1.1. BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
There are three important concepts (heterosexism, homophobia, and micro-aggressions) in understanding the public perceptions on social division towards gay and lesbian undergraduate students. It is therefore important to define these three concepts. Heterosexism is “an ideological system that denies, denigrates and stigmatizes any non-heterosexual form of behavior, identity, relationship or community” (Herek, 2008). Additionally, heterosexism normalizes heterosexual behavior and gives privileges to heterosexuals. Homophobia is the hatred, irrational fear of and prejudice towards persons presumed to be gays or bisexuals (Pharr, 2011) which can result in violence, abuse or mistreatment. Heterosexism does not always manifest in blatant or overt forms of social division. It sometimes manifests in subtle discrimination which are more covert which is referred to as micro-aggressions (Nadal, 2008). Since LGB persons are sometimes targets of micro-aggressions, it is important to define micro-aggressions in this paper. Micro-aggressions can be defined as “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults towards members of oppressed groups” (Nadal, 2008). Research evidence shows that heterosexism is a problem in schools globally, which adversely affects the health, well-being and learning conditions of LGB learners worldwide (UNESCO, 2012). Research and field evidence from universities in USA, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe show that heterosexism and homophobia does exist on campuses (Arndt & De Bruin, 2013; Francis & Msibi, 2011; Mtemeri, 2015; Okanlawon, 2017; Woodford, Silverschanz, Swank, Scherrer, & Raiz, 2012; Zeller, 2011). Some of the factors associated with heterosexism are heterosexist thoughts, assumptions, stereotypes and perceptions which often misrepresent gays and lesbians people by marginalizing them which further makes them disadvantaged in society. Some of the factors contributing to homophobia are the negative perceptions, stereotypes and attitudes of heterosexuals toward LGB people. Since heterosexism and homophobia are problems facing gays and lesbians students in Nigerian campuses (Bucknor-Arigbede & Omotoso, 2015, Edozien, 2018; Okanlawon, 2017,), understanding the public perceptions and attitudes towards homosexuality and LGB persons can help inform the designing of programmatic interventions to address heterosexism and promote an inclusive climate for gays and lesbian students in Nigerian campuses. Because heterosexism is a problem in the larger Nigerian society (Ilesanmi, 2013; Okanlawon, 2018), our universities have not been exempted from heterosexist and homophobic incidents, practices and behaviors (Bucknor-Arigbede & Omotoso, 2015; Edozien, 2018, Okanlawon, 2017) even though university students may be one of the most liberal subcultures (Herek, 2012). Several homophobic and heterosexist incidents on seven different Nigerian university campuses in Ile-Ife, Ibadan, Lagos, Ota, Benin, Zaria and Nsukka have been documented (Bucknor-Arigbede & Omotoso, 2015, Edozien, 2018, Okanlawon, 2017) and these incidents have had negative educational, emotional, and mental health consequences on the lives and well-being of LGB students who were affected (Okanlawon, 2017). These sources of evidence therefore show that Nigerian campus environments are not affirming and welcoming toward gays and lesbians students (Bucknor-Arigbede & Omotoso, 2015, Mapayi et al., 2016; Okanlawon, 2017) which could have contributed to their lower quality of life (Mapayi et al., 2015). One of the major factors associated with the negative perceptions of heterosexuals towards gays and lesbians people is the stereotypes which often portray LGB people negatively in Nigerian movies (Green-Simms & Azuah, 2012), Nigerian media reports (Okanlawon, 2017), Nigerian churches and mosques (Ilesanmi, 2013) and other venues, literatures or communication channels. In the Nigerian movie industry for instance, some gaythemed movies have portrayed gay university students as people involved in cultism, prostitution, rape, murder, robbery, fraud, and blackmail (Green-Simms & Azuah, 2012). Some Nigerian films about homosexuality have associated homosexuality with greed, violence, criminality, drugs, and abuse of power (Green-Simms & Azuah, 2012). During a screening of one of the gay-themed movies which was done for gay-identified Nigerian audiences in Lagos and Abuja, the gay audience not only felt offended by the predatory acts and violent ending of the film, but also they saw nothing similar to their lives in the storyline (Green-Simms & Azuah, 2012) The importance of understanding people’s attitudes towards homosexuality and addressing their implicit and explicit biases cannot be overemphasized in order for LGB persons to enjoy tolerance as well as their rights, dignity, and well-being in the society. This is important because people’s values, norms and attitudes toward issues may sometimes be very powerful. A good example is the tolerance enjoyed by ‘yan daudu’ in Northern Nigeria for several years despite the existence of Sodomy laws (Gaudio, 2011; Okanlawon, 2015). In spite of the fact that many Northern Nigerians knew that ‘yan daudu’ are gender nonconforming men, some of whom engage in homosexual acts, they were largely tolerated and were not ostracized or victimized until recent years when political homophobia emerged due to postcolonial politics and the introduction of Sharia law (Okanlawon, 2015). The existence of law reforms and constitutional protection for LGB persons sometimes does not translate into huge attitudinal change on gay rights issues, which is needed to enhance the enjoyment of human rights of LGB persons as expected in some settings (Arndt & De Bruin, 2013; Ilesanmi, 2013). Hence, the study examines public perception on social division towards gays and lesbians undergraduate students of University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
