"Born That Way" and Other Notions: Measuring Sexual Minority Individuals' Beliefs About Sexual Orientation

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Arseneau, Julie
Fassinger, Ruth
The focus of the present study was the creation and initial validation of a measure of popular beliefs about sexual orientation in a sample of sexual minority (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, or otherwise same-sex attracted) adults, the Sexual Orientation Beliefs Scale (SOBS). While drawing from the empirical literature on essentialist beliefs about social groups, the current project sought to investigate ontological assumptions that are both essentialist and non-essentialist in nature, specifically including beliefs rooted in agentic and social constructionist perspectives as yet untested in the empirical literature. Participants (N = 332) were a national sample of sexual minority adults ranging in age from 18-74 years. Data was collected using through the use of an internet-based survey, and exploratory factor analysis was used to investigate the underlying factor structure of the SOBS. An initial 91 items were reduced to a 35-item scale using a best-fit four-factor solution that accounted for 35.33% of the obtained variance. Based on their component items, the four subscales of the SOBS were named Naturalness, Discreteness, Entitativity, and Personal and Social Importance of Sexual Orientation. Relationships between sexual orientation beliefs and right-wing authoritarianism, need for cognitive structure, collective self-esteem, and sociodemographic characteristics of participants were explored and results of these analyses are presented. Notably, the level of endorsement of specific types of beliefs, as measured by the SOBS subscales, was found to differ significantly according to gender and sexual orientation self-labeling of participants. Results broadly suggest the need for further investigation of popularly-held beliefs about sexual orientation and their correlates. Strengths and limitations of the present study, as well as recommendations for future research with the SOBS, are also discussed.