Slow news day

I woke up with a headache. The day has so far not improved much. In the background I am working on an essay for the upcoming 25th anniversary of beginning my transition. But that is still a dozen days away.

So I did my morning Google search for news of the transgender community and it was mostly the same old same old. Trump's transgender ban, dead-naming, what transgender person has most recently gone public? What school parents have most recently expressed outrage that transgender people exist?

Then I found this nugget on social research, which will no doubt be of interest to very few. But I offer it anyway, in the hopes of aiding in any social researchers might wander by.

Dr. Patrick Grzanka of Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University has created the Sexual Orientation Beliefs Scale (SOBS) to facilitate social research into sexual minorities.

We found that when we factored the issue of 'choice' into the spectrum of sexual orientation beliefs, things got really complicated in very interesting ways. Previous research in this area tends to group beliefs about sexual orientation into two opposing, mutually exclusive "buckets:" beliefs that sexuality is socially constructed versus beliefs that sexual orientation is an essential, natural part of the self. Grzanka and his colleagues, however, found that their participants exhibited a range of beliefs that did not fit easily into the "social constructionist" and "essentialist" camps.


These findings are especially important, said Grzanka, because beliefs about what sexual orientation is are strongly connected to how people perceive sexual minorities. In other words, beliefs about the nature and origins of sexual orientation may strongly predict positive or negative attitudes toward sexual minorities.

The paper is:

Arseneau, J. R., Grzanka, P. R., Miles, J. R., & Fassinger, R. E. (2013). Development and initial validation of the Sexual Orientation Beliefs Scale (SOBS). Journal of Counseling Psychology, 60(3), 407-420.


The purpose of these studies was to develop and validate a measure of beliefs about sexual orientation (SO) that incorporates essentialist, social constructionist, and constructivist themes. The Sexual Orientation Beliefs Scale (SOBS) is offered as a multidimensional instrument with which to assess a broad range of beliefs about SO, which evidence suggests are highly correlated with positive and negative attitudes about sexual minorities. An initial exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was conducted in the general population with a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender-identified (LGBT) sample (n = 323) and suggested a 4-factor structure of naturalness (α = .86), discreetness (α = .82), entitativity (α = .75), and personal and social importance (α = .68); this 4-factor structure was supported by confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) with an independent LGBT sample (n = 330; “Form 1”). Additional EFA (n = 183) and CFA (n = 201) in a college student, mostly heterosexual-identified population suggest a slightly different factor structure, whereby group homogeneity (α = .84) and informativeness (α = .77) are salient themes (“Form 2”), and this structure was replicated across SO groups. Finally, a study of test–retest reliability in an undergraduate, mostly heterosexual-identified sample (n = 45) demonstrated strong temporal stability for the SOBS. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

The dream when you create an instrument such as this is that people will find it compelling and want to use it to study what people believe and to ultimately help improve attitudes toward sexual minorities and influence contemporary social policy. That is what we hope will happen with SOBS.


The research was partially funded by a Sol and Esther Drescher Memorial Faculty Development Grant from Barrett Honors College. In addition to Grzanka, co-investigators were psychologists Julie Arseneau from the University of Maryland, College Park; Joseph Miles from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; and Ruth Fassinger from John F. Kennedy University. Undergraduate honors students in Grzanka's Social Action Research Team at ASU served as research assistants, and they collected and compiled hundreds of surveys for the project.




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