How Does Discrimination Affect Gay and Lesbian People?

Being the victim of discrimination can be emotionally and psychologically painful. Some individuals who have experienced prejudice feel immediate distress and fear, while others have feelings of anxiety and depression that can linger for many years. Experiencing discrimination early in life can lead a person to become anxious and fearful of future discrimination. Understanding how prejudice and discrimination affect symptoms of anxiety and depression is an important step in treating these issues. Brian A. Feinstein of the Department of Psychology at Stony Brook University in New York chose to focus on the relationship between discrimination and mental health in a recent study. For his research, Feinstein surveyed 249 gay men and 218 lesbians online and asked how their sensitivity to rejection and negative homosexual perceptions affected their mental health. He also inquired about their childhood experiences of discrimination resulting from gender nonconformity.

Feinstein found that negative attitudes toward homosexuality were directly predictive of discrimination and future social anxiety and depression. He also discovered that the participants who reported gender nonconformity in childhood were more likely to report discrimination later in life. Although these findings were reported by the majority of the participants, they were more significant among the gay men than among the lesbians. In general, it appeared that the participants who felt victimized in childhood were more likely to anticipate rejection in adulthood. This was especially true if they experienced parental rejection in childhood. Additionally, early homonegativity and rejection led to negative feelings about the participants’ sexual orientation in adulthood.

The findings of this study should be considered in light of the fact the sample size was rather small and not very culturally diverse. Also, the survey information was gathered online and included only gay people and lesbian people. Future work should integrate a broader sample. Until that happens, these findings provide valuable insight into how the minority stress theory affects the emotional and psychological well-being of members of the lesbian/gay/bisexual (LGB) community. One promising finding is the unique relationship between self-acceptance and less discrimination. “It is possible that LGB individuals who are more accepting of their sexual identity may be less likely to experience negative psychological outcomes subsequent to discrimination, given their greater self-acceptance,” Feinstein said. This information could be used to increase acceptance and facilitate resilience in LGB individuals faced with prejudice and discrimination.

Feinstein, Brian A., Marvin R. Goldfried, and Joanne Davila. The relationship between experiences of discrimination and mental health among lesbians and gay men: An examination of internalized homonegativity and rejection sensitivity as potential mechanisms. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 80.5 (2012): 917-27. Print.

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  • Beatrice

    October 19th, 2012 at 10:28 AM

    What could make this especially difficult is that in addition to the discrimination that this segment of the population already faces, that must be even more difficult to manage when you are also facing loneliness. It is always necessary to have someone to talk to when you are feeling down, but when you don’t have anyone you feel like you can turn to, can you imagine how alone and isolated this must make someone feel? I am ashamed that I have been one who directed this kind of hate toward people before just because I did not understand the pain that they were in. I am thankful that I have moved past that but sadly there are still too many who have not. The next time you think about directing this toward another, think about the pain they could be feeling and the loneliness that they are experiencing and ask yourself if you want to be someone who adds to that pain or if instead you would actually prefer to be a part of the solution.

  • gina somms

    October 19th, 2012 at 12:05 PM

    I have never felt this myself as I am straight but I have to think that this kind of discrimination could leave you second guessing your decisons, wondering what is wrong with you and if you will ever be able to tolerate the pain that this causes you in your life. It would take a very strong person to be able to say that this never affected them in a negative way.

  • Matt

    October 19th, 2012 at 11:33 PM

    We encourage gay people to come out of the closet and revel in what they are their reality.Yet we continue to ostracise them when they do.Things will not change for gay people until and unless others realize that they are free to choose their orientation and that such discrimination is worthless!

  • Cyrus

    October 20th, 2012 at 5:08 AM

    it is this very thing that keeps so many of my friends in the closet
    they are so afraid of being harassed and chastised about their lives that they choose to keep their partners and lifestyle secret from most people other than the very few close ones in their lives
    this forces them to lead and live a life that is far from their most authentic and really stifles a lot of who they are and could be

  • Millicent

    October 20th, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    No matter who you are or your sexual orientation discrimination affects all of the same way.

    It is negative and ties you down, never allowing you to reach the fullness of your potential.

    I personally don’t see how your race or gender or whatever would affect the outcome- it is bad for anyone.


    October 20th, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Any form of discrimination is a very severe act against an individual.Maybe the perpetrator does not realize but it not only has the immediate effects of shame and embarrassment but also has long term effects and at a psychological level that can affect the victim in more ways than one.Make yourself aware,maybe you are causing harm to someone!Please do stop and put up resistance against those who do!

  • josh p

    October 22nd, 2012 at 4:37 AM

    well, it makes you feel “less than” others
    feeling like that will never allow you to live to your full potential

  • hughes

    October 23rd, 2012 at 7:53 AM

    when one person is being offensive to you he is called a bully and still the victim imagine thousands of bullies constantly troubling you!well that is what LGB discrimination feel like.just because people are different from you does not mean you ill treat them.and who gave you the authority anyway?where is the live and let live philosophy nowadays?!

  • Jimmy Boy

    August 18th, 2014 at 5:26 PM

    The anti-gay panic has spread to heterosexuals! I’m straight, only desire to have sex with females, but if you don’t follow the rigid path, you’re considered “gay”, and thus all kinds of disrespect and discrimination can be done to you! I’m getting anti-gay sentiment and I have no desire to have sex with men! I’m straighter than the ones acting this way to me, and it’s funny, because I don’t have a desire to wear super baggy, droopy clothes, have long hair, wear Speedos to the beach, so somehow that makes me gay? How about when I go home and have sex with my girlfriend? Still make me gay? She doesn’t think so! ;) Point is, I do this stuff, and since it’s not what the majority does (which is another thing because in the 80’s guys did), I still get anti-gay slurs thrown my way, rude, disrespectful remarks yelled at me, and there really is gay panic in the country today, don’t tell me there’s not!!

  • jeffery

    January 15th, 2019 at 1:40 AM

    lol this is gut

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