As the world reaches another peak in coronavirus cases, minorities continue to suffer. The Fenway Institute’s March 2020 report notes that LGBTQIA adults experience higher rates of chronic conditions. Including but not limited to cardiovascular disease, obesity, cancer, and HIV/AIDS, and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like smoking, vaping, and other substance use than their straight and cisgender peers; conditions and behaviors that can increase vulnerability to this novel coronavirus.

But why? One reason why LGBTQIA individuals may suffer more: minority stress theory.

What is Sexual/Gender Minority Stress?

Curated by scholar and social worker Virginia Brooks, the term examines “how exposure to cultural, social and economic stressors translates into psychological and biophysical stress for LGBT people”. Essentially, experiences like homophobia, employment discrimination, and lack of civil rights, to name a few, cumulatively translate into poor health.

Furthermore, the expanded or Meyer (2003) minority stress model — minority stress processes in lesbian, gay and bisexual populations — is based on factors associated with various stressors and coping mechanisms and their positive or negative impact on mental health outcomes. Significantly, many of the concepts in the model overlap, representing their interdependency. The model describes stress processes, including experiences of prejudice, expectations of rejection, hiding, concealing, internalized homophobia, and ameliorative coping processes. Stressors such as homophobia or sexual stigma that may arise from the environment require an individual to adapt but also negatively ultimately affect physical and mental health outcomes.

What are the Implications?

When LGBTQIA individuals apply negative attitudes toward themselves, especially with feelings associated with internalized homophobia, the psychologically injurious effects of societal level homophobia often take effect.

For example, such phobia holds implications for the disproportionate impact of HIV on gay and bisexual men (Herek & Garnets, 2007). While HIV-positive individuals are often stigmatized for their status, those who are HIV-negative live with varying levels of psychological distress. This may result in mental health challenges, unprotected anal intercourse, substance use, or sex with multiple partners.

Such behaviors increase exponentially when a member of the community is also a member of a minority racial/ethnic group. Having multiple minority statuses increases the likelihood of experiencing homophobia, stigma, isolation, and rejection.

What Can We Do?

  1. Make Ourselves Aware
    • Growing awareness is likely to have reduced the need for some people to “explain” their identity to others. This will have made reaffirming the validity of their sexuality and gender to themselves easier too. If we couple this with increasing self-awareness of an identity that gives meaning to attractions (or lack thereof), the positive well-being identified for this group is understandable.

      This means writing more stories, making more movies, and explaining the history of the LGBTQIA rights movement.  
  2. Teaching Ourselves
    • We cannot hold minority communities accountable to teach us; we must teach ourselves. This involves not only getting sources but ensuring those sources are unbiased. Furthermore, this self-education involves the examination of conscious and unconscious biases.

      Unconscious biases are stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups. These biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing, while a conscious bias is something we are acutely aware of.
  3. Hold Yourself Accountable
    • Alongside these biases, we must learn to hold each other accountable for our permissive behaviors. These involve dismissing the prescience of these stressors, or the systemic structure cisgender and heteronormative people.

      Though it is difficult to do, in order to ensure the safety of LGBTQIA communities, we must not only hold the system accountable but also ensure we are held accountable.

Read also:
Decolonise Our Minds
How You Can Support Your LGB Friend As They Come Out
Stop Coddling Your Sons And Hold Them Accountable