Internalized homonegativity (IH) refers to the acceptance of negative societal attitudes against same-sex attractions and/or behaviour and has been associated with a variety of negative health outcomes among gay men, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, loneliness, substance abuse, suicidal ideation, and behaviours predisposing to transmission of HIV.
Unfortunately, most studies of IH have focused on gay men under the age of 40; it is not known to what degree IH affects older gay men. To address this issue, the current study examined responses to the Internalized Homonegativity Inventory (IHNI; Mayfield, 2001) in a demographically diverse sample of gay men aged 18-80 years (N = 890). Data were collected via the Internet in 2011 as part of a larger study of gay men’s sexuality.
The IHNI measures three dimensions of IH: personal homonegativity; gay-affirmative values and attitudes towards homosexuality generally; and attitudes about the moral implications of homosexuality.
Analysis of variance examined IH between three age cohorts (18-29, 30-49, and 50+) in three countries (Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom).
Results indicated main effects for age and country, but no interaction between the two. In all three nations, IH is significantly lower between successive cohorts of gay men (i.e., older men have lower IH), and the magnitude of differences between cohorts is similar between countries.
Given that older gay men came of age when antihomosexual prejudice was higher in all three countries, these results suggest that developmental, age-related changes may temper the historical impact of this prejudice.
Results are discussed within the context of socioemotional selectivity theory.