1.2. STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
Research evidence shows that public perception and social division constitute problems in Nigerian universities (BucknorArigbede & Omotoso, 2015, Edozien, 2018, Okanlawon, 2017) and have serious consequences on Nigerian gays and lesbians students (Okanlawon, 2017). Some quantitative studies in Nigerian universities have shown that most of the Nigerian university students studied have public perceptions and social division towards Gays and Lesbians undergraduate students (BucknorArigbede & Omotoso, 2015; Mapayi et al., 2016). However, there is a need for an in-depth understanding of how and why this happens and the diverse factors responsible and how they play out so as to understand the theoretical constructs behind these issues. This study explore the public perceptions on social division towards gays and lesbians undergraduate students in order to have a better understanding of how to address their heterosexist and homophobic perceptions, attitudes and practices which contribute to making schools unsafe for gays and lesbians students. Social division towards Gays and Lesbians students may hinder LGB people from being able to contribute effectively to society due to the moral condemnation and exclusion which often accompany the negative perceptions and attitudes of heterosexuals towards LGB people (Okanlawon, 2017). Negative perceptions and attitudes towards homosexuality may hinder sexuality education about homosexuality, HIV intervention programs for men who have sex with men and academic research on LGB issues due to self-censorship (Epprecht & Egya, 2011), which can have negative consequences on people’s health, well-being and societal development. Hence the study, public perception on social division towards gays and lesbians undergraduate students of University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.4 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The major aim of the study is to examine public perception on social division towards gays and lesbians undergraduate students of University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Other specific objectives of the study include;
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study will be of profound benefits to enlighten the people on prevalence of gays and lesbianism and the public perception on social division towards them. This study would also be of immense benefit to students and scholars who are interested in developing further studies on the subject matter.
1.6 OPERATIONAL DEFINITION OF TERMS
Gay: A term used to describe individuals who are primarily emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the same gender. This can be used to describe both men and women.
Lesbian: A term used to describe women attracted emotionally, physically, or sexually to other women.
Asexual: A term used to describe someone who does not experience emotional, physical, and/or sexual attraction
Bisexual: A term used to describe someone who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to both men and women
Cis-gender: A term used to describe someone whose gender identity and biological sex assigned at birth align (e.g., identifies as female and female-assigned at birth) Coming out: Voluntarily making one’s sexual identity or gender identity known to others
Gender dysphoria: A condition in which one feels discomfort or distress because one’s emotional and psychological gender identity is different from one’s biological sex assigned at birth Gender normative: The assumption that individual gender identity aligns with societal expectations for what it means to be a girl/woman/ female or boy/man/male
Heteronormativity: Norms and practices that assume binary alignment of biological sex, gender identity, and gender roles and establish heterosexuality as a fundamental and natural norm
Heterosexism: The assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual. Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer people, while it gives advantages to heterosexual people. It is often a subtle form of oppression that reinforces realities of silence and invisibility.
Heterosexual: A term that describes someone who is emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to members of the opposite gender Homosexual: An outdated term that describes a sexual orientation in which a person feels physically and emotionally attracted to people of the same gender
Intersex: Describes someone whose combination of chromosomes, gonads, hormones, internal sex organs, and genitalia differs from the two expected patterns of male and female
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