A new study shows that even the slightest homophobic gestures or words could affect individuals of the LGBT community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and others) chronically. Learn how homophobia can be damaging and how to cope with it now.
A study led by lead author David M. Huebner, Ph.D., associate professor of prevention and community health at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health revealed the extent of psychological stress undergone by LGBT people.
The Study on the Effects of Homophobia
The study consisted of 134 LGB participants between the ages of 18-58 who were divided into two groups consisting of near to equal numbers of males and females.
The participants were told that they will be tested for their intelligence, likeability, and competence by interviewers. The key difference between the groups was:
- The researchers informed the participants of one group that their interviewers were homophobic.
- While the other group was informed that the interviewers were straight people who supported the LGBT community
The participant’s blood pressure and cortisol level were continuously monitored throughout the study. The participants were asked questions through recordings since researchers didn’t want the physical appearance of interviewers to create a bias in the results.
The results of the study were published in the Health Psychology journal and here are the key takeaways on the effects of homophobia:
- Participants from both groups had high heart rate and systolic and diastolic blood pressure during the interview process.
- The group that was told the interviewer was homophobic showed a significantly higher heart rate and systolic BP when the questions were asked while the BP decreased slowly during recovery.
- Cortisol (Stress Hormone) level was high for the group who knew that the questioner held homophobic ideologies.
“After the study was running, I had a moment where I thought I had made a serious mistake in the design. We exposed everyone in the study to a pretty significant stressor — at least as laboratory stressors go — and the kind of interview task we had participants do generates a pretty large physiological response all by itself,” Huebner told Healthline
What Are the Impacts of Homophobia?
Huebner’s study revealed that the individuals of the LGBT community are exposed to prejudice, discrimination, and other forms of homophobia that can create a serious impact on their psychological health.
Minority stress is a form of psychological stress faced by individuals of a minority community or a stigmatized group who have experienced attacks, microaggressions, harassment, or any other form of degradation.
When asked about the level and seriousness of the impact, most doctors and researchers said that it depends on the individual’s background and upbringing.
They also mentioned that there could be physical impacts. Biello, who is not affiliated with Huebner’s research, said, “For example, because cortisol acts as an anti-inflammatory when cortisol dysfunction occurs, inflammation can occur and impact multiple organ systems, resulting in fatigue, depression, muscle, and bone weakening, pain, etc.”.
How to Cope Against Homophobia?
The study revealed that mistreatment faced by LGBT individuals throughout their lives had resulted in these individuals exhibiting serious fluctuations in heart rates and cortisol levels even at the slightest exposure to homophobia.
Huebner explained that LGBT members should never internalize any of their homophobic experiences because there is nothing wrong with them for being what they are and it’s the homophobic people who need to change their perspective.
He also said that constantly thinking negatively about the discrimination they might face due to their sexual orientations or preferences will restrain the LGBT individuals’ ability to grow emotionally or psychologically.
Biello also suggests regular exercise, therapy for stress reduction, and other cognitive-behavioral stress management techniques that can help them in a homophobic environment.
Huebner and other researchers are planning to conduct several other studies to determine the physical and mental impact of homophobia on the LGBTQIA+ community in the long run.