Different types of homophobia and transphobia
Before exploring the effects of social discrimination on mental health, it’s helpful to explore what precisely social discrimination is concerning the LGBTQIA+ community.
Transphobia and homophobia can manifest in many different ways, including on structural, systemic, and interpersonal levels.
The harmful effects of homophobia and transphobia
Many LGTBQ individuals experience harassment, familial rejection, discrimination, excommunication from religious groups, and denial of basic human and civil rights, all of which can contribute to mental health conditions.
A common framework for understanding the effects of transphobia and homophobia on psychological and physical health is the minority stress model. This schema explains how discrimination, stigma, and prejudice can create a stressful and hostile environment, which may contribute to the development of psychiatric issues.2
Researchers have established three underlying principles of minority stress:2
- It is unique to marginalized individuals but adds to general everyday stressors.
- It is chronic or ongoing and related to underlying cultural and social influences, beliefs, or practices.
- It is socially based, meaning it is caused by structures and social processes rather than individual experiences.
Minority stress can also lead to internalized transphobia and homophobia. This occurs when people view themselves in a negative light due to the influence of cultural stigmas about their sexual orientation or gender.
Internalized stigma can put a strain on someone’s mental health, even in the absence of negative external events. Strong cultural, familial, or social influences on people, plus their exposure to society’s anti-LGBTQIA+ attitudes, can lead to conflicting ideas or feelings about their identity and internal strife.2
Intersectionality and mental health
Intersectionality is a framework that describes the interconnected nature of the various aspects of a person’s identity. This schema also explores how these intersecting aspects can be associated with disadvantage and discrimination.7
For example, queer and trans individuals may also experience racism, sexism, ableism, or religious discrimination based on other aspects of their identity. This generally contributes to the experience of additional marginalization, discrimination, and prejudice.
People sitting at the intersection of more than one marginalized identity often face an increased likelihood of multiple hardships. Trans women of color, for example, often experience profound marginalization, oppression, and devastatingly high rates of sexual and physical violence.12,13
LGBTQIA+ youth, discrimination, and mental health
Although more U.S. adolescents are identifying as LGBTQIA+ than ever before, transgender and queer teens still experience a significant amount of social discrimination.
Protective factors for mental health in the LGBTQIA+ community
Social discrimination can have devastating and detrimental effects on mental health. The good news is there are some protective factors against the consequences of transphobia and homophobia, such as:3,10
- Family and community support
- Access to affirming and inclusive medical and mental health care
- Anti-discrimination policies
- Inclusive and supportive work environments
- Addressing the social and environmental factors that influence health
- Experiencing positive reactions to coming out
- Community building with other LGBTQIA+ people, which can reduce internalized homophobia and transphobia
A strong support system is crucial for enduring nearly any negative experience in life, including the type of mental and physical stressors brought on by transphobia and homophobia.
On a broader scale, the systemic change needed to create a more welcoming society takes time. But working together in an empowered, supportive community to educate and empower others can help bring it about for the betterment of everyone.