This research explores a phenomenon that is one potential manifestation of heteronormative dominance, namely, the tendency to perceive, and prefer, that same-sex couples fit a model of gender complementarity, where one partner is seen as the feminine half (the “woman”) and the other is seen as the masculine half (the “man”).

In a first project, we demonstrate that this phenomenon is related to homonegativity among heterosexuals. Straight participants who were relatively uncomfortable with and averse to homosexuality tended to perceive same-sex couples as exhibiting gender complementarity, perceived gender complementary relationships as more successful and preferred same-sex couples that fit a gender complementary model of relationships over ones that do not. These findings suggest that to the extent that they endorse homonegative attitudes, heterosexuals fit same-sex relationships to heteronormative conceptions of masculinity and femininity.

In a second project, we examine whether this phenomenon is limited to heterosexuals. Given the ubiquity of sexual prejudice, it would be difficult for sexual minorities not to be affected. Gay men themselves may thus also seek to “re-norm” gay relationships if they feel negatively towards their own sexual orientation. In this research, we indeed found that gay men with relatively high (vs. low) levels of internalized homonegativity believe that the ideal partner is one that serves as a gender-complement to their own gendered self-image in both a control condition and when they were reminded of discrimination; however, this effect was eliminated when they were reminded of increased public acceptance of homosexuality.

In preparation: Van der Toorn, J., & Napier, J. L. (2016). Which chopstick is the fork? Homonegative attitudes predict preferences for gender complementarity in same-sex relationships. Manuscript in preparation.

In preparation: Napier, J. L., & Van der Toorn, J. (2019). The personal is political: Self-stigma and the desire for gender-complementary relationship partners among gay men. Manuscript in preparation.