A Positive Norm-Breaker in LGB Research
Researchers often focus on how negative life events harm the psychological well-being of LGB adolescents. The research literature is full of studies on how gay related victimization and harassment hurts the developing personalities of LGB youth. However, a group of researchers from Chicago questioned this norm, and decided to look at the issue from another perspective: how being LGB positively affects well-being.
The study is described in an article entitled “What’s Good About Being Gay? Perspectives from Youth” (2012). Participants for the study were 63 ethnically diverse gay/bisexual male youth from Chicago and Miami. The youth were interviewed in order to assess positive characteristics associated with their sexual orientation.
Two major themes emerged from the study: gay/bisexual male youth reported positive personal conceptualizations of themselves, and they reported resiliency when faced with oppression due to their sexual orientation.
Some of the positive personal conceptualizations reported were flexibility in social, environmental, and/or gender, which youth looked at as being beneficial. For instance, one participant enjoyed the ability to be able to go to both gay-specific and non-gay-specific establishments. Another individual, who identified as bisexual, felt empowered by being neither gay nor heterosexual; he felt he was his own individual, and not a part of a category. Connection to a community was another positive attribute of being gay/bisexual.
As for resiliency, participants reported four ways they positively handle situations in which they are faced with oppression based on their sexuality: acceptance of their orientation, emotional and physical self-care, rejection of stereotypes, and activism in the Gay community.
The researchers conclude that gay/bisexual males have the ability to synthesize their experiences in order to make a more positive identity regarding sexual orientation. They stress the need for more research to be done on the positive and/or beneficial qualities of being LGB.
Source: Gary W. Harper, Asya Brodsky & Douglas Bruce (2012): What’s Good About Being Gay? Perspectives from Youth, Journal of LGBT Youth, 9:1, 22-41