Toxic Sexuality: How Disgust at the Thought of Gay Male Sexuality Threatens the Parental Rights of Gay Male Parents

By Dr. Mark Leinauer. 

Psychologists have long known that gay male sexuality elicits feelings of disgust in a sizeable portion of the general population, and that individuals highly sensitive to disgust tend to evaluate gay males more harshly than individuals lowly sensitive to disgust. But while prior experimental studies have shown that this bias impacts support for LGBTQ+ related policies in the political arena, its impact on judicial decision making has not been fully explored. I focus on the judicial evaluation of gay male fathers during custody disputes, and I conduct a randomized controlled experiment, an observational case law analysis and semi-structured interviews to examine the issue. I conclude that disgust bias significantly threatens the parental rights of gay male fathers during custody adjudications. Specifically, I argue that judges highly sensitivity to disgust display a tendency to view gay male sexuality as more toxic to children than lesbian or heterosexual sexuality, and are therefore more willing to deny gay male fathers their custody rights than those other cohorts. I argue further that this bias presents not just normative but also formal legal concerns, as its operation runs counter to existing precedent in most U.S. jurisdictions. I conclude by suggesting that disgust bias should be viewed in a manner similar to implicit bias and suggest mitigation efforts. Full Article.