When differences become essential: Minority essentialism in response to majority treatment

  • Morton T
  • Postmes T
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among members of the sexual minority as it is among the members of the heterosexual majority. For instance, some gay and lesbian people appear to be enthusiastic about evidence for the biological origins of their identity. But there is also evidence for suspicion about these ideas within the same community (a debate summarized by Rosario, 1997). Thus, there is variability in the positions that people adopt regarding the origins of sexual identity, both within the majority and within the minority. The aim of the present research was to explore beliefs about sexuality from the perspective of sexual minorities. In so doing, we consider the more general theoretical ques-tions of when and why members of a stigmatized minority might embrace an essentialized view of their own identity. Previously, it has been suggested that minority endorse-ment of essentialist ideas might reflect desires to rationalize or justify the negative treatment they receive from the majority. In contrast, we argue that essentialism can be an aspect of identity expression—and that essentialist ideas might be endorsed as means to assert a valued identity in the face of a majority that denies it. We elaborate this perspective below.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Discrimination
  • Essentialism
  • Identity
  • Marginalization
  • Sexuality

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  • Thomas A. Morton

  • Tom Postmes

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