Living as a Sexual Minority:How Being Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Influences Support and Well-Being Carlyn Werderman Whittier College
Overview Homosexuality and bisexuality is a controversial topic that can be traced as early as biblical times. Society has started to become more accepting of these sexual identities, most still do not fully support them. Social and workplace support has been found to influence many facets of sexual minorities’ lives. This often causes them to feel that they need to conceal their identity and even convince others that they are heterosexual, which decreases their self-esteem and self-concept, and their likelihood of disclosing their identity to others. Positive support can also decrease internalized homophobia, the likelihood of developing mood or anxiety disorders, depression or becoming suicidal, or becoming dependent on alcohol and other elicit substances.
However, the sexual minority identity has also been found to influence other aspects of life. The way sexual minorities interpret scripture can also influence their identity development and religious commitment. Sexual minorities are more likely to experience difficulties with self-efficacy, self-esteem, gender identity satisfaction, and body image satisfaction. They are also more likely to have frequent HIV screenings, smoke, commit suicide, or participate in limited physical activity. It remains unclear whether their sexual identity causes them to turn to elicit substances and engage in substance dependence. Suggestions for future research include incorporating the transgender, transsexual, and intersex identity.
Research Questions How does being lesbian, gay, or bisexual influence support? Religious, Workplace, Social Support How does being lesbian, gay, or bisexual influence well-being? Overall, Sexual, Physical, Psychological Well- Being
Samples and Methodologies Self-identified lesbian, gay, and bisexual men and women from main racial/ethnic groups Sampled from universities, previous surveys, LGB support centers or organizations, psychotherapists Ages ranged from 14-70 years old Identity defined on continuum based off level of sexual attraction/behavior with men and women Self-reports and questionnaires
Major Findings Lack of overall support from religious, workplace, and social environments (Carpineto, Kubicek, Weiss, Iverson, & Kipke, 2008; Duhigg, Rostosky, Gray, & Wimsatt, 2010; Friedman & Leaper, 2010; Friedman & Morgan, 2009; Gallor & Fassinger, 2010; Hequembourg & Brailler, 2009; Needham & Austin, 2010) Support increased with development of non- discrimination workplace policies and heterosexual allies (Beals & Peplau, 2005; Carpineto et al., 2008; Duhigg et al., 2010) Social support least found in parents (Friedman and Morgan, 2009) Effect on overall well-being: Self-efficacy, self- esteem, gender identity satisfaction, and body image satisfaction (Dillon, Worthington, Soth-McNett, & Schwartz, 2008; Muise, Preyede, Maitland, & Milhausen 2010)
Major Findings (continued) Sexual well-being not much affected (Rieger, Chivers, & Bailey, 2005; Scheer, Parks, McFarland, Page-Schafer, Delgado, Ruiz, …& Klausner, 2003; Schrimshaw, Rosario, Meyer- Bahlburg, & Scharf-Matlick, 2006) Effect on physical well-being: more likely to have routine HIV screenings and substance abuse/dependence (Baiocco, D’Alessio, & Laghi, 2010; Conron, Mimiaga, & Landers, 2010; Drabble, Midanik, & Trocki, 2004; Eliason, Burke, van Ophen, Howell, 2011; Hiestand, Horne, & Levitt, 2007; Loosier & Dittus, 2010; McCabe, Hughes, Bostwick, West, & Boyd, 2009; Scheer, Parks, McFarland, Page- Schafer, Delgado, Ruiz, Molitor, & Klausner, 2003; Talley, Sheer, & Littlefield, 2010; Wright & Perry, 2006) Effect on psychological well-being: increased self- esteem and decreased internalized homophobia, and mood or anxiety disorders (Bauermeister, Johns, Sandfort, Eisenberg, Grossman, & Augelli, 2010; Bostwick, Boyd, & Hughes, 2010; Cochran, 2001; D’Augelli, Grossman, Starks, & Sinclair, 2010; Hunter, Rosario, & Schrimshaw, 2011; Quinn & Chaudior, 2009)
Conclusions Lack of support from religious, workplace, and social environments causes most sexual minorities to conceal their identity and convince others that they are heterosexual, especially from their parents. Some report persevering through the discrimination after making disclosure. Some ways to end this heterosexism and increase support are to develop non-discrimination policies and become a heterosexual ally Positive support can also decrease internalized homophobia, the likelihood of developing mood or anxiety disorders, depression or becoming suicidal, or becoming dependent on alcohol and other elicit substances.
Self-efficacy, self-esteem, gender identity satisfaction, and body image satisfaction are some constituents that contribute to one’s overall well-being. With the exception of being more likely to encounter forced sex, having a sexual minority identity does not negatively influence their overall sexual well-being. Having a sexual minority identity positively affects their physical well-being because they are more likely to have frequent HIV screenings. It negatively effects their physical well-being because they are more likely to smoke, commit suicide, or participate in limited physical activity. It remains unclear whether their sexual identity causes them to turn to elicit substances and engage in substance dependence.
Future Directions Include the transgender, transsexual, or intersex populations Examine how LGBTTI conflicts and experiences contribute to their religious commitment, treatment within their social or workplace environment, and how it affects the different dimensions of their well-being How LGBTTI identity, religious commitment, and well-being are heightened or diminished when they are in a relationship. Why they aren’t included: There are not enough transgender, transsexual, and intersex people who are willing to participate in these studies.