Stigma Associated with Conducting Lesbian Research

Fear of negative career repercussions has prevented some lesbian and non-lesbian researchers, particularly in academic settings, from conducting lesbian-related research. The demands of attaining tenure in academia and promotions in nonacademic research organizations are so arduous that researchers interested in studying lesbians may feel they have to choose between research in this area and the pursuit of professional success. Most of the gay and lesbian academics surveyed by McNaron (1997) acknowledged that significant gains had been made, but many still felt that research on lesbian or gay issues was professionally risky. Although the committee is unaware of research in this area, it is reasonable to expect that similar pressures deter researchers in nonacademic research institutes and clinical settings from pursuing research on lesbian issues.

Of the lesbian researchers surveyed by Ryan and Bradford (1997), less than one-third (29%) reported having a very supportive environment for conducting research on lesbian issues. Almost a quarter (23%) reported that conducting lesbian-related research had a somewhat or very negative impact on finding a mentor, adviser, or consultant; 26% reported negative impact on obtaining grant funding; and 23% reported negative impact on finding a job. Finally, a survey of graduate student members of the American Psychological Association Division 44, the division for the study of lesbian, gay, and bisexual issues, found that more than half of the students surveyed reported negative experiences from conducting research in this area (Pilkington and Cantor, 1996). The negative experiences included exposure to antigay or biased textbooks and course materials, offensive and biased comments from instructors, and a range of negative and discriminatory experiences with faculty, administrative staff, and interns. Approximately one out of three students was discouraged or warned that research on sexual orientation would have negative career consequences, or had experienced specific interference or refusal to allow research on lesbian and gay issues.

Stigma Associated with Being a Lesbian in Research Settings

The few studies on experiences that lesbian or gay researchers have with bias and discrimination have found significant levels of professional

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement