"Why is being gay so stressful?"
Stress is common. We all have many different moments of stress in a given day. Most commonly, we are stressed by relationships or work or our responsibilities. For LGBTQ+ folks (and all other marginalized identities) not only are these normal stressors present, but there is also a whole other category of stress that can invisibly working in the background. When a client comes in to work with me regarding stress in their life, I try to hear not only what they think is the problem, but also what silent, insidious stressors are in the background. These sneaky agents are identified in a model called Minority Stress. While it applies more intersectionally, for the purposes of this blog, I will give an overview specific to LGBTQ+ folks.
The Minority Stress Perspective was developed by Ilan Meyer in the late 90s. It focuses not only on the explicit content of LGBTQ+ struggles, but also on the systems and structure that silently place extra burden on these communities. I will give a brief overview of each of the categories in this blog, but I'll go more in-depth on each area in the future.
Meyer highlights that Minority Stress is unique, chronic, and socially based. "Unique" means that above the normal stress all people face, marginalized people face particular, extra stress. "Chronic" means it's baked into society and is all over the place. "Socially Based" highlights that the stress is about the way individuals and groups relate or punish marginalized people.
So here's the stress:
Prejudiced Events - The times or places in which actual actions are taken out against LGBTQ+ peeps. Think of situations like getting yelled at on the street, told you're going to hell, or having someone spray paint "fag" on your fence.
Stigma - The weight of having to maintain a self-concept while dealing with the expectation of rejection and discrimination. "I didn't get the job promotion even though totally qualified...was it because I'm gay?" Also included here is the stress of knowing what to conceal or disclose in our lives. "Should I talk about my boyfriend when my coworkers talk about their straight partners?"
Internalized Homophobia- Last but certainly not least, this category is about the ways that we have internalized a sense that we are broken or wrong just being ourselves. We absorb the messages we hear, including the thoughts that we might be "perverts" or that our relationships are doomed to failure. This doesn't normally sound like a megaphone but a subtle, stress whisper in the back our mental dialogue.
Finding space to recognize, name, and interact with these stressors is of the utmost importance when you're trying to heal or transform in therapy. Though it looks different with each of my clients, a goal I have with all LGBTQ+ folks is to help them grow in awareness of how minority stress impacts them. As we do so, we are able to develop a much better response to stress that increases healing and transformation.
Looking for a therapist who you can explore your particular stress with? Feel free to shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
The citations in this article come from the article below.