Assessing Internalized Sexual Stigma ("Internalized Homophobia") in Sexual Minority Adults


Among lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, internalized sexual stigma (also called internalized homophobia) refers to the personal acceptance and endorsement of sexual stigma as part of the individual's value system and self-concept. It is the counterpart to sexual prejudice among heterosexuals (Herek, Gillis, & Cogan, 2009).

Several instruments are currently available to assess internalized sexual stigma. One commonly used measure is the IHP scale, which was originally developed by John Martin and Laura Dean (Meyer, 1995). It consists of 9 items derived from the diagnostic criteria for ego-dystonic homosexuality contained in the 3rd edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (1980). The IHP was originally administered orally during face-to-face interviews but has been adapted for self-administration. The self-administered version of the IHP scale has acceptable internal consistency and correlates as expected with relevant measures (Herek & Glunt, 1995).

In one early study, we administered the IHP to a sample of 147 adults (74 women and 73 men) recruited at a large lesbian/gay/bisexual street fair in Sacramento (CA). (For details about the study methodology, see Herek, Cogan, Gillis, & Glunt, 1998). IHP items were administered with a 5-point response scale, ranging from disagree strongly to agree strongly. For this sample, alpha = .71 for women and .83 for men.

Men scored significantly higher than women on the IHP measure, and bisexuals scored significantly higher than homosexuals (Ms = 14.79 for gay men, 19.91 for bisexual men, 11.68 for lesbians, and 16.87 for bisexual women). Analysis of variance (ANOVA) yielded significant main effects for sex (F (1, 138) = 14.66, p < .001) and sexual orientation (F (1, 138) = 15.89, p < .001). The sex-by-orientation interaction effect was not significant. As expected, most respondents scored at the lower extreme of the IHP scoring continuum. One-half of the lesbian respondents scored 9 or 10, whereas one-half of the gay male respondents scored between 9 and 13 (the theoretical range for scores was from 9 to 45). Bisexuals' scores were somewhat less skewed: Median scores were 17 for bisexual women and 19 for bisexual men.

IHP Scale Items
(Women's Version)

  1. I have tried to stop being attracted to women in general.*
  2. If someone offered me the chance to be completely heterosexual, I would accept the chance.*
  3. I wish I weren't lesbian/bisexual.*
  4. I feel that being lesbian/bisexual is a personal shortcoming for me.*
  5. I would like to get professional help in order to change my sexual orientation from lesbian/bisexual to straight.*
  6. I have tried to become more sexually attracted to men.
  7. I often feel it best to avoid personal or social involvement with other lesbian/bisexual women.
  8. I feel alienated from myself because of being lesbian/bisexual.
  9. I wish that I could develop more erotic feelings about men.

Note. For male respondents, the terms lesbian, men, and women were changed to gay, women, and men, respectively.

*Items marked with an asterisk comprise the Revised IHP (IHP-R), which correlates highly with the 9-item IHP and appears to be more appropriate for administration to bisexuals and lesbians, as well as gay men. A report of results from research with the IHP-R can be found in a 2009 paper by Herek et al. in the Journal of Counseling Psychology.


  1. American Psychiatric Association (1980). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: Author.
  2. Herek, G. M., Cogan, J. C., Gillis, J. R., & Glunt, E. K. (1998). Correlates of internalized homophobia in a community sample of lesbians and gay men. Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, 2, 17-25.
  3. Herek, G. M., Gillis, J. R., & Cogan, J. C. (2009). Internalized stigma among sexual minority adults: Insights from a social psychological perspective. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 56, 32-43.
  4. Herek, G. M., & Glunt, E. K. (1995). Identity and community among gay and bisexual men in the AIDS era: Preliminary findings from the Sacramento Men's Health Study. In G. M. Herek, & B. Greene (Eds.), AIDS, identity, and community: The HIV epidemic and lesbians and gay men (pp. 55-84). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  5. Meyer, I. H. (1995). Minority stress and mental health in gay men. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 36, 38-56.

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