The impact of minority stress and conceptual complexity on developing a positive gay and lesbian identity

Acebo, Victoria Alicia
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Contemporary research on gay men and lesbian women features an increased focus on the manifestations of antigay stigma in their lives. In particular, the development of gay and lesbian identity within a cultural context that may be shifting but remains one that includes intolerance, or at best, indifference (Garnets & Kimmel, 1993). Internalization of anti lesbian and gay prejudice has been termed "the most insidious" form of minority stress (Meyer & Dean, 1998). Most models of lesbian and gay identity suggest that these individuals follow a unique trajectory due to their experiences of prejudice and social oppression (Potoczniak, Aldea, & DeBlaere, 2007). One question not typically addressed by these models, however, is how homosexual individuals vary so markedly in their progression through the phases of sexual minority development and/or the degree to which that identity is a positive one. This study was an attempt to explore the relationship between minority stress, cognitive style, and lesbian or gay identity development. 272 adults identifying as a lesbian woman or gay man participated in this study. A measure, The Lesbian and Gay Salient Experiences Questionnaire (LGSE), in order to examine the management of a sexual minority identity and the interactions or experiences related to identifying as a member of this population. Participants' lesbian or gay identity development and their capacity for cognitive complexity were also measured. Results yielded a significant relationship between three of the five scales of the LGSE and negative lesbian or gay identity but there was no relationship between conceptual complexity and negative identity. Significant sex differences were found on both the measure of negative identity and salient experiences with men reported higher levels on both. The relationship between salient experiences and negative identity were also different between men and women. This finding in particular suggests that men and women may not only have a different trajectory in forming their lesbian or gay identity, but that the experiential factors that influence their identity development may also be different. Therefore, further research is suggested in order to investigate whether gay men and lesbian women should be studied separately.