Facing Gay Discrimination, Stigma Day After Day
Some people think that gay discrimination is a thing of the past, but unfortunately, gay stigma is still alive and well. Gay people still face stigma is the form of discrimination, harassment, bullying, teasing, homophobia and even assault. Gay discrimination can harm a person's mental well-being, including their self-esteem. Gay discrimination affects both gay men and women and people who are perceived as being gay.
Gay Discrimination and Minority Stress
As lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are a minority in North America, they are known as a sexual minority. Associated with being a minority is something known as "minority stress." This term is used to describe the excess stress with which individuals from stigmatized social categories are exposed.
Stress stemming from gay stigma includes:1
- The experience of prejudice events
- Expectations of rejection
- Hiding and concealing oneself
- Internalized homophobia
- Habits designed to cope with these stresses
In a study on minority stress and mental health in gay men, minority stress was, indeed, identified and those who experienced high levels of minority stress had a two-to-three times greater chance of experiencing significant distress.2
Antigay discrimination can be seen in workplaces, schools and in everyday life. Gay stigma can be seen from the day an LGBT person comes out to their family, as some families go so far as to kick a child who is gay out of the home. On the subject of coming out to her family, one lesbian shares her parents' reaction:3
"Shock, anger, concern plus 'Maybe we should send you to a psychiatrist,' from my father. 'I would rather you were dead than be one of those,' from my mother."
Gay discrimination in the workplace has been studied and the results are staggering. Of gay and transgender workers:4
- 15-43% have experienced some on-the-job discrimination
- 8-17% report having been passed over for a job or fired because of their sexuality or gender identity
- 10-28% have received a negative performance review or were passed over for a job
- 7-41% were verbally or physically abused or had their workspace vandalized
Antigay employment discrimination was revealed in seven-out-of-eight studies. (Something you should consider before coming out at work)
Antigay discrimination outside of the workplace is also common and gay stigma often affects an LGBT person's ability to access quality healthcare and housing.5
Antigay Discrimination's Effect on Mental Health
Facing gay discrimination day after day can easily take a toll on the mental health of the person involved. These manifestations of stigma contribute to the increased risk of mental illness seen in gay people. One study found that gay, lesbian and bisexual groups are about two-and-one-half times more likely than heterosexual men and women to have had a mental health disorder, such as those related to mood, anxiety, or substance use, in their lifetime.6
It's important to remember though, that while gay discrimination is real, it is wrong. There is nothing inherently wrong or bad about any LGBT person and there is no excuse for judging a person based on their sexuality or gender identity.
Last Updated: 18 August 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD