All you need is love, says study on LGBT school bullying
A recent study has noted that one way that the younger members of our community can survive LGBT school bullying by their peers and rejection of family members at their age is through love.
This study was detailed in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, i.e. that romance or a romantic relationship can help lesbians and gay youth from the psychological effects of victimization.
Ironically, in contrast to their straight counterparts, romance is generally found to cause distress in heterosexual teens.
Specifically, lesbian and gay youth were 17 percent less distressed when they were in relationships as compared to when they were not in relationships.
The same study noted that relationships can make bisexuals feel worse as 19 percent were more distressed in relationships.
The study didn’t have enough data to cover transgender teens.
LGBT school bullying & familial rejection
For this study, Sarah Whitton, Christina Dyar, and Michael Newcomb used data gathered from Project Q2 that was conducted by Brian Mustanski, the director of the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at the Northwestern University.
In Project Q2, 248 LGBT youth in Chicago from between 16 to 20 were interviewed and then were followed up over five years.
These teens were questioned about their romantic relationships, level of psychological distress, and frequency of stigmatization.
In their study on LGT school bullying, they discovered that lesbian and gay teens find being in a relationship as a source of support.
“The person they were dating was the first person they would go to when they had news to celebrate but also the first person they would go to commiserate or seek support if something awful happened,” said Mustanski, who is one of the study’s authors.
“They helped navigate issues with coming out or challenges they were having in the family about those relationships,” he said, adding that this support tends to offset the effects of bullying– unlike those from parents or friends.
There were only two previous studies on the potential stress-buffering effects of romantic relationships for sexual minorities. Both of these focused on adults.
Social stigma in LGBT school bullying
Sarah Whitton, another of the study’s authors and an associate professor of psychology at the University of Cincinnati, said that LGBT teens “live in a society that generally stigmatizes sexual orientations other than heterosexual.”
Whitton explained: “So they grow up with the media and popular culture commonly depicting same-sex relationships as abnormal or pathological, religious institutions often telling them that their sexual attractions are wrong or immoral, and legal policies that do not protect them against discrimination.”
Joanne Davila, a professor of clinical psychology and director of clinical training at Stony Brook University in New York, said the study “tells us is gay and lesbian couples are basically getting the same benefits from being in a relationship as heterosexuals do.”
“I think that’s really important, because there are so many potentially negative ideas about gay and lesbian relationships,” said Davila, who was not part of the study.
She also urged researchers to find out why bisexuals aren’t reaping the benefits of being in a relationship.
She noted that bisexuals may be stigmatized by the following assumptions about them, i.e. they are promiscuous, they care unable to comm,it and they are bad at relationships.
LGBT school bullying affecting POC LGBT
Whitton also wrote that this effect on lesbian and gay youth was particularly true for people of color (POC), “which is very important since LGBT people of color face significant challenges due to being both sexual and racial minorities.”
She noted their study’s “results are exciting because they suggest that romantic relationships can help many LGBT youths feel less emotionally distressed.”
“Not only does dating someone appear to promote psychological well-being for gay and lesbian youth overall, but it also can buffer them from the hurtful effects of being bullied or otherwise victimized,” she said.
These results, she said, fit the positive psychological effects of marriage for straight adults, i.e. marriage makes people healthier and happier.
The study on LGBT school bullying also dispels negative myths about LGBT relationships as being portrayed as unhealthy historically.
On the other hand, Whitton said that bisexuals probably experience more distress because others (including their partners) assume they are straight or gay/ lesbian based on the gender of their partner.