Development of heterosexuals into sexual-minority allies: A qualitative exploration

Julie M. Duhigg, Sharon S. Rostosky, Barry E. Gray, Mary K. Wimsatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


Heterosexually identified individuals can serve a crucial role as allies in eliminating sexual prejudice and the resulting policies that discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. However, few studies have systematically examined the development of heterosexual allies. Consensual qualitative research methods (Hill et al., The Counseling Psychologist, 25, 517-572, 1997) were used to analyze individual interviews conducted with a community sample of 12 heterosexually identified participants who demonstrated ally commitment through some form of LGBT activism. Findings revealed six domains that best described the development of these heterosexual allies. Participants described early role models, an evolving recognition and understanding of privilege and oppression, and conflict between an awareness of sexual prejudice and deeply held values of justice and equality. Participants also described barriers to LGBT activism and the rewards of ally work. The authors discuss implications for heterosexual ally development and, ultimately, for social justice and equality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-14
Number of pages13
JournalSexuality Research and Social Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is based on the first author’s 2007 dissertation, completed under the direction of the second author at the University of Kentucky. This research was funded in part by the American Psychological Association’s Division 44 Maylon Smith Scholarship Award (2005); additional funding was provided by University of Kentucky’s Arvle and Ellen Turner Thacker Endowment Fund (2005). Results of this study were first made public through a poster presentation at the 2006 American Psychological Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana. For transcribing the data, we owe a debt of gratitude to Phyllis Hoovler. Finally, we thank the study participants, whose sharing of their experiences contributed to a deeper understanding of ally activism.


  • Activism
  • Ally
  • Bisexual
  • Gay
  • Identity
  • Lesbian
  • Social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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