The Black lesbian experience: the intertwining of race and sexuality

Nelms, Stella Dévon
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The experiences of Black lesbians are rarely studied by psychologist. This study examined the intertwining of race and sexuality in the lives of Black lesbians. Black lesbians face the experiences of race, sexual orientation, and gender oppression in American society. They also experience oppression within their family and the Black community. Participants were 78 adult Black women who completed an on-line survey. Participants completed measures assessing their perceptions of their family’s and the Black community’s support of their being lesbian, the perceived and experienced stressors in their lives, and their life satisfaction. They also provided relevant background information (i.e., relationship status and families’ acknowledgement of their being lesbian). Perceived and experienced stressors were measured using two parallel forms of the Measure of Gay Stressors Scales (Lewis, Derlega, Griffin, & Krowinski, 2003) and life satisfaction on the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985). Their family’s and community’s support of their being lesbian were assessed using two author-developed instruments, the Importance of the Black Community Scale and the Importance of the Lesbian Community Scale. Participants ranged in age from 19 to 55 years and most identified as being African American (52.6%) and Black (36%). Most participants (77%) reported being out to their families and currently in a lesbian relationship (68%). Overall participants reported moderate amounts of perceived stress and moderately high negative effects from the events they had experienced. Participants reported somewhat high degrees of perceived stress from their family’s reaction to their being lesbian. Participants also reported moderately negative effects of the Black community reaction and family reaction events they had experienced. Both the Black community and the lesbian community were viewed as important to them. In addition, results indicated that the more a participant reported a high importance of the Black community in their life, the more stressful they perceived events related to the Black community’s reaction to lesbians. The study’s results provide needed information about this population, identifies stressors that occurred for participants when interacting with their families and the Black community, and give support for the triple minority experience of Black lesbians. The implications of the study’s findings for counseling with Black lesbians is discussed as are directions for future research.