Gregory M. Herek, Ph.D. (b. 1954, Omaha, Nebraska) is a researcher, author, and professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis (UCD). He is regarded as a leading social science expert on prejudice against sexual minorities, and coined the term sexual prejudice as a replacement for homophobia to describe this phenomenon. Herek argued that using the term homophobia incorrectly assumes that negative responses to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are founded in pathological, irrational fear (a phobia), whereas psychological research indicates they are more accurately regarded as a form of prejudice.
Herek was born in 1954, the youngest of four children. He briefly attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, but dropped out to devote himself to political activism. He later received his B.A. degree from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Yale University, followed by a year of teaching at Yale. He then joined the faculty at the City University of New York Graduate Center. In 1989, he returned to UC Davis, first as a research psychologist and then, since 1999, as a tenured professor.
Herek was an early advocate for scientific research on hate crimes based on sexual orientation, testifying in 1986 on behalf of the American Psychological Association (APA) for the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee's hearings on anti-gay violence. In the 1990s, he conducted the first federally funded scientific study to compare gay and lesbian hate crime victims with gay men and lesbians who were victimized in crimes of comparable severity that were not related to their sexual orientation. He found that hate crime survivors had significantly higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress, compared to the other crime victims. In recognition of this work, Herek was invited to participate in President Clinton's 1997 White House Conference on Hate Crimes, the only behavioral science researcher to be included among the invitees.
Herek's research on antigay employment discrimination was cited in 2007 congressional testimony on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). His policy paper reviewing social science research relevant to the debate surrounding legal recognition of same-sex couples was cited by the Chief Justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court in her 2006 written opinion in Lewis v. Harris (ruling on the constitutionality of New Jersey's marriage law). In 1993, he testified on behalf of the APA, the American Psychiatric Association, and four other national professional associations for the House Armed Services Committee's hearings on gays and the U.S. military.Herek Testifies Against Military's Anti-Gay Ban He also assisted the APA in preparing amicus briefs in precedent-setting gay rights cases, such as Romer v. EvansPsycLAW: Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas, and state court cases challenging current marriage laws. Herek has also conducted research documenting the prevalence of stigma directed at people with HIV/AIDS in the United States, which has been widely cited by public health experts and legal advocates
Herek is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Association for Psychological Science (APS). He was the recipient of the 2006 Kurt Lewin Memorial Award for "outstanding contributions to the development and integration of psychological research and social action," presented by the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (APA Division 9). In 1996, he received the APA Early Career Award for Contribution to Psychology in the Public Interest. His other honors include the 1999 and 1989 awards for Distinguished Scientific Contributions from APA Division 44, and the 1992 Outstanding Achievement Award from the APA Committee on Lesbian and Gay Concerns.
Herek writes an occasional blog, BeyondHomophobia.com.
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