Abstract: Impacts of Sexual Orientation Microaggressions and Outness Among Emerging Adult Sexual Minorities of Color (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Impacts of Sexual Orientation Microaggressions and Outness Among Emerging Adult Sexual Minorities of Color

Friday, January 17, 2020
Liberty Ballroom I, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Michelle Thompson, MS, LMHC, Doctoral Candidate, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Eric Wagner, PhD, Director/Professor, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Michelle Hospital, PhD, LMHC, Associate Director and Research Associate Professor, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Rachel Clarke, PhD, FIU-RCMI Postdoctoral Fellow, Florida International University, Miami, FL
Background: Throughout history, openly identifying as a sexual minority came with legal consequences and overt oppression, leading many sexual minorities to live underground or “closeted.” After the Stonewall Riots of 1969, many sexual minorities were urged to “come out of the closet” with popular chants such as “we’re here, we’re Queer, get used to it” and “out of the closets and into the streets” (Queer Nation).

For some sexual minorities, coming out is a celebratory experience that includes acceptance from family members, peers and their community; for others, coming out can lead to a loss of family and friends and community support. Pew Research reports showed that 58% of White sexual minorities compared to 42% of sexual minorities of color (SMPOC) believe that society is currently more accepting of sexual minorities. SMPOC may experience greater amounts of distress due to their own racial/ethnic communities’ paradigms surrounding homosexuality and coming out.

Microaggressions, a subtle type of discrimination, may contribute to distress among sexual minorities, which in turn may lead to some sexual minorities remaining in the closet. Experiencing microaggressions may vary among subgroups of sexual minorities. For example, among SMPOC, coming out and into an overtly oppressed community from an already marginalized, and at times, dehumanized position in society, may not be optimal and probably will not result in a celebration.

Purpose: This study aimed to explore the intersections of race/ethnicity on the relationship between microaggressions and outness among emerging adult sexual minorities, addressing the question: Does racial/ethnic identity moderate the relationship between sexual orientation microaggressions and outness among emerging adult sexual minorities?

Method: Participants (N=232; mean age = 22.4 years; 79% POC) were recruited at a university and LGBTQ-related events for an online, anonymous survey. Data were screened for missing values, assumptions of normality and non-model and model-based outliers. A path analysis testing interaction effects was conducted using structural equation modeling (SEM). Parameter estimates were pursued in the context of Full Information Maximum Likelihood (FIML) methods as implemented in MPLUS. Moderation was explored through separate single degree of freedom interaction contrasts by creating a product term of a focal independent variable, race/ethnicity.

Results: The mean score for sexual orientation microaggressions was lower for SMPOC (M = 2.34) than White non-Hispanic sexual minorities (M = 2.65) by -.27 units (p <.05). The mean score on outness for SMPOC (M = 3.17) was lower compared to White non-Hispanic sexual minorities (M = 4.03) by -.69 units (p <.05). Controlling for gender, education, and employment, experiencing sexual orientation microaggressions was related to outness, and race/ethnicity moderated that relationship (β = -.50, p < .05).

Conclusions: There was an inverse relationship between (a) experiencing microaggressions and (b) being out in the community, and the relationship was stronger among SMPOC. These findings contribute to the literature about the impacts of microaggressions for sexual minorities and, highlight the importance of intersectionality in social work research. Moreover, these findings support policy implications for anti-discrimination protections for sexual minorities.