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Enrique Chaux, Manuela León, Lina Cuellar, and Juliana Martínez

Important changes toward more acceptance of homosexuality seem to be occurring in many countries around the world. However, large differences exist between individuals, societal groups, countries, and regions in attitudes toward homosexuality. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (LatAmC) are not an exception in either of these trends. More positive attitudes toward homosexuality in LatAmC countries and significant legal and political changes in favor of LBGT rights have been occurring in the region since the third wave of democratization in the 1980s. Nonetheless, there are important limitations to these advancements: they are highly uneven; they are fragile and likely to become targets of politically motivated public outrage; enforcement is irregular and often faces hostile resistance from the civil servants appointed to enact and uphold them; and LGBT individuals continue to face high levels of violence, making the region one of the deadliest for sexual and gender minorities, particularly trans women. Analyses from two large surveys, conducted periodically in several LatAmC countries, which include questions about homophobic attitudes (the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study, or ICCS, and the Latin American Public Opinion Project, or LAPOP) show a clear historical pattern of increased acceptance toward homosexuality in most countries. They also reveal large differences between countries with high (e.g., Uruguay) or low (e.g., Haiti) levels of acceptance of homosexuality. Multiple variables are associated with these differences. In almost all countries, women and more educated, less religious, and more politically active participants show more positive attitudes toward homosexuality than men and less educated, more religious (especially evangelical) and less politically involved participants. The analysis of attitudes toward homosexuality in LatAmC shows that (a) change in attitudes at a large scale is possible and is occurring relatively fast in LatAmC; (b) some countries are greatly lagging behind in these changes, especially in the Caribbean; and (c) policies and programs are urgently needed in the region, not only to facilitate changes in those countries where homophobic attitudes are still very common, but also to consolidate changes that have already been occurring.


Over the last decades, in many so-called Western countries, the social, political, and legal standing of lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and trans* individuals (henceforth, LGBT* individuals) has considerably improved, and concurrently, attitudes toward these groups have become more positive. Consequently, people are aware that blatantly prejudiced statements are less socially accepted, and thus, negative attitudes toward LGBT* individuals (also referred to as antigay attitudes, sexual prejudice, or homonegativity) and their rights need to be measured in more subtle ways than previously. At the same time, discrimination and brutal hate crimes toward LGBT* individuals still exist (e.g., Orlando shooting, torture of gay men in Chechnya). Attitudes are one of the best predictors of overt behavior. Thus, examining attitudes toward LGBT* individuals in an adequate way helps to predict discriminatory behavior, to identify underlying processes, and to develop interventions to reduce negative attitudes and thus, ultimately, hate crimes. The concept of attitudes is theoretically postulated to consist of three components (i.e., the cognitive, affective, and behavioral attitude components). Further, explicit and implicit attitude measures are distinguished. Explicit measures directly ask participants to state their opinions regarding the attitude object and are thus transparent, they require awareness, and they are subject to social desirability. In contrast, implicit measures infer attitudes indirectly from observed behavior, typically from reaction times in different computer-assisted tasks; they are therefore less transparent, they do not require awareness, and they are less prone to socially desirable responding. With regard to explicit attitude measures, old-fashioned and modern forms of prejudice have been distinguished. When it comes to measuring LGBT* attitudes, measures should differentiate between attitudes toward different sexual minorities (as well as their rights). So far, research has mostly focused on lesbians and gay men; however, there is increasing interest in attitudes toward bisexual and trans* individuals. Also, attitude measures need to be able to adequately capture attitudes of more or less prejudiced segments of society. To measure attitudes toward sexual minorities adequately, the attitude measure needs to fulfill several methodological criteria (i.e., to be psychometrically sound, which means being reliable and valid). In order to demonstrate the quality of an attitude measure, it is essential to know the relationship between scores on the measure and important variables that are known to be related to LGBT* attitudes. Different measures for LGBT* attitudes exist; which one is used should depend on the (research) purpose.