LGBTQ Well-Being in Socio-Ecological Context: Guiding Future Research and Discussion

This academic presentation will focus on the on-going impact of minority stress on LGBTQ identified individuals and same-sex couples or individuals in non-heteronormative relationships. Minority stress for LGBTQ individuals includes experiences of discrimination or with prejudice; anticipation of experiences with discrimination, prejudice, or rejection; internalized stigma from heteronormative socialization and culture; decisions about disclosure, concealment, and expression of an authentic identity; and, coping strategies for dealing with the stress of stigmatization. The conceptual frame of discussing minority stress within the socio-ecological context de-pathologizes the discussion of LGBTQ lives. The socio-ecological context places individuals and their intra-personal well-being in the center of a larger environment interacting with others as intimate partners, family, neighbors, workplace or school peers, in places of worship; being impacted by the institutions of the workplace, school, religious institutions; living under sets of laws and policies; and, living in a larger culture of media, values, and societal ideologies.

Popular culture and many individuals seem to have assumed that marriage equality means that LGBTQ people have achieved full equality. This assumption ignores the continuing stigmatization of LGBTQ lives and the impact of stigmatization on LGBTQ well being. Stigmatization results in minority stress which is a chronic stress. Whereas acute stress, as a discrete event, may have short-term impacts on well being (excepting extreme events), chronic stress takes a long-term toll on well-being. Even if it were true that LGBTQ people have suddenly achieved full equality, there are lasting impacts of minority stress on all LGBTQ people alive today. Given that the assumption of full equality is not true, minority stress is an on-going issue negatively impacting the health and well-being of LGBTQ people.

By looking at the continuing impact of minority stress on LGBTQ people from a socio-ecological perspective, we frame the debate to continue the de-pathologizing of LGBTQ lives and experiences. Assuming full equality places blame for distress and negative coping on individuals, which ignore the very real problems still present in our culture and society. By focusing on the broader environment that still stigmatizes LGBTQ people, LGBTQ people are seen as having the capacity to be resilient and strong within a toxic, pathologizing environment. Providing this conceptual framework works as a reminder for placing the focus on the pathology of the environment, cultivating support within the environment, and honoring and enhancing the individual from a strength-based approach to well-being. Using this framework to guide discussions and research helps to systematically explore continuing problems and see the connections of issues from different levels and intersections of the environment.

The presentation will include examples and illustrations.


Part of panel Healthcare, Psychology, and Well-Being
October 1, 2016, 11:15–13:00