Sexual Identification in the United States at the Intersections of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, Immigration, and Education

Tony Silva*, Clare R. Evans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Sexual identification is shaped by social processes that vary across multiple axes of marginalization and social position—including gender, race/ethnicity, immigration status, and education. However, to date quantitative findings on sexual identity formation have been inconsistent and most existing studies do not use intersectional frameworks. Drawing on intersectional theory and using an innovative multilevel method for measuring intersectional effects, we address this gap in our understanding of sexual identification by examining how the likelihood to adopt an exclusively heterosexual sexual identity varies along the intersecting axes of gender, race/ethnicity, immigration status, and education. We analyze data from 15,340 U.S. young adults, 24–32 years-old, who answered Wave IV of the nationally representative Add Health survey. Among strata of women, there was considerable variability in propensity to exclusively heterosexual identify across racial/ethnic and immigrant status categorizations: White, Black, Native American, immigrant Asian/Pacific Islander, non-immigrant Asian/Pacific Islander, immigrant Latinx, and non-immigrant Latinx. Among strata of men, the propensity to heterosexual identify was considerably higher overall and there was less variability across racial/ethnic and immigrant status categorizations. Results suggest that across races/ethnicities and immigration statuses men seem to be similarly affected by heteronormative expectations, whereas more complicated processes involving race/ethnicity and immigration status shape women’s propensity to exclusively identify as heterosexual. For most intersectional strata, the propensity to exclusively heterosexual identify did not differ by education level. Practitioners and researchers should be aware of how race/ethnicity/immigrant status may shape sexual identification, but in gendered ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)722-738
Number of pages17
JournalSex Roles
Volume83
Issue number11-12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Femininity
  • Gender
  • Heterosexuality
  • LGBT
  • MAIHDA
  • Masculinity
  • Multilevel modeling
  • Sexual identity
  • Sexuality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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