Learning to unlearn: A case study of the initial rejection and subsequent acceptance of homosexuality by heterosexuals

2009 2009

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Abstract (summary)

Homosexuality in America has had a long and storied history. Today homosexuality is beginning to become more visible and accepted in American society. If homosexuality is to become fully accepted and homosexuals allowed to become fully integrated into American society, it will be due in large part to the acceptance and efforts of heterosexuals. However, not all heterosexuals accept or have always accepted homosexuality and this research focused on those heterosexuals who at one time did not accept homosexuality but shifted to an acceptance of homosexuality.

The problem addressed by this research was a bias towards homosexuality; it sought to understand how some heterosexuals shift their perspective from non-acceptance to acceptance of homosexuality, the facilitators and impediments in such learning, and heterosexual's awareness of heterosexism. The theoretical lens of Mezirow's (1978) transformative learning theory was used in an effort to understand such learning and its resulting actions.

A qualitative design that included an in-depth, semi-structured, open-ended interview with an embedded critical incident, demographic survey, along with a pre-interview survey provided a wealth of data that was coded and carefully analyzed. The analyzed data demonstrated that the understanding of a heterosexist worldview was complicated and that such a worldview was quite often taken for granted. The data also supported that emotions play an important role in acceptance of homosexuality and that the K-12 school years were an important element in ones initial worldview of homosexuality.

Findings regarding facilitators to one's acceptance of homosexuality included personally knowing a homosexual and media such as film, television, literature, radio and advertising. A positive self-esteem and religion were also mentioned as facilitators. The two identified impediments to one's acceptance of homosexuality were a lack of self-esteem and religion.

Recommendations included the incorporation of issues of homosexuality, media, and critical reflection in adult education curriculum. The incorporation of curriculums that value difference, homosexuality in particular in K-12 settings and creating more inclusive workplace policies including utilizing the broadest definition of families.

Indexing (details)

Social psychology;
Adult education;
Gender studies
0451: Social psychology
0516: Adult education
0733: Gender studies
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Education; Psychology; Heterosexual allies; Homosexuality; Learning; Prejudice; Transformative learning
Learning to unlearn: A case study of the initial rejection and subsequent acceptance of homosexuality by heterosexuals
Priestley, Tamara Lynne
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Bitterman, Jeanne
Teachers College, Columbia University
University location
United States -- New York
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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