A new study coauthored by Dr. Ilan H. Meyer of the Williams Institute finds that ongoing stigma and social inequality increase stress and reduce well-being for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. These health impacts can be prevalent even among individuals who have never experienced major traumatic events such as hate violence, abuse, or discrimination. Individuals experience microaggressions, day-to-day moments where they feel the need to “worry” or “hide” — any slight occasion when they are unsure about their safety or acceptance because they are LGB. The authors conclude that these microaggressions largely define how people experience their identities in society:
The findings show that in addition to life events—such as antigay violence, abuse, and discrimination in hiring or promotion—participants describe homophobia, racism, and sexism as enduring and pervasive social forces that chronically and systematically exclude them from social institutions. In thinking about life without homophobia, racism, and sexism, participants revealed that, indeed, minorities experience society as anything but harmoniously fitting. Researchers need to pay greater attention than they have to date to describing these stressors and understanding their effects. Among these stressors are minor events and conditions that are mostly intangible. Prominent among these were experiences such as not being able to walk down the street freely because of the fear of expressing affection to one’s intimate partner.
The study demonstrates the need to not only fight for legal equality but to work toward creating understanding about sexual orientation (and gender identity, though this study did not specifically address it) throughout society. Anti-gay rhetoric and attitudes undermine the health of LGB people, and thus, so do the individuals and organizations who propagate that rhetoric.