Lay theories of decreasing homophobia in the UK among an older heterosexual cohort

Langdridge, Darren; Lynden, Jenny and Dennis, Amelia (2023). Lay theories of decreasing homophobia in the UK among an older heterosexual cohort. Psychology and Sexuality (Early Access).



Within the last 50 years, the UK has moved from prosecuting male homosexuality to identifying sexual orientation as a protected characteristic. There have been differing explanations for how this change has occurred. In the present study, we investigate how this political and moral change is understood by those who witnessed it, with the aim of gaining new insight into this change process. We elicited accounts from 25 heterosexual UK residents over the age of 65 years. First, we conducted individual semi-structured interviews with 21 participants. Second, we used a memory work method. Specifically, a group of four participants met four times with one of the researchers to share and discuss memories relevant to the research question. The analytic process aimed to reconstruct and make sense of the participants’ theorisations based on a thematic reading of the transcripts. Contact with LGBTQ people and increased awareness through the media were construed as central to the shift in societal homophobia. Participants remembered contact with LGBTQ people mediated by friends and family members but accounts show a complex understanding of social change that includes but also transcends direct personal experience and extant psychological theorising. Overall, this was a fragmented story of changing social norms, albeit one embedded within a canonical narrative of tolerance, decency and fairness.

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