LISA DIAMOND: The time that I spent here at Cornell working with Rich and Cindy was one of the greatest times in my life, and I've tried to create for my own graduate students the sense of support and intellectual engagement and love of learning that I experienced. The times I spent talking over ideas in Rich's office-- and he still has one of the wall hangings, and I'm like, I remember that. I used to look at that all the time.
And sitting with Cindy, I remember on Friday mornings we would get all these pastries from Ithaca Bakery, and we would just sit and talk about so many ideas. And it was just an incredibly formative and wonderful period of time for me, and so I appreciate that.
So if there's one kind of phrase that probably describes like what I've been studying for my whole career. It's "those pesky women!"
When I first came to start working with Rich, it was the mid '90s, and if you were studying anything related to sexual orientation at all, the big rage was coming out models and looking at developmental trajectories and what was it that influenced the processes by which individuals came to question their sexuality. And one of the things that I was troubled by in my search for an untapped area was the fact that most of the studies were based on samples of young men and there weren't that many studies of women.
There also was kind of floating around in the literature a lot of evidence that women's trajectories were somewhat different. A lot of that work was done by our colleague up at Ithaca College, Carla Golden. And Rich was like, "I think you need to talk to Carla Golden."
And I had lunch with Carla, and I read all of Carla's work, and it was really about variability in women's developmental trajectories, and variability in a number of ways. Variability in the timing of awareness, with a lot of young women first becoming aware of their same-sex attractions at later ages than a lot of the men had become aware of their attractions.
And variability also in the context of their first awareness, so that although the sort of classic trajectory that you would hear about for men was one in which men would recall having become aware of being attracted to boys maybe at around like nine or 10 and gradually kind of seeking out contact with men, women's narratives often revolved around relationships. About like, well, I had no idea at all and then I became really good friends with one particular woman and something that was more interpersonal.
There was also smattering of evidence of greater rates of bisexuality among women than among men. Women sort of switching between male and female partners and, at the time, there was still a lot of desensus in the field over whether bisexuality was simply evidence of repression or some lengthened developmental stage or what, so it was hard to know what to make out of that.
In recent years, the same sort of topic of whether women are more likely to be bisexual has been investigated in terms of genital measures. There's a lot of evidence from Meredith Chivers' work that women actually respond genitally to a wider range-- to both male and female partners regardless of their self-professed sexual identity.
There's also been more evidence for longitudinal change in women than men with regard to both self-reported attractions, self-reported identities. My own study is a part of this literature.
And discrepancies among domains. In other words, people self-identifying as one thing but reporting a pattern of attractions that doesn't seem to fit that. Sort of identifying as lesbian but recording a bisexual pattern of attractions or a bisexual pattern of behavior. Reporting a heterosexual identity but periodically fantasizing about women. So to the degree that identity and behavior and attractions from the sort of triumvirate of sexuality, women were more likely than men to report differences between those three domains.
So in my own work, the explanation that I offered to explain this was that women were different, that women's sexuality was more fluid than men's sexuality. And by that I simply mean-- and I've argued that fluidity is simply this kind of capacity for a more flexible erotic response that is sort of context-specific-- that women are able to respond to specific context and especially specific relationships in a way that might run counter to their overall pattern.
So in other words, I'm not arguing that women don't have a sexual orientation, as some have argued, but that fluidity is sort of like a capacity that coexists with your sexual orientation so that your sexual orientation doesn't necessarily circumscribe the pattern of attractions you might experience. And the result being that if you've got your general orientation but you also have this capacity for fluidity, that you'll have greater opportunities for nonexclusive patterns of attraction over your life course, you'll show greater variability over time as you encounter a different context and experience different triggers for attractions, and you'll have a many more opportunities to have discrepancies between your identity and your behavior and your attractions.
I did find in my own work that it wasn't that all women seemed equally fluid. There were some women in my longitudinal study who changed a lot over time, and some women that didn't change that much at all. So I started to view it as sort of an individual difference dimension that, almost like a personality trait. Some women were fluid, some women were not that fluid.
But I was pretty convinced that women were more fluid than men. There certainly seemed to be more evidence of that. And over the years as I would present my findings, people would always ask me, well, what about men? How fluid are men? And I was like, well, they're probably somewhat fluid, but I don't know and I think women are still more.
However, over the years I've come to sort of think about this more deeply, and part of the problem-- and what I would always tell people when they've asked me this-- is that we simply haven't had the kinds of samples and the kinds of studies that would actually allow us to rigorously answer the question of whether women and men are equally fluid. The sampling problems are huge.
Typically in this field, we have relied on relatively small, non-random samples of individuals who are sort of self-selected, right? When I started my research, I did the same thing everybody else did. I was like, I'm looking for individuals who are lesbian or gay or otherwise, and the truth is that if you go around recruiting for people who identify, you find relatively categorical people, right?
It's hard to find folks who fall between the categories if you identify on the-- if you recruit on the basis of the categories. And then combine the fact that the samples are relatively small and they're not random, you can't really make any population statements about something like fluidity.
The other problem is a measurement problem, that historically if you go into this research assuming that fluidity doesn't exist or that people's identities are relatively stable, you don't tend to ask the kinds of questions that would allow it to creep out. So there are lots of large sample studies of sexual identity, but most of those studies don't ask gay-identified men, "So when was the last time you masturbated to a fantasy about a woman?" It just was like, that's not even a-- like why would you ask that question?
So we haven't had the kind of samples and we haven't had the kind of questions that would really allow us to make a population statement about fluidity. However, the good news is that since I left this program, and over the years, a lot of things have changed. And a lot of the studies that are being done now do permit us to maybe not make definitive statements, to make much more evidence-based judgments about the degree to which the gender difference in female and male sexuality, how big it actually is.
So my goal is to sort of tackle the three "pillars" of sexual fluidity in my own mind, bisexuality, the degree of nonexclusivity, right? Some would say that male bisexuals don't even exist or that they're far smaller than the population of female bisexuals.
The second pillar, inconsistency across the domains of identity and attraction behavior. In other words, how much slippage do you find in the attractions and behavior of gay and heterosexual men relative to women?
And variability over time. Do you find as much variability over time in men as you find in women?
So I'm going to start with the nonexclusivity question. So these are some of the large sample population-based studies that have been conducted since 1992 that have included questions about same-sex sexuality. And I think that the sample sizes alone are rather impressive. It used to be that we just have studies like mine of like 90 women.
Well, no longer, right? The National Health and Social Life Survey was one of the first in 1992 that had around 3,200 individuals. Things like the Australian Twin Registry, which aren't random or representative but are still kind of a good approximation since they're registry studies of twins. The New Zealand Birth Cohort. Again, it's not representative, but it's an entire birth cohort.
And then things like the National Survey of Family Growth, right? 13,000 Americans, random representative sample. Same thing with the repetition of that survey in 2008.
So we actually now have some pretty impressive samples that we can look at and actually ask, at a population level, just how common or exclusive same-sex attraction is relative to nonexclusive attractions. Because the historical presumption has been that exclusive same-sex attractions are really the most-- are the modal type of same-sex attractions, and then there's crazy bisexuals out there somewhere.
So I'm going to show you just a couple of the data sets, because they all are going to be remarkably similar as we are going find. But what I want to put in your brain and in your eyes is what we would expect to see if certain models held true.
So I'm going to put up hypothetical model number one, and for all of the data that I'm going to show you, the categories that are going to be shown are the mostly other-sex category. In other words, I'm mostly heterosexual, but not completely, equally attracted to both sexes, mostly but not completely attracted to the same sex, or only same-sex-- exclusively gay, exclusively same-sex attracted. I'm always taking the exclusive heterosexuals off the graph because they're so boring, and I have no interest in them.
So as a result it's always going to be ranging up to sort of 10% of the population because in every survey that's been done, around 90% of the population ends up being heterosexual. And we're always going to be dividing between men and women.
So hypothetical model number one is that there are very few bisexuals in either men or women, that the gender differences aren't that big but you just don't find very many bisexuals, and that would look like this, right? This is my hypothetical version of that where you find that most of the same-sex attracted individuals are the yellow bars, right? They're the only same-sex folks.
And then you have a smattering of bisexuals in the both sexes, mostly same-sex. And then, like, nobody really knows what to expect of the mostly heterosexuals because like they're not supposed to exist at all, right, so like there might be a few of those because they're confused.
Then there's hypothetical model two, which would be all women are bisexual but no men are-- all men are exclusively gay. And that you would expect to look something like this, where for the exclusively same-sex attracted folks, they'd basically be a large proportion of the men and almost none of the women, the bisexuals would basically be all the women and none of the men, and you still wouldn't expect--
Oh and again, for women it might be that they are equally divided between the both sexes and the mostly same-sex, which is also sort of a bisexual category. And you still wouldn't expect very much action in the mostly heterosexual group.
So what's it going to be? Is it going to be no bisexuals, which would look like this? Or female bisexuals only, which would look like this?
So what do we find if we look at the 13,000 individuals surveyed in the National Survey of Family Growth in 2002? Neither, right? Basically you see that most of the population of same-sex attracted folks are the mostly heterosexuals, who we didn't really think anything was going to happen with at all.
If you just focus on these three groups, the both sexes, mostly same-sex, and only sex, you definitely find that there are more exclusively gay men than exclusively gay women, but they're not even 2% of the men. If you include the bisexual categories, you definitely see that there's more bisexual women than bisexual men, but still these groups are totally overshadowed by the huge population of mostly other-sex attracted individuals.
If you add up all of the same-sex attracted individuals, you find that 14% of the women fall in these four categories, 7% of men-- so 93% of men are exclusively heterosexual and 86% of women are exclusively heterosexual.
But among the same-sex attracted group, among this 14% percent and the 7% of the population that claims any same-sex attractions, 75% percent of those women are in the mostly heterosexual group and 55% of the men. They're the majority, the majority. The exclusively same-sex attracted folks represent only 5% of the women.
Only 5% at the same-sex attracted women are exclusively attracted to the same sex. Only 21% of the men. And if you add up all of the non-exclusive folks, they represent 95% of the same-sex attracted women and 79% of the same-sex attractive men.
You might be like, wow, that's so crazy. That must be some wacky sample. What happened to National Survey of Family Growth? It must be something wrong with it.
Well, they did the same survey in 2008, totally new sample, different sample, same methodology. And what did they find? Pretty much exactly the same thing in almost exactly the same proportions.
Then there's other fun studies to look at. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which in wave three when-- how old were the kids in wave three? Do you remember off the top of your head?
SPEAKER 1: 28
LISA DIAMOND: 28. What do you find? Pretty much the same thing.
What about wave four? You find a lot more women in the mostly other-sex category. Instead of changing the scale of the graph, I just let the women soar up through the heavens of their mostly heterosexuality.
What about the New Zealand Cohort? Here's age 21-- same basic picture. Here's age 26-- same basic picture. Here's age 32-- same basic picture, right?
And, in fact, if you look at all-- and I've plotted these graphs for almost all of these studies, they all look the same. In every single one of them the mostly heterosexual category is the single, largest group of same-sex attracted individuals. You always find more exclusively attracted men than women, but that's still overshadowed, right?
So I want to plot for you-- I took all of those studies and I plotted them over time. So if we just look at the proportion of each sample that was exclusively attracted to the same sex, right, this is what you find. So we're only going up to 3%, right, and even most of those studies find between 2.5, around 2.5% of men being exclusively attracted to women at the most. And for women it tends to be less than 1% of the total population.
And so you find a robust gender difference, right? You do find consistently that there are in population-based studies, more exclusively attracted men than exclusively attracted women.
If we look at bisexual patterns of attraction. In other words, anything that's attractions to the same sex and the other sex, regardless of what the ratio of attractions is, you find the opposite pattern-- far more women than men. And here we're up to 20% of the population, right? We've taken a totally different scale, right?
And actually the best way to get a sense of how much more common bisexual attractions are than exclusive attractions is to superimpose them. I decided to put along the bottom little black bars to represent in these same surveys the proportion of the population that's exclusively attracted and there they are, right?
Now keep in mind that ever since the history research on sexual orientation, we've been studying lesbians and gay men and not bisexuals, presuming that they are the modal type of gay person.
Are they? Are they? Are they? Down here, they're so tiny. Such a tiny little population, right?
The other thing that I think is really interesting is that if we focus on change over time, and notice that if you focus on the men, the proportion of exclusively attracted men hasn't really changed over time. It goes up and it goes down, but there's no kind of linear trend. There's also no real linear trend with regard to the proportion of bisexually attracted individuals.
For women there doesn't appear to be any sort of linear change over time in the proportion of exclusively attracted individuals, but look at those bisexuals, right? My suspicion is that the historical changes in awareness and acceptance of same-sex sexuality don't appear to have much effect on individuals who are exclusively attracted to the same sex.
They do appear to be having some sort of an effect-- or I would argue that they are-- on individuals who have this capacity for attractions to both sexes. Like, to me this suggests that to the degree that fluidity is a sensitivity to context, women appear to be responding more to the historical changes than men are.
An alternative explanation is that here they were more sensitive to repression. That's possible too. We don't know. But I do think it's interesting that you see historical change in the women that you don't see among the men.
So as far as I'm concerned, this is like-- the whole nonexclusivity thing, we shouldn't even bother talking about it. Like if I see another episode like of a show that's like, "Bisexuals, do they exist?" Or a magazine cover that's like, "The new, strange phenomenon of bisexuality!"
It's like, I want to throw up because there are few like phenomenon in social science that have as much data as this one, the fact that nonexclusive attractions are more common than same-sex attraction. It just amazes me that we still know very little about it.
And, frankly, a lot of the health research suggests that the population of individuals with nonexclusive patterns of attraction behavior have greater mental and physical health risks. So not only are they a larger part of the population but they're more at risk, and yet it's still really difficult to get them included in studies.
I mean, you just read all the stuff on the same-sex marriage cases that are like lesbian and gay marriage, lesbian and gay marriage. You know, it's as if bisexuals don't exist and they don't get married. And I say this as a lesbian.
I'm like, I feel like the lesbians must speak up for the bisexual population. And I really feel that it is our responsibility as queer researchers to speak up for the under-represented populations, even in our own community.
So let's move on to inconsistency across domains-- slippage and the attractions or behavior of gay and heterosexual men. So I'm going to talk a little bit about a study that I've recently done in Salt Lake City where I collected data on multiple indices of same-sex and other-sex attractions and experience from about 159 women and 179 men in the Salt Lake City area, proving that you can, in fact, study gay people in Salt Lake City.
They are roughly equally divided among self-identified lesbian, self-identified bisexual, and self-identified heterosexuals. And we recruited them through Facebooks, and I recruited all the heterosexuals first so that they didn't know that they were in a study with gay people. I was like, it's a study of sexuality and hormones, you know, la la la, because I didn't want to accidentally just get queer heterosexuals. I wanted some real Salt Lake City like Mormon heterosexuals.
I was like, this is the first time I'm studying real heterosexuals. It's so exciting. Like, I don't want to mess it up.
So we did all the heterosexuals first so that I was certain that they were really heterosexual. And I was looking at how much consistency there was between their self-claimed label and their self-described pattern of attractions and sexual behavior. So, again, let's look hypothetically at what we would expect to see if there was perfect consistency, right?
So if we have their attractions here on the Kinsey scale, where this is exclusively heterosexual attractions and that's exclusively gay attractions, and those are identity labels, you would expect a pattern like this, right, where basically all of the self-identified heterosexuals would be claiming that their attractions were completely heterosexual, and all of the self-identified gay individuals in the red bars would claim that their attractions were also completely gay. And then the self-identified bisexuals would fall in this middle ground and you have perfectly neat categories dividing them up.
Now, that is not true. You might find something like this, right? These are stacked histograms.
So this would mean that among the individuals with exclusively heterosexual attractions, some of them are heterosexual, but some of them are bisexual. Among individuals with bisexual patterns of attraction, some of them are self-identified heterosexual, some of them are bisexuals, some of them are gay.
Same thing over here. Some of the individuals with exclusive attractions are gay, some of them are bisexual, right?
So if there's inconsistency, you would expect bars with multiple colors. If there isn't any inconsistency, you would expect bars that are pure and that are nicely, neatly aligned.
So what do we find if we look at women? And here instead of the Kinsey scale we have a proxy. I asked them about their degree of attraction to the same sex and the degree of attraction to the other sex and I took a different score.
So being on this side of the scale means that you are far more attracted to-- actually, a perfect score of negative 4 means that you're only attracted to the opposite sex and not attracted to the same sex. Zero means equal attractions to both sexes. And on the right side, a perfect score of four means you're only attracted to the same sex and not attracted to the other sex, so it's kind of like the Kinsey score.
What you find for women is something like this, right? So you find that there's an awful lot of heterosexual-identified women reporting some degree of attraction to women. You find that there's a nice mixed pattern among the bisexual and lesbian-identified women. So you find only lesbian-identified women reporting exclusive same-sex attractions, but you find some lesbians reporting nonexclusive patterns of attraction.
Now, what do you find among the men? Something a little bit different but also a little bit similar. You definitely see more cut points for the men than you do for the women, right? So the exclusively heterosexual attractions for men are in the heterosexual-identified men.
But there's plenty of mixed bar here. You've got some heterosexual men reporting some attraction to men. You've got some gay-identified men reporting some degree of attractions to women, right?
Then it gets interesting if you look in the past. I also asked them to estimate their pattern of attractions in adolescence. This is what you find for the men, and it's even more miss moshy and, in fact, doesn't look that different from the women at all, right? So, again, here's the men between ages of 12 to 17, here's the women.
Then I asked them about their propensity to fall in love with same-sex verses other-sex partners. Here are the women. Again, you see some mixed bars over here.
Here are the men, also a mixed pattern in the center. You've got some gay men falling in love with women, some heterosexual men falling in love with men.
What about percentage of sexual partners that are same sex? And this is-- I asked since the age of 18, percentage of sexual partners-- how many men, how many women. What you find for the women is that some of the heterosexual women are having sex with women and a whole lot of the lesbians are having sex with men, right? You see little red things all over the place.
What about the men? Not much better, right? You definitely find, again, some heterosexual men having sex with men and some gay men having sex with women, right?
And I also found this when I just asked them specifically about their history, 48% of the lesbian-identified women reported some degree of attraction to men in the previous 12 months. And when I asked gay men about their attractions to women, 40% of the gay-identified men reported that they had some attraction to a woman in the past 12 months. 42% of the lesbians reported having masturbated to fantasies about men in the previous year, and 31% of the gay men reported having masturbated to a fantasy about a woman.
26% of lesbians reported actually wanting to have sex with a man in the previous year, and 20% of gay men wanted to have sex with a woman. 9% of the lesbians did have sex with a man in the previous year, and 12% of gay men had sex with a woman. 15% of lesbians reported having developed romantic feelings or a crush on a man in the previous year, and 31% of the gay men reported romantic feelings or a crush on a woman.
The same thing was sort of found with identity. 11% of lesbians said that they also currently thought of themselves as bisexual, and 18% of the gay men said they also currently thought of themselves as bisexual.
71% of the lesbians had previously identified as bisexual. 62% of the gay men had previously identified as bisexual. 82% of the bisexual women had previously identified as lesbian, and 56% of the bisexual men had previously identified as gay.
Now, it might be like, oh my god, there's crazy queer people in Salt Lake City. Maybe it's just like a factor of being gay. What about my beautiful, Mormon heterosexuals? Well, not much better.
50% of heterosexual women and 25% of heterosexual men reported having a same-sex attraction in the previous 12 months. Masturbating to a same-sex fantasy-- you know that is not approved in the LDS Church-- 35% of women, 24% of heterosexual men. Propensity for same-sex love or romantic feelings or a crush, 20% of women and 13% of men. And actual same-sex contact, 2% of the heterosexual women, 9% of the heterosexual men. Oh, the bishop would not approve.
So generally, as far I'm like, not only have we knocked out the nonexclusivity thing, like this is no longer an issue. Gay men are not nearly as pure as I used to think they were. I was shocked by these findings. I did not expect to find that there was so much similarity between women and men, especially in Salt Lake. I mean, this isn't Berkeley for god's sake. Crazy, right?
So variability over time. To take a look at that, the only real good data that we have to look at for that question at the current time is the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. And so here are the four waves of data that have included questions about romantic attractions, right?
Now that's a problematic measure, and Rich has actually done a good deal of really elegant writing about the problems with the early waves of data and the degree to which we want to count the kids reporting same-sex romantic attractions as sexual minorities. Romantic attractions are a crazy kind of measure.
The only reason that the words "romantic" were used instead of "sexual" was because they couldn't actually get approval to include the word "sexual" in the study. The kind of sex-phobia of the government really played a role in changing the types of questions that could be asked.
Now, that changed over time, and we got more accurate questions about identity in waves three and four, but we're stuck with what we have. The one benefit is that the same questions were asked over the four waves of data, so regardless of what we want to make of how they interpreted the question, at least we know that the question about romantic attractions was asked at each of these waves.
So what I focused on with a colleague of mine, a student at Utah, Brian [? Tolma ?], we've been looking at transitions in endorsing attractions, because some folks didn't even answer the question, right? And so because the questions on the survey was basically, are you romantically attracted to women, are you romantically attracted to men?
So they asked the question separately. They didn't say like, are you a Kinsey this, are you Kinsey-- instead are you romantically attracted to women, are you romantically attracted to men? So you could say yes or no, right, and you could not answer a question about the opposite sex and you could answer a question about the same-- there's a whole bunch of crazy patterns that kids could endorse.
So we were looking at or transitions between saying yes and then switching to no. Like, regardless of what else was going on with your opposite-sex attractions, folks who were switching to going from a state of saying no, I'm not attracted to the same sex, to the next wave saying, yes, I am, and then possibly no again.
So we looked at changes in same-sex attraction between wave one and wave two. Well, we found-- so you can either be gaining or losing same-sex attractions. We found that a relatively small proportion of kids were suddenly gaining same-sex attractions between wave one and wave two-- around 2%. And it was more common to actually go from endorsing them at wave one to not endorsing them at the next wave, which is part of the difficulty in knowing whether we want to count these kids a sexual minority.
So you see a fair amount of change. Up to 8% of the boys and around 6% of the girls are reporting some sort of change in same-sex attractions, and more the boys than the girls. So girls don't appear to be disproportionately likely to change.
Between time two and time three, you do see more of a gender difference, with girls more likely to endorse attractions for the first time between wave one and wave two, and less common for boys. And you find that a small amount of girls are losing their same-sex attractions and a small amount of boys are losing their attractions.
Between time three and time four, girls are more likely to lose same-sex attractions than gain them. So are boys, right? So you see a gender difference in the total number of changers, but the overall pattern across girls and boys is not that different.
If you look at other-sex attractions or opposite-sex attractions, you find a very different picture, right? Now we've got many more kids reporting changes in their opposite-sex attraction than their same-sex attraction, right? The bar now is up to 40%.
Far more kids are losing their opposite-sex attractions between time one and time two of them gaining them, but you don't see much gender difference at all in the pattern. Right, and, again, this is just how many there are.
Between time two and time three, far more kids are gaining opposite-sex attractions than losing them, no gender difference at all. Between time three and time four, you see more kids, around equal proportions gaining as losing their opposite-sex attraction. But, again, no big gender difference, right?
So if you look over time, changes in same-sex attractions among the girls, you see between time one and time two they're more likely lose them. There's a big spurt in suddenly endorsing them between time two and time three, and then they go back to sort of that first pattern.
For boys you do see a bit of a trend. That is, boys get older, they tend to stabilize. They have smaller proportions of boys changing their self-reported attractions as time goes on.
But, again, the ratios, the pattern of losing and gaining, isn't all that different from what we saw from girls. And, again, the patterns changes in opposite-sex attractions for girls and boys are almost identical. Here's the girls. Here's the boys, right? They're almost exactly the same.
The other thing we looked at. As we've said, we just focused on the folks who had ever reported any sort of same-sex attraction at all and then looked at the numbers of kids who switched to what we call an exclusive gay pattern. In other words, saying that you were same-sex attracted and you were not opposite-sex attracted. Like, you were definitely one and not the other.
So we're only looking at kids who ever reported same-sex attractions, and what we were interested in is how likely is it to switch to an exclusively gay pattern versus to switch out of an exclusively gay pattern. Is that something you're more likely to come into or is that something you're more likely to leave?
So what we find is that roughly equal percentages of girls ever adopted an exclusively gay pattern as left it, right? That was something that over the four waves of data, if you just focus on folks who ever had same-sex attractions, about 40% of girls ever adopted an exclusively gay pattern and 40% ever left it. For boys, they're much more likely to adopt an exclusively gay pattern than to leave it.
Then we made it more restrictive. We looked at the kids who only ever adopted. In other words, they adopted an exclusively gay pattern at one time and never left it, never then switch back. So who are the kids who only ever adopted an exclusively gay pattern or only ever left it?
You see the same basic pattern, but smaller numbers, right? So, again, equal numbers of girls leaving as adopting. Boys are far more likely to adopt an exclusively gay pattern and never leave it, and it's much less likely for them to only leave an exclusively gay pattern and never readopt it.
Then we did the same thing for bisexual attractions, and here's what we found. These were the girls. Again, much larger proportion.
Girls who ever adopted a nonexclusive pattern-- in other words, I am attracted to men, I am attracted to women, both at the same time-- girls were just as likely to adopt that pattern over the four waves of data collection as they were to leave it. Boys were much more likely to leave a bisexual pattern than to adopt it.
And the same thing was found again if we look at the folks who only ever adopted it or left it. Among girls, they're more likely to only have adopted bisexuality and never to stray away from it. Boys are more likely to only leave bisexuality and never to readopt it.
So, again, we find variability over time, roughly equal amounts of variability. It's the pattern of change that's different, not the propensity of change.
So for all three of these, you do see gender differences that largely have to do with patterns of exclusivity versus nonexclusivity, but the gender difference is a lot smaller than I think researchers previously sought and certainly than I previously thought. And, again, most of the gender difference has to do with that propensity for exclusive versus nonexclusive patterns of attraction.
So what are the implications of all this? I've started to now come to see fluidity not as something that's just specific to women, but as a general feature of human sexuality. And certainly this is something that you find in a lot of the historical and cross-cultural literature.
If you read anthropological reports, you find plenty of evidence of fluidity, and they think we're crazy for having these categories. And it's one thing to be like-- I think historically we used to be like, oh, they don't realize that their fluid people are really gay people. And now I'm like, oh, we don't realize that our gay people are really like their fluid people.
It's the same population. Fluidity is a general feature of human sexuality.
The other thing I think is really relevant. I'm not suggesting that we should throw out categories like gay and bisexual. I think that they're useful, but I think we have to remember as researchers that there are they're heuristics. They're shortcuts. That they're useful for making general sense out of the differences between people with exclusive patterns versus bisexual patterns versus mostly but not completely heterosexual patterns, but they are shortcuts.
We are not, in fact, cutting nature at its joints. We are kind of imposing some joints on a very messy phenomenon. And I still think it's meaningful to make those differences and to use them to recruit samples and to do studies because they have meaning in our culture, but we have to be careful about presuming that they represent natural phenomenon. I think the natural phenomenon is a messy phenomena, like height, and is not categorical.
Now, one of the things that I think is relevant and tricky is that although it's perfectly fine for researchers to be like, wow, you know, sexuality is fluid and those categories don't have any meaning, the truth is that at a political level, we have advocated for the civil rights of LGBT people on the basis of them being LGBT, right? We've used categories as a part of our strategy for social policy and for acceptance. And that is really, really tricky now that we know that it's not true.
This came to my awareness in a really uncomfortable way during the most recent Supreme Court cases when I found out in, I guess it was around May, I got an email from the lawyer for our side, the gay-friendly lawyer. I can't remember her name. Saying a brief has been submitted to the Supreme Court and it references your work and we'd like you to take a look at it, and let's talk about whether you want to file an affidavit.
So basically this was a very detailed brief and very well written arguing that if you look at the history of equal protection cases that have gone up before the Supreme Court, the test that has been used to decide whether a group of people qualify for equal protection status was that they had to be a distinct, immutable group.
And, in fact, there have been Supreme Court cases that have tried to get equal protection status for older individuals and they failed. Why? Older individuals are too diverse. They're not a distinct group. You can have older individuals who face discrimination and also your age changes over the lifespan.
Who are the older individuals? They're not the same group one year as they are another. Supreme Court wouldn't grant them status.
Mentally disabled individuals did not get equal protection status in front of the Supreme Court. Why? Because they're too diverse. Some individuals have very severe disabilities. Some individuals don't have very severe disabilities. Some individuals' disability changed over time.
So this author basically used this case law and said look at Dr. Diamond's work. She shows that sexuality is fluid. The population of individuals with same-sex attractions in one year may be different than it is in another year, and the population is incredibly diverse.
Some individuals have exclusive attraction. Some people have nonexclusive attraction. Some people can marry someone of the same sex. Some people could marry someone of either sexes. They just don't meet the standard that the Supreme Court itself has set up.
And I like read this and I'm like, Judy, I've destroyed my people, you know? All I could do and all I-- I submitted an affidavit that basically said I disagree with the conclusions being drawn from my work, but I couldn't disagree with what they were saying about my work.
Like, everything that they were saying about my work was actually true. Are we a diverse group? Yeah. Does it change? Yeah. Oh my god, we're screwed, right?
Now, luckily, I remember listening to the argumentation. It didn't seem-- the whole thing about criteria for equal protection status, it didn't really come up. The only time it really came up, Scalia asked one question about whether gay people were too powerful to need equal protection status, but the issue of the diversity of the group never came up, thank god. And as far as I can tell, it hasn't come up in the dissenting opinions.
So we dodged a bullet. However, I feel like that was a really important bullet to dodge, because it suggests to me that we can make strong claims for civil rights protections that don't rely on the immutability and distinctiveness and uniqueness of these groups. We can make claims for civil rights protections based on the fact that of just we are equal people and people's rights deserve protection.
I feel like as a community, the queers have to stop saying, please help us. We were born this way and we can't change as an argument for legal standing. I don't think we need that argument, and that argument is going to bite us in the ass, because now we know that there's enough data out there that the other side is aware of as much as we are aware of it. And it's time for us to make better arguments for why we need equal rights and privileges.
And finally, in terms of a research-- because that's a policy perspective, but from a research perspective, I've spent most of my life studying gay and bisexual women, and now I'm like, wow, the really crazy people are the gay men and the heterosexual women. They are far more interesting.
And so I feel like if I look at the next 15 years of my career, my question is what is up with those crazy, heterosexual women and those crazy, gay men? And maybe if you have me back in another 15 years, we'll have an answer to that. Thank you very much.
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Lisa Diamond discussed her research on the fluidity of same-sex and other-sex attraction, and the similarities and differences in patterns of fluidity between men and women, Oct. 17, 2013 as part of the Human Development Outreach and Extension Program. Diamond is a professor of psychology and gender studies at the University of Utah.
The event was sponsored by the Department of Human Development Social and Personality Program Faculty; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender Studies; LGBT Resource Center; and the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.
This web presentation was developed by the Human Development Outreach and Extension Program using Smith Lever funds from the Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed here are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.