Fostering Health and Wellbeing Among Lgbtq People: Moving Beyond Interpersonal Discrimination in Minority Stress Theory Research
Establishing civil rights and protections for LGBTQ people, making public programs, services, and institutions inclusive of LGBTQ individuals, and developing interventions and resources that specifically support LGBTQ communities, especially youth, are considered cornerstones to advancing social equality, health, and wellbeing among LGBTQ people (NASW, 2004; Newman et al, 2003). Given the monumental changes on these fronts at the organizational, community, state, and societal levels, it is timely to investigate the role of these macro-related factors, which can shape the broader social climate for LGBTQ people and ultimately their health and wellbeing.
Although social or community climate includes and is shaped by interpersonal experiences (Bennett, 2009), recent LGBTQ research has conceptualized community climate to mean the degree of support for LGBTQ individuals (Oswald et al., 2010) in a particular organization, town, county, or state. These broader aspects of climate have been measured by asking LGBTQ individuals how they perceive their community climate (perceived climate), as well as by utilizing more objective measures (objective climate), including LGBTQ inclusive policies (e.g., anti-discrimination policies, same-sex marriage), presence of LGBTQ-supportive religious institutions, presence of LGBTQ organizations and resources, voting patterns reflective of support for LGBTQ individuals, and the number of LGBTQ individuals in a community or institution (Eisbenberg & Weechsler, 2003; Hatzenbuehler, 2011; Oswald et al., 2010). More research is needed exploring perceived and objective LGBTQ community climate and personal experiences with the objective climate and their consequences for LGBTQ people’s wellbeing.
The current symposium aims to redress these gaps in the literature by exploring the role of institutional-, community-, and state-level LGBTQ climate factors in shaping the experiences, health, and wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals. Specifically, presenter one utilizes three measures of community climate (qualitative perceived, quantitative perceived, quantitative objective) to assess LGBTQ youths’ needs and the availability and utilization of LGBTQ-supportive resources in their nonmetropolitan communities. Presenter two draws on a national study of transgender discrimination to examine how first-hand experiences with objective institutional climate on college campuses related to bathroom and housing access impacts risks for suicidality and homelessness among transgender people. Presenter three, utilizing a national sample of LGBQ college students, explores the role of LGBTQ-related state policies and institutional policies and programs on students’ experiences with discrimination and psychological wellbeing.
Collectively, these studies highlight the value of minority stress researchers moving beyond concern for interpersonal discrimination in understanding the wellbeing of LGBTQ individuals. The symposium promises to advance social work research and discourse on LGBTQ health disparities.