Everyday stigma stressful for LGB people

BTL Staff
By | 2018-01-16T16:41:10-04:00 November 3rd, 2011|Guides|

According to a new study released in October, ongoing stigma and social inequality can increase stress and reduce well-being for lesbian, gay and bisexual people, even in the absence of major traumatic events such as hate violence, abuse and discrimination.
“Imagine living life anticipating exclusion from your friends, family and professional circles simply because of who you are and who you love – that resulting stress takes a toll on one’s life and health,” said co-author Dr. Ilan Meyer, a Williams Sr. Scholar at the UCLA School of Law’s Williams Institute.
The study, “We’d Be Free: Narratives of Life Without Homophobia, Racism, or Sexism,” was published in Sexuality Research and Social Policy. The study examined the effects of exposure to everyday stigma – which included consistent, ongoing experiences of inequality. Subjects reported estrangement from families, failure to complete schooling and isolation in the workplace.
Black and Latino LGB participants, in particular, characterized homophobia, racism and sexism as a source of stress that led to missed life opportunities, including a quality education and higher levels of self-confidence.
“For members of minority groups, day-to-day life experiences that may seem minor to others can and do have significant and lasting impact on one’s well-being,” said Dr. Meyer. “The idea that simply walking out your door will expose you to societal rejection and stigma creates a climate of stress that can lead to detrimental, long-term consequences.”
The research also found that, paradoxically, sexual minorities sometimes view stigma as having enhanced their lives and as having a defining impact on their identity. For example, LGB individuals who were forced to leave their hometowns found a more accepting community and new professional and personal opportunities in big cities that might not otherwise have been available to them.
“The study’s results show policymakers need to think more broadly than simply reducing extreme forms of abuse through measures like anti-bullying policies. Although reducing abuse and violence should be a primary focus, policy measures that enhance positive aspects of gay identity, like interventions that connect LGB persons to their communities, could help reduce the stress caused by social exclusion,” said Dr. Meyer.
The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, used qualitative analysis with 57 sexual minority men and women to identify aspects of stigma that are difficult to identify.
For the full report, visit http://www.springerlink.com/content/q761v3380wjw1754/.

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BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 25th anniversary.