When I chose to write this post, I was unsure of what I was going to write about. I have never known anybody that is homosexual so I hope that what I state is accurate and does not offend anyone as that is not my intention. I chose to write this blog because I hope to learn and understand a bit more of the stigma that is attached to homosexuals. In the past, homosexuality was seen as a mental disorder. To society, homosexuality was a new concept. When a new concept is introduced to people, it seems that the human instinct is to prejudge and make some uneducated assumptions of the concept or idea.
A policy statement from the American Psychological Association stated that homosexuality must no longer be seen as a mental illness and "... the American Psychological Association urges all mental health professionals to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with homosexual orientations" (Conger, 1975). This policy statement is dated from January 1975, approximately 35 years ago. My question is in response to this information is, has this stigma been removed from the way homosexuals are viewed in society?
For the research of this post I looked at a research project titled, "Stress and Dress: Investigating The Relationship Between Social Anxiety and Appearance Management Among Gay and Straight Men." This research focuses on the relationship between social anxiety and appearance management behaviours. Our gender identity is our internal sense of being male or female and depending on how we feel internally will determine how we present ourselves on the outside. In the article, the authors state that previous research performed by others found that homosexuals experience more stress than straight people (Reilly, A. & Rudd, N., 2007). In my opinion, this stress may be due to not only the stress from attempting to dress comfortably but still expressing yourself but also the discrimination homosexuals may face. The results from the research project suggest that "social anxiety is related to routine and non-routine appearance management behaviours, the differences due to sexual orientation are non-existent, or not evident routine and non-routine AMB, the differences due to sexual orientation are non-existent, or not evident" (Reilly, A. & Rudd, N., 2007). It has been my observation that gay men tend to dress and act differently from straight men, which can result in some gay men receiving discrimination for their differences. The discrimination they may face about their dress or talk may lead to stress and / or possibly suicide for some.
It seems that the media has brought more attention to homosexual bullying in North America in the past few years than in previous years. The bullying has been so unbearable for a few individuals, that some have felt suicide is their only option. "It is a tricky thing to be openly gay in schools" (MacBean, N., 2008) The article written by Nic MacBean, surveyed 164 LGB students and out of that amount, 82% considered taking their own life (MacBean, N. 2008). In my observation it seems that it is difficult to express your individuality and preference without challenges, even for straight people. But it seems that some heterosexuals feel the need to make their negative opinions of homosexuals known to others, more often than their opinions of others.
"Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) is a psychiatric diagnosis that can be given to individuals in the first month following a traumatic event" (Gibson, L., 2010). In my opinion, a homosexual individual who has been a victim of bullying to the extent of deciding to take their own life, would qualify as a traumatic event. L. Gibson also found that over 80% of people with Acute Stress Disorder developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder by the time they were assessed six months later (Gibson, E., 2010). To me, it is scary to think that individuals can be "pushed" to this point for being their self. I also think that homosexuality may not be a mental illness but for some the bullying and stigmatization that is encountered can be risk factors for developing a mental illness. Not all homosexuals will develop ASD or PTSD but it seems that some may be at risk. I feel that if I was faced with a traumatic event, such as extreme bullying for my sexual orientation or even my appearance, I would be higher at risk to develop a stress disorder.
If you have read any of my other posts I have a strong belief in treating everyone fairly. It does not matter the race, colour, ability, socioeconomic status, or sexual preference of an individual we are all equal. I cannot imagine or understand the bullying and discrimination so many have faced, but it makes me wonder what others think about me and how I present myself in my appearance and ideas. Again I ask, after 35 years has the stigma of homosexuality as a mental illness been removed, or are there only new and different stigmas attached?
Conger, J.J. (1975). Proceedings of the American Psychological Association, Incorporated, for the year 1974: Minutes of the annual meeting of the Council of Representatives. American Psychