Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Medical students’ attitudes toward gay men

Kabir Matharu1*, Richard L Kravitz23, Graham T McMahon4, Machelle D Wilson5 and Faith T Fitzgerald2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Medicine, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA, 95817, USA

2 Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA, 95817, USA

3 Center for Healthcare Policy and Research, University of California, Davis, Sacramento, CA, 95817, USA

4 Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA, 02115, USA

5 Division of Biostatistics, University of California, Davis, CA, 95616, USA

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BMC Medical Education 2012, 12:71  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-12-71

Published: 8 August 2012



Healthcare providers’ attitudes toward sexual minorities influence patient comfort and outcomes. This study characterized medical student attitudes toward gay men, focusing on behavior, personhood, gay civil rights, and male toughness.


A cross-sectional web-based anonymous survey was sent to medical students enrolled at the University of California, Davis (N = 371) with a response rate of 68%.


Few respondents expressed negative attitudes toward gay men or would deny them civil rights. More negative responses were seen with respect to aspects of intimate behavior and homosexuality as a natural form of sexual expression. Men and students younger than 25 years old were more likely to endorse negative attitudes toward behavior as well as more traditional views on male toughness.


We show that an important minority of students express discomfort with the behavior of gay men and hold to a narrow construction of male identity. These findings suggest that competency training must move beyond conceptual discussions and address attitudes toward behaviors through new pedagogical approaches.

Homosexuality; Medical students; Bias