Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Gender Nonconformity, Homophobia, and Mental Distress in Latino Gay and Bisexual Men - JOURNAL OF SEX RESEARCH 2007, Vol. 44, No. 2, 181–189

Theo G. M. Sandfort
HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies,
New York State Psychiatric Institute
and Columbia University

Rita M. Melendez
Human Sexuality Studies and the Center for Research on Gender & Sexuality,
San Francisco State University

Rafael M. Diaz
Cesar Chavez Institute and Professor of Ethnic Studies,
San Francisco State University

This study explored whether gender nonconformity in gay and bisexual men is related to mental distress and if so, whether this relationship is mediated by negative experiences that are likely associated with gender nonconformity, including abuse and harassment. To study this question, data were analyzed from face-to face interviews with 912 self-identified gay and bisexual Latino men in three major U.S. cities collected by Diaz and colleagues (2001). Gay and bisexual Latino men who considered themselves to be effeminate had higher levels of mental distress and more frequently reported various negative experiences, compared with gay and bisexual Latino men who did not identify as effeminate. Higher levels of mental distress in effeminate men seemed to primarily result from more experiences of homophobia. Findings suggest the need for more attention to gender in research as well as counseling of sexual minority men.

Recent studies using large-scale population-based samples have shown convincingly that compared with heterosexual persons, homosexual men and women are at higher risk for mental health problems (Cochran & Mays, 2000; Cochran, Sullivan, & Mays, 2003; Fergusson, Horwood, & Beautrais, 1999; King et al., 2003; Sandfort, Bakker, Schellevis, & Vanwesembeeck, 2006; Sandfort, de Graaf, Bijl, & Schnabel, 2001; Skegg, Nada-Raja, Dickson, Paul, & Williams, 2003). For example, Cochran and colleagues (2003) found in a U.S. nationally representative survey a higher prevalence of depression, panic attacks, and psychological distress in gay and bisexual men compared to heterosexual men. In the same study, a higher prevalence of generalized anxiety disorder was found in lesbian and bisexual women compared with heterosexual women. These population-based studies, originally not designed to study mental health in relation to sexual orientation, are unable to provide evidence about the causes of the observed differences. The increased rates of mental health problems in homosexual persons are usually understood as a consequence of the stigma attached to homosexuality. This stigma can result in a range of stressful experiences, which have been labeled ‘‘minority stress.’’ Meyer (2003) conceptualizes minority stress as involving a distal-proximal dimension, with stress resulting from objective, external events and conditions, the expectations of such events and the vigilance this expectation requires, the internalization of negative social attitudes, and the concealment of one’s sexual orientation. Support for the minority stresshypothesis is found in studies that have demonstrated that gay men and lesbian women encounter varying levels of stigma, prejudice, and discrimination, and that levels of stress were indeed related to their mental health (Bradford, Ryan, & Rothblum, 1994; Brooks, 1981; Frable, Wortman, & Joseph, 1997; Meyer, 1995; Meyer & Dean, 1998; Ross, 1990; Waldo, Hesson-McInnis, & D’Augelli, 1998). For example, Herek and colleagues (1999), found that gay and bisexual men and women who had experienced victimization because of their sexual orientation (respectively 20% and 25%), manifested significantly more symptoms of depression, anger, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress.
Read more:

No comments: