Jan.-Feb. 2013: MPIPP research brief now available

In this issue:

MPIPP research brief now available: LGBT People of Color and Mental Health

LGBT people of color comprise diverse groups of individuals and communities connected by many aspects of identity, indluding race, ethnicity, national heritage, sexual orientation, loving relationship patterns, gender identity, and gender expression. There are several reasons to highlight social science information about LGBT people of color, and one of the most striking reasons is the diversity of ways the multiple levels of inequality are experienced.

MPIPP has prepared a research brief that surveys most of the currently available mental health research about LGBT people of color. Available on our website at: http://mpipp.org/lgbt-people-of-color.htm, this research brief also includes an annotated bibliography.

Highlights of our research brief findings include:

  • LGBT people of color are exposed to stereotypes in multiple communities.
    LGBT people of color have received less research attention than white LGBT people. When others are attempting to build awareness about the multiple inequalities LGBT people of color can experience, it is possible to over-generalize or perpetuate stereotypes about LGBT people of color.
  • LGBT people of color often face lower rates of health care access and poorer general health.
    For every uninsured heterosexual in the U.S., it is estimated there are two uninsured LG or B people. There are alarming findings showing that health and health care may be worse for LGBT people who are also members of marginalized racial and ethnic communities. Although there has been more research on sexually transmitted infections, particularly HIV/AIDS, among LGBT people of colorii, there is much less research on the vast array of other health indicators and health needs of LGBT people of color. The available research highlights appalling disparities faced by LGBT people who are also members of racial and ethnic minority groups.
  • Multiple levels of discrimination add multiple experiences of stress.
    Theory and research highlights that experiences of racism,iiiiv experiences with heterosexism, v vi and experiences with genderismvii are associated with mental health problems because discrimination experiences act as stressors. It has become clear that “discrimination is bad for your health,”viii and both racist and heterosexist stressors (e.g., discrimination) are associated with psychiatric symptomsix and substance use disorders.x
  • Mental health differs for different groups of LGBT people of color.
    It is important to note that although most LGBT people, including people of color, experience stigma and oppression, most LGBT people do not have mental health problems.xi xii The multiple types of discrimination and different ways similar types of discrimination are experienced require understanding that the mental health of LGBT people of color differs as well.
  • LGBT people of color often cope and protect themselves from the stress of discrimination.
    Resilience, coping, or protective factors are resources and ways of thinking, behaving, and managing emotion that may buffer individuals from stress and can enrich experiences of living in the intersections of sexuality, gender, race, and ethnicity. Some studies on resilience and coping have found that many LGBT people of color do not show additive health affects of discrimination or that they experience the stress in different ways because of different ways they manage that stress. Ways of managing discrimination may also mitigate its effects on individuals.

It is possible that people of color, because they have experiences dealing with discrimination based on their race or ethnicity, may have learned more ways of coping with discrimination that they can garner when they experience discrimination aimed at their sexual orientation or gender. However, it is important to understand that this does not make LGBT people of color “immune” to negative health consequences of discrimination. Rather, there is a need to understand how the experiences of belonging to a particular racial or ethnic group might change the ways that LGBT people experience and manage the stressors encountered because of stigma and oppression.

Understanding this diversity may lend to the most effective promotion of community resources and to the most appropriate individual responses.

Other Resources: LGBT People of Color

Although research is still relatively sparse, new reports and surveys are becoming increasingly available. Here is a sampling (in no particular order):

  • At the Intersection – Race, Sexuality and Gender. This report by the Human Rights Campaign is based on a 2008 survey of 727 LGBT people of color. It is available at http://www.hrc.org/files/documents/HRC_Equality_Forward_2009.pdf.
  • All of the Above: LGBT People of Color. This document, issued by the National Coalition for LGBT Health, acknowledges the disparities in health status among LGBT people of color and stresses the importance of data collection. It is available at:http://lgbthealth.webolutionary.com/sites/default/files/LGBT%20POC.pdf.
  • LGBT Families of Color. In this fact-oriented brief, the Movement Advancement Project, highlights the major issues facing LGBT families of color that are raising an estimated 2 million children in the US. This brief was prepared in collaboration with the Family Equality Council and the Center for American Progress illustrates (and in partnership with the Black Justice Coalition, Unid@s, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, and FIRE Initiative. For more details, go to:http://nbjc.org/sites/default/files/lgbt-families-of-color-facts-at-a-glance.pdf.
  • Injustice at Every Turn. This national transgender discrimination survey of 6,450 transgender and gender non-conforming individuals was conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality. Detailed data is available for transgender people of color. For the web page where survey data selections are available by race, see: http://www.ngltf.org/reports_and_research/ntds.


KUP Corner

Social science research on “contact theory” is the foundation of the KNOW US PROJECT® (or KUP). The latest KUP training was held on January 20 at the Edgewood United Church, an open and affirming church in East Lansing. Co-facilitators R. Cole Bouck and Dr. Melissa Grey (shown here in a role-play) led a highly engaged training session that was well attended by both LGBT people and their allies, including those outside the church.

For more information about hosting a KUP training, please contact Melissa Grey at Melissa@mpipp.org. Information is also available on our website.

Upcoming Events for MPIPP

MPIPP will be presenting social science research information at the following two conferences:

Feb. 8-10, 2013

MBLGTACC 2013 Conference. 
At this year’s conference designed for college and university LGBT students and their allies throughout the Midwest, will be held at Michigan State University. MPIPP will present a workshop on using social science research to reduce prejudice against LGBTQ people of color and advance inclusion and equality. Fore registration information, go to: http://www.mblgtacc2013.org/registration.

March 9, 2013

SOGI 2013 Annual Conference. 
This conference on sexual orientation and gender identity, held at Oakland University, is designed for educational professionals. MPIPP will be presenting a workshop on research related to resilience among LGBT youth who experience bullying and harassment. For registration information, see:http://www.oakland.edu/SOGI/register.

March 15 & 16:

Clinical Issues & Gender Identity – 
A Training for Therapists. Topics include an overview of working with transgender people, legal and health issues, sexuality — development, functioning, transition, clinical issues — intimate relationships, marriage, family concerns, and professional and ethical considerations. This training is designed for mental health professionals and physicians. 12 credit hours are available for social workers and national certified counselors. For more information, see: www.GoAffirmations.org.


From Reluctance to Desire: The Language of Sexual Orientation or Attractional Orientation

by Melissa J. Grey, PhD

First, thank you to Dr. Robinson for challenging us and making me pause each time I begin to say something I have taken for granted!

Dr. Robinson’s article on the power of language and how we refer to our “attractional” or “sexual” orientations made me question the way I have named this part of myself and others. Language is powerful and ever-evolving and, certainly, potentially pathologizing. “Homosexuality,” for example, was a 19th century invention of medicine and then a psychiatric diagnosis, which is the rationale for theAmerican Psychological Association Committee on LGBT Concerns’ (1991) recommendations to avoid using “homosexual” or “homosexuality” to describe gay and lesbian people. Dialogues are important for meting out the needs and motivations for change in such language, especially the language of social identity.

One concern about replacing “sexual orientation” with “attractional orientation” is based on the observation that, in many U.S. cultures, we have made sex and sexuality taboo. Despite the virtual omnipresence of sex and sexuality in mainstream culture (on TV, in advertisements, etc.), when talking about specific individuals, these topics are relegated as private. Sex and sexuality seem to have maintained their provocative associations – from graphic images of fluid-swapping climaxes to “obscene” arrangements of bodies and objects in pornography – that make people think about what other people do. It seems that such images of sexuality are tolerable when they are impersonal, but attached to our co-worker or cousin, many of us admit to shrinking back in discomfort.

But sex need not be so maligned and need not evoke such discomfort. As mental health professionals, we understand that sexuality is part of well-ness and it is a natural aspect of the self and behavior, and we structure training to overcome socialization that often prohibits talking about sexuality so that we can talk about it and ask the “tough” questions. Traditions in lesbian, gay, and bisexual/biattractional (LGB) communities have often taken pride in claiming sexuality without shame: we have “queered” parades, film screens, and many LGB spaces to intentionally acknowledge our diversity in sexuality and to put at the fore what heterocentric societies have tried to quash. I do not wish to lay on the backs of LGB people the responsibility of de-stigmatizing sexuality for all, but I also do not wish to denounce sexuality just because it evokes discomfort and societal reprisal.

Sexual orientation may also be a valid term, depending on how we define the sexual. In many theoretical and empirical writings in our field, the construct includes experiences such as fantasy, flirtation, penetration, physiological arousal, and even attraction. If psychologists continue to define sexuality in such broad terms, then calling this part of the self “sexual” orientation fits not only thebehaviors that we associate with sexual orientation, but also the experiences we seek out with others.  Although “attraction” helps to re-focus the construct on the relational quality of sexual orientation (i.e., as it asks the question of “attracted to whom?), I am uncertain as to whether it captures as many of the cognitive, emotional, and behavioral experiences that help to define the borders of sexuality. The language of sexual/attractional orientation needs continual re-visiting as we create and find ourselves in new knowledge-contexts in science and culture.

Again, many thanks to Dr. Robinson for encouraging us, as mental health professionals, to question traditional language that has become both limiting and expanding.

Disclaimer:  Dr. Grey is MPIPP’s program coordinator.  However, in this counterpoint article, she is thoughtfully reflecting on the questions eloquently raised by Dr. Robinson in the earlier Counterpoint article.  Her opinions are her own and do not reflect any position or policy of MPIPP.


Research Cited

Heck, JE, Sell R, Gorin SS. (2006). Health care access among individuals involved in same-sex relationships. American Journal of Public Health, 96 (6): 1111-1118.

ii Huang, Y. P., Brewster, M. E., Moradi, B., Goodman, M. B., Wiseman, M. C. & Martin, A. (2010). Content analysis of literature about lesbian, gay, and bisexual people of color: 1998-2007, The Counseling Psychologist, 38, 363-396.

iii Clark, R., Anderson, N.B., Clark, V.R., & Williams, D.R. (1999). Racism as a stressor for African Americans: A biopsychosocial model.American Psychologist54(10), 805-816.

iv Walters, K.L., Simoni, J.M. (2002). Reconceptualizing Native women’s health: An “indigenist” stress-coping model. American Journal of Public Health, 92(4), 520-524.

Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in LGB populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence.Psychological Bulletin, 129, 674-697. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.129.5.674

vi Hatzenbuehler, M. L. (2009). How does sexual minority stigma “get under the skin”? A psychological mediation framework.Psychological Bulletin, 135, 707-730. doi: 10.1037 / a0016441
Hatzenbuehler, M. L., McLaughlin, K.A., Keyes,

vii Hendricks, M. I., & Testa, R. J. (2012). A Conceptual Framework for Clinical Work With Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Clients: An Adaptation of the Minority Stress Model. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037 / a0029597

viii King, K. (2005). Why Is Discrimination Stressful? The Mediating Role of Cognitive Appraisal. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 11(3), 202-212. doi: 10.1037 / 1099-9809.11.3.202

ix Zamboni, B.D., & Crawford, I. (2007). Minority stress and sexual problems among African-American gay and bisexual men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 69-578.

McCabe, S.E., Bostwick, W.B., Hughes, T.L., West, B.T., & Boyd, C.J. (2010). The Relationship Between Discrimination and Substance Use Disorders Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 100 (10), 1946-1952.

xi Mustanski, B. S., R. Garofalo, and E. M. Emerson. 2010. Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health 100(12):2426-2432

xii Cochran, S. D., and V. M. Mays. (2006). Estimating prevalence of mental and substance-using disorders among lesbians and gay men from existing national health data. In Sexual orientation and mental health, edited by A. M. Omoto and H.S. Kurtzman. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Pp. 143-165.