nottingham Students’ Union has won the award for NUS Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Society of the Year 2011, for the significant impact it has had on LGBT students this year. The Union’s LGBT Network was declared the best in the country at the NUS LGBT Conference on May 7 2011. The award is given to those LGBT societies who have had an outstanding year; whether through representing LGBT students, campaigning, putting on fantastic events - or all three.

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More information is available from Dr Andrew Yip on +44 (0) 115951 5396
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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