Attitude towards LGBT people fluctuates from one society to another. Among the Indigenous people of the Americas, homosexuals and bisexuals were considered spiritual people and were given respected roles. On the other hand, many cultures and countries around the world considered homosexuality as corrupt and illegal behavior, often punishable by death. As a result of persecution over the years, LGBT people have higher risks of being subjected to certain stressors such as those caused by violence, discrimination, and bigotry. This paper will discuss the impact these stressors have on the psychological and physical well-being of LGBT people.
In recent times, the general opinion towards homosexuals has generally been moving positively thanks to the fight of many countless human rights activists and new laws that provide equal rights to LGBT people. However, there still exists many incidents of discrimination in the workplace, anti-gay crime and bullying especially among LGBT youth.
According to a study on the occurrence of homophobic bullying in teens, Pearlman et al. (2016) found that the majority of high school students who experienced abuse identified as either gay, lesbian, bisexual, or unsure. Among LGBT or unsure students, 46.9% have experienced two or more forms of abuse from either peers or dating partners. Whereas 11.5% among heterosexual students have experienced two or more forms of abuse. Thus we start to recognize a certain pattern of behavior when it comes to bullying that is directed from both homosexual and heterosexual students towards homosexual individuals. Out of the population of students that have been have reported being bullied; more than half (57.1%) reported homophobic teasing (Pearlman et al., 2016).
Sufficient evidence from research has shown that bullying, whether physical or electronic, has negative health consequences on the adolescent victims. Aggressive behavior from peers often results in victims having problems at school such as academic underachievement or behavioral concern. Furthermore, LGBT youth who were bullied often have lower self esteem and a higher risk of depression than other heterosexual youth. Alcohol and drug abuse has been more noticeably increasing among the LGBT population. Researchers believe that this has to do with their exposure to violence and victimization. As one study by the Second Brazilian National Alcohol and Drugs Survey shows that cocaine and amphetamine stimulant consumption among homosexual men was significantly higher than among heterosexual men (Diehl et al., 2017). As a result, to the numbing effects of stimulants like cocaine, gay drug consumers are more likely to have unprotected sex which can lead to the contraction of HIV that can develop into AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases.
In addition to the physical and psychological damage that anti-LGBT violence causes onto it’s victims, there underlies a major violation of equal human rights. Despite major recent advancements in the fight for LGBT rights and equality movements, anti-gay discrimination still exists. On the case of same-sex marriage, often those who oppose it take a traditional stance to protect their religious beliefs or cultural values. However, this stance is taken in a superior and threatening manner in which accusers believe they are absolutely correct and righteous which justifies any hostile behavior they direct towards to the LGBT community. Furthermore, multiple research have suggested that societal gender roles have contributed to the negative attitude towards homosexuality (Hutchings et al. ,2015) .
Hypermasculinity, which emphasizes on aggression and sexuality, can easily be a gateway towards anti gay hostility. Men with a strong sense of machismo can feel threatened by the homosexual presence. Thus, as shown in Hutchings’ studies, these men are more likely to respond negatively by either engaging in anti gay hate crime or by opposing to gay rights and laws, such as the legalization of same sex marriage. Since LGBT people challenge some of the fundamentals of gender norms, they are often subjected to subordination by the men who firmly believe in these strict societal boundaries. These men feel the need to reaffirm their dominant masculinity by engaging in anti-gay hate crimes which leads to a reduction in their anxiety levels and boosts their self-esteem (Bell and Perry, 2014). This study helps us understand the basis of where hate crime stems from. Hate crime is defined as a criminal act against individuals based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation. However, more often psychologists tend to lightly explore the factors that create such hate in an individual towards a certain group which then develop into heinous crimes.
One method to address violence among LGBT community is provide assistance in coping for the victims. Coping mechanisms are conscious efforts that are intended to reduce the stressful life events by creating a positive and supportive response. The purpose of coping mechanisms is to reduce the risk of mental health issues such as post traumatic stress and depression. Coping can help victims of anti-LGBT crime get back into their normal lives and maintain normal relationships.
According to D’haese et al., there are two main coping mechanisms (2016). The first is problem-oriented coping, which involves taking direct conscious action to remove the source of stress. This method is requires realizing the stressor and actively working on eliminating the problem by engaging in stress reducing rituals. The second method is emotion-oriented coping, which aims to minimize the negative thoughts and emotions linked to these thoughts. This method is known as disengagement or avoidance coping because the individual aims to separate themselves from all negative emotions by avoiding the problem or stressor. Nevertheless, research has shown that individuals who apply problem-oriented coping have generally better mental health than those who apply emotion-oriented coping or avoidance (D’haese et al. 2016). Study shows LGBT people are more likely to use emotion-oriented coping mechanisms. This is partially due the maladaptive technique of emotion-oriented coping which often uses disengagement and self-blame as a methodology of adapting. The method is similar to ‘sweeping’ your problems under the carpet and avoiding them until they become a nuisance.
The LGBT suffers from major stressors as a minority group. Psychological and physical trauma due to abuse is one of them. Many lean towards substance abuse and smoking to relieve these stresses that have a great impact on their health. There are some methods and proposed solutions that we can implement to reduce the stressors on the LGBT community. In general, research on the psychological impacts and coping techniques of victims of LGBT violence has been lacking. This causes limitations in the resources and information available for the LGBT community and its supporters. By increasing research we are able to have a better understanding of why such hate crimes take place and be able to determine the best methods of supporting victims and dealing with the abusers.