America’s views and laws concerning the LGBTQ community exist in a state of contradictions. On the one hand, the Biden administration has made it a federal priority to safeguard nondiscrimination policies that protect this community, and there seems to be more tolerance in how society views LGBTQ individuals than ever before.
On the other hand, ruthless state laws have targeted LGBT individuals, and culture warriors seek to punish gay and trans people for merely existing.
Let’s look at the data and research and see what it tells us about how society views this minority population and what the research tells us about it.
Society Views LGBTQ Members as Second-Class Citizens
First, research shows that American society treats LGBT individuals as second-class citizens, and they experience stigma—a set of negative and unfair beliefs—daily. Here are some ways that members of this minority face discrimination:
Self-stigma occurs when an individual harbors negative feelings about themselves and believes they are less valuable than others. This condition leads to various adverse psychological and emotional states that can last a lifetime.
Interpersonal stigma coincides with events such as humiliation, attacks, or hate crimes. Years of micro-aggressions and name-calling can also have devastating effects on a person’s sense of self.
Structural stigma encompasses all of the societal-level conditions that restrict LGBT individuals from their right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Examples of structural stigma can be very powerful and include the laws that criminalize drag shows or the cultural pressure that forces corporations to pull pro-gay apparel items.
What the Research Found
A nonpartisan coalition in association with the University of Chicago recently conducted a nationally representative survey with thousands of participants, both LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ, and made the following findings:
- LGBT people experience more discrimination than others. This discrimination follows LGBT individuals everywhere they go: in the doctor’s office, in the workplace, in public, and when they search for a home. To avoid this discrimination, these individuals change their natural behavior and suffer mentally and physically. For instance, more than 20% of LGBT adults reported avoiding or postponing medical care in the last year to avoid persecution.
- The legal framework of the United States has always acted against LGBT people. Relationships between same-sex partners were illegal from the nation’s founding until 2003. New legislation commonly targets the LGBT lifestyle—last year alone, there were over 300 bills in statehouses targeting LGBTQIA+ members.
- LGBT individuals who suffer discrimination have shorter lifespans. Members of sexual minorities who reside in communities where they face high levels of stigma don’t live as long as others in that same community. Researchers investigated the causes of death in this population and found elevated instances of suicide, murder, and heart disease.
- Disabled and minority members suffer the most. Not surprisingly, perhaps, LGBT people who are also people of color, or those with disabilities, suffer discrimination more frequently than others.
The Good News
There is good news in the current research, too, and how society views LGBTQ individuals seems to get a little bit warmer each year.
Going back as recently as 2004, polls still showed that two-thirds of Americans were against allowing same-sex marriage. Today, these marriages have been legal in all 50 states for eight years, and about two-thirds say the impact of these marriages has been positive. Support for gay marriage has increased across all sectors of culture.
Advanced Behavioral Health understands the stigma that LGBT individuals face daily and how it affects their well-being. We offer professional and compassionate care to all patients, regardless of sexual orientation, and our therapists understand the biases facing LGBT in their search for appropriate healthcare.
If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health needs, please reach out to our team of qualified mental health specialists.
You can call us at 301-345-1022 or send us a message online here. One of our team members will be standing by to help you find the confidential consultation you need.