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Explanations for mixed-orientation marriage : a comparative study of previously married and never-married gay men
conference contributionposted on 2001-01-01, 00:00 authored by Daryl Higgins
Despite a large body of literature on the development of sexual orientation, little is known about why some men who marry women have (or develop) a homosexual orientation. In the current study, a selfselected sample of 43 never-married gay men and 26 gay men who were married to a woman completed a self-report questionnaire. As well as obtaining descriptive information from the 26 men about their marriages and reason for marrying, hypotheses were tested, based on five possible explanations for gay men’s marriages: (a) internalised homophobia; (b) religious intolerance (c) confusion created because of childhood/adolescent sexual experiences; (d) poor psychological adjustment; and (e) differences in strength of sexual preference. The two most frequent reasons for marriage were that it “seemed natural”, and a desire to have children and “family life”. The attitudes to gay men and lesbians held currently by the married group were significantly more positive than their reports of their attitudes around the time their marriage commenced, and the level of childhood sexual experiences with adults or older adolescents was significantly associated with the extent of their unsafe sexual practices with men (prior, during and/or after marriage). Marrieds described their families’ religious beliefs as more fundamentalist than never-marrieds. Family adaptability and family cohesion and the degree to which respondents reported having experienced child maltreatment did not distinguished between marrieds and never-marrieds, however these variables did predict the level of self-depreciation. No differences were found between marrieds and never-marrieds’ ratings of their sexual orientation and identity, homophobia, or self-depreciation. The results highlight how little is understood of the reasons why gay men marry, and the need to develop an adequate theoretical model.