College of Science and Health Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

Summer 8-20-2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Jennifer Zimmerman, PhD

Second Advisor

Jocelyn S. Carter, PhD


Among the gender and sexual minority (GSM/GSMs plural) population, public displays of affection (PDA) “out” the participants to observers. Any minor display of affection - such as holding hands or comforting a partner - can lead to verbal harassment or physical assault. In addition to this perceived danger, GSM couples must take into account the possibility of less dangerous and direct forms of heterosexism, such as the denial of business services or poor response from authorities to discrimination. This fear of nonviolent prejudice and discrimination is referred to as a fear of heterosexism. Due to a negative view of their minority identity, those with high levels of internalized homonegativity are likely to conceal their identity and potentially avoid PDA. However, concealing a GSM identity – such as by refraining from PDA - leads to a variety of negative effects: feelings of alienation, negative self-esteem, negative affect, and negative self-perceptions. Through analyses of bivariate correlations, this study examined the roles that perceived danger, fear of heterosexism, and internalized homonegativity play on the frequency of PDA among GSMs. Due to the negative effects of high internal homonegativity - relationship problems for couples, depressive symptoms, lower intimacy, and higher distress – it was hypothesized to also be negatively correlated with the enjoyment of PDA. Data was collected through a questionnaire on the website Qualtrics. The majority of participants were recruited online through the website Reddit (n = 185), although others were recruited from DePaul University’s Psychology Subject Pool (n = 36). Both perceived danger and fear of heterosexism were found to have a small negative correlation with PDA frequency. Among participants that were sexual minorities, internalized homonegativity was mildly to moderately negatively correlated with both PDA frequency and enjoyment of PDA. Participants that were gender minorities had no significant correlations between internalized homonegativity and PDA frequency or enjoyment.

SLP Collection


Included in

Psychology Commons