Category: Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgender Issues

PS14- #C81 - Coming Out: Bravery as a Protective Factor for LGBQ Youth

Saturday, Nov 18
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: LGBTQ+ | Adolescents | Cognitive Schemas / Beliefs

Identity development within a heteronormative society presents a significant challenge for LGBQ youth. Remaining closeted (i.e., concealing one’s sexual identity) is associated with significant distress and may promote the internalization of negative attitudes about one’s LGBQ identity. “Coming out” is an important aspect of identity development, but may also open youth up to rejection and discrimination. The current study examines whether bravery, a willingness to face one’s fears, may serve as a protective factor against negative self-schemas for closeted LGBQ youth.

Participants self-reported a minority sexual orientation (58% gay/lesbian, 36% bi- or pan-sexual, 6% questioning), resulting in a sample of 1352 youth aged 13 to 25 (M = 19.71). Participants rated “how out are you at school/work” from 0 (out to no one) to 4 (out to everyone); M = 3.05, SD = 1.45. This variable was reverse-scored so that higher values reflected greater concealment. Bravery was assessed with a seven-item scale (e.g., “When it matters, I will stand up to someone even if they have more power than me,” “I have the courage to face my fears”). Higher scores reflected greater bravery. Attitudes about one’s LGBQ identity was assessed using the Identity Affirmation and Internalized Homonegativity subscales of the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Identity Scale (Mohr & Kendra, 2011). Higher scores reflected more positive identity affirmation and more negative internalized homonegativity. The Hope Scale (Snyder et al., 1991), an assessment of determination to pursue and achieve goals, was included as a more stringent test of the specificity of bravery as a moderator in the proposed model. Internal consistency for all scales ranged from .80 to .97.

Bivariate correlations indicated that older LGBTQQ youth tended to be more hopeful, less closeted, and reported greater identity affirmation. We first examined the association between being more closeted (less “out”) at work and school, Identity Affirmation, and Internalized Homonegativity. In a path analysis, including age and Hope as covariates, Closetedness, Bravery, and their interaction were specified as predictors of Identity Affirmation and Internalized Homonegativity. Being more closeted was associated with less identity affirmation, β = -.27, and greater homonegativity, β = .18, p < .001. Bravery evidenced a positive association with identity affirmation, β = .30, and a negative association with homonegativity, β = -.18, both p < .001. The interaction was associated with both identity affirmation and homonegativity. Examination of the simple slopes revealed that, at low levels of bravery, being more closeted was associated with less identity affirmation (b = -1.05, p < .001). However, at high levels of bravery, the slope was attenuated, b = 0.42, p < .05. Similarly, at low levels of bravery, being more closeted was associated with greater homonegativity, b = 1.03, p < .001. the simple slope was not significant at high levels of bravery, b = .34, p = .06. Together, the results provide initial evidence for the potential role of bravery as a protective factor against the internalization of negative feelings about one’s LGBQ identity.

Meredith J. Martin

Assistant Professor
University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Lincoln, Nebraska

Susan M. Swearer

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Raul A. Palacios

University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Guadalupe Gutierrez

University of Nebraska - Lincoln