Category: Gay / Lesbian / Bisexual / Transgender Issues

Symposium

Discrimination Reduces Likelihood of Sexual Orientation Disclosure in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adults

Friday, November 17
3:30 PM - 5:00 PM
Location: Cobalt 501, Level 5, Cobalt Level

Keywords: L / G / B / T | Stigma | Emotion Regulation
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background: Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals continue to encounter high rates of sexual orientation-related discrimination, a phenomenon that has been linked with this population’s poor mental health outcomes (Bostwick et al., 2014; Gilman et al., 2001). Few studies have experimentally tested how discrimination influences the decision to disclose one’s sexual orientation and how emotion regulation (ER) may facilitate disclosure. This is critical because concealing a stigmatized identity has been linked with poor mental health outcomes (Pachankis, 2007), and thus down-regulating discrimination-related negative affect may serve as a protective factor. We examined whether viewing a discriminatory film predicted spontaneous sexual orientation disclosure in a written reflection task. We anticipated that participants instructed to distance themselves from discriminatory content would be more likely to disclose than those instructed to immerse themselves in the discriminatory clip.


Method: LGB adults (N=148; 60% female; mean age=25 years) were recruited online via postings in social media, Craigslist, listservs, and emails to LGB organizations. They were randomized to a 2 x 2 between-subjects design, where they: 1) received ER instructions (distancing or immersion) and 2) viewed a 2-minute film (discriminatory or affirming). Participants then spent 4 minutes reflecting on their experience of watching the film in a written task.


Results: When predicting whether participants disclosed their sexual orientation, we found a significant main effect of film (OR: 4.58, 95% CI [1.32, 15.93], p = .02), such that participants who viewed the discriminatory clip were less likely to disclose their sexual orientation than those in the affirming condition. Contrary to expectations, there was no effect of ER and no interaction effect, ps > .28.


Discussion: To our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate a causal link between discrimination and sexual orientation self-disclosure, and as such, our findings highlight an important mechanism underlying discrimination’s immense effects on LGB mental health that should be captured in interventions with this population.

Ilana Seager

Graduate Student
The Ohio State University

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