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06.09 The role of dual identity holders for achieving sustainable cooperation among conflicting groups

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Aim of the project

People belong to multiple social groups (e.g., ethnicity, religion, sexuality), and those at the intersection of different group memberships can challenge the strict boundaries between them. For instance, the identities of a man who is both gay and Muslim could be perceived to be incompatible due to the conflicting values and norms of each group, and as a consequence, he could be rejected by both his gay community and his religious community. However, dual identity holders can also play an important role in reducing conflict by bridging the divide between these separate groups and overall improving harmony in society. Accordingly, this project aims to understand the role of these dual identity holders conceptualised as “gateway groups” in the literature (Love & Levy, 2019) in facilitating sustainable cooperation in society by focusing on both dual identity holders and the relations between these associated groups/communities. We take an intersectional approach to go beyond the existing research which looks at these groups as if they are discrete instead of belonging to the same domain of identity (e.g., being biracial or bicultural).



In most research addressing intergroup relations, the conflict has been assumed to be between distinct groups. However, nowadays there is a high recognition that everyone has multiple identities (Kang & Bodenhausen, 2015), and sometimes people might experience conflict integrating their own multiple identities, e.g., a religious person also identifying as a gay man. This is especially true for disadvantaged group members – where multiple disadvantaged identities bring about multiple struggles both individually and through their unique intersections (Koc et al., 2022). For instance, a gay-Muslim person could be excluded by both their Muslim community and their gay community creating conflict in integrating these identities - which is known to predict negative health and wellbeing outcomes (Chen et al., 2008; Ferrari et al., 2015). This conflict needs to be addressed, whereby resilience and wellbeing of these communities should be fostered.

               On the one hand, one reason for this intersectional conflict is the historical conflict between these constituent groups. Specifically, a gay Muslim man might experience conflict integrating these two identities because his religious group may not have a positive attitude towards LGBTQ+. On the other hand, they might also experience conflict because the LGBTQ+ community may not be so sympathetic to their religious identity. This conflict, lack of dialogue, or even hostility between these communities undermine the identities of those who are at the intersection between them and arguably enhances the marginalization and isolation of these intersectional communities.

               On the other hand, members of gateway groups (i.e., dual identity holders) can play an important role. First of all, their existence creates representation for each associated group to acknowledge one another. This enables associated groups to move away from an “us vs. them” dichotomy to a more complex representation of social relations (Love & Levy, 2019) challenging established ingroup homogeneity assumptions. Moreover, members of gateway groups can testify about the similarities and differences regarding the non-inclusion experienced by both groups. For instance, in the Netherlands, being an ethnoreligious minority (e.g., Turkish Muslim) and being a sexual minority (e.g., gay men) are both disadvantaged identities even though the latter is less so (Bais, 2010; Velasco Gonzalez et al. 2008). Ethnoreligious minorities could be perceived outsiders to the autochthon Dutch community, whereas sexual minorities could be perceived as outsiders to the heterosexual community. Members of gateway groups could therefore be central to the dialogue between these groups about different experiences, and they can create a common ground under the minority status and allow recategorization of different group memberships. In this way, they can take roles as opinion leaders to bridge the divide between these groups, which could foster mutual acceptance of each associated group in society, reducing conflict, and increasing cooperation among them. Moreover, this can even foster some solidarity-based collective action amongst the minority groups to improve their status in society.

               Finally, this project is crucial because most research so far focused on how majority members perceive people with multiple identities predominantly in the case of migration (e.g., perceptions of people with different acculturation orientations). This project, however, acknowledges the agency of the dual identity holders in influencing their groups and social relations for sustainable cooperation in society (Spears, 2021). Through this project, if these associated groups understand, address, and reduce conflict through sustainable cooperation, this could also help dual identity holders to easily integrate those identities. Overall, this sustainable cooperation not only improves their health and wellbeing, but also reduces prejudice and discrimination in society while increasing the feelings of belonging and inclusion for the minority.

Key research questions

  • What is the role of the gateway group members (e.g., dual identity holders) to bridge the divide between the otherwise separate groups? As they are central to the dialogue, when do they feel their dual identities to be compatible, what roles can they play in the dialogue, and how their representation can increase sustainable cooperation? How do they change non-dual identity group members’ representations of their groups (e.g., meta-contrast or social identity complexity explanations)? How do they frame commonality and difference? Finally, when and why will dual identity holders be motivated to “bridge” if they see “bridging” as a burdensome expectation?
  • What is the understanding of sustainable cooperation by associated groups? How does the notion of gateway groups influence the sustainable cooperation of these groups?
    • How does the recognition of dual-identity holders affect associated group members?
    • How do they create a community of difference through recategorization? What are the roles of empathy, perspective taking, and recognition of common disadvantage?
    • (Is it possible to move from tolerance to acceptance and respect?)
  • How does the majority (who is not involved in the associated groups) react to these changing intergroup relations between these groups?

Research design

This project includes several potential lines with multiple methods. The student will have the opportunity to develop their own studies under the respective research questions. The first two lines will require qualitative research skills, and the last two lines will require quantitative (e.g., experimental) research skills. The student will be equipped with mixed methods by the time the first line is completed.

  • Using a dual-identity sample (e.g., gay-religious people), focus groups and interviews with gateway group members will be conducted to understand their experiences of (mis)recognition of identities and potential roles, strategies, motivations, and hesitancies in bridging the divide. Moreover, we aim to understand what could help with their resilience and wellbeing.
  • Using an archival data approach, a media search will be conducted on hate crimes against Muslims (and perhaps ethnic minority Christians) and LGBTQ+ community in the Netherlands. Content analysis of these media products will be conducted to understand the similarities and differences of non-inclusion experienced by each community. These materials could perhaps be used in the subsequent studies. Moreover, we will also include materials on intersectional hate crime (if available).
  • A longitudinal field survey will be conducted with an element of a field experiment (using the documentary “Het M-Woord” on the experiences of Muslim LGBTQ+ people in the Netherlands, and the tension experienced between the communities) to understand how notion of gateway groups influence the sustainable cooperation of associated groups.
  • Finally, experimental studies will be designed as interventions among the associated group members to reduce hostility and negative attitudes towards each other and to foster sustainable cooperation across the associated groups



Bais , K. ( 2010 ). Just different, that's all: Acceptance of homosexuality in the Netherlands . The Hague : Netherlands Institute for Social Research.

Chen, S. X., Benet-Martínez, V., & Harris Bond, M. (2008). Bicultural Identity, bilingualism, and psychological adjustment in multicultural societies: immigration-based and globalization-based acculturation. Journal of Personality, 76(4), 803–838. 00505.x  

Ferrari, L., Rosnati, R., Manzi, C., & Benet-Martinez, V. (2015). Ethnic identity, bicultural identity integration, and psychological well-being among transracial adoptees: A longitudinal study. New directions for child and adolescent development, 2015(150), 63–76. cad.20122

Kang, S. K., & Bodenhausen, G. V. (2015). Multiple identities in social perception and interaction: Challenges and opportunities. Annual review of psychology66, 547-574.

Koc, Y., Sahin, H., Garner, A., & Anderson, J. R. (2022). Societal acceptance increases Muslim-Gay identity integration for highly religious individuals… but only when the ingroup status is stable. Self and Identity, 21(3), 299-316.

Love, A., & Levy, A. (2019). Bridging group divides: A theoretical overview of the “what” and “how” of gateway groups. Journal of social issues75(2), 414-435.

Spears, R. (2021). Social influence and group identity. Annual Review of Psychology. 72, 367-390.

Velasco González, K., Verkuyten, M., Weesie, J., & Poppe, E. (2008). Prejudice towards Muslims in the Netherlands: Testing integrated threat theory. British journal of social psychology47(4), 667-685.


Project initiators

Prof. dr. Russell Spears (Social Psychology)

Dr. Yasin Koc (Social Psychology) 

Dr. Başak Bilecen (Sociology)


Groningen University, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences 


Social Psychology, Sociology


  • Project Initiators