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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“We’d Be Free”: Narratives of Life Without Homophobia, Racism, or Sexism

  • Author(s): Meyer, Ilan H.
  • Ouellette, Suzanne C.
  • Haile, Rahwa
  • McFarlane, Tracy A.
  • Editor(s): Frost, David
  • de Vries, Brian
  • et al.

This study examined the effects of exposure to everyday experiences of inequality. It finds that stigma and social inequality can increase stress and reduce well-being for LGB people,  even in the absence of major traumatic events such as hate crimes and discrimination. The study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, used qualitative analysis with 57 sexual minority men and women to identify aspects of stigma that are difficult to identify.  Subjects reported estrangement from families, failure to complete schooling, and isolation in the workplace. “Imagine living life anticipating exclusion from your friends, family and professional circles simply because of who you are and who you love – that resulting stress takes a toll on one’s life and health,” says co-author Dr. Ilan Meyer.  The research also found that, paradoxically, sexual minorities sometimes view stigma as having enhanced their lives and as having a defining impact on their identity. For example, LGB individuals who were forced to leave their hometowns found a more accepting community and new professional and personal opportunities in big cities that might not otherwise have been available to them.

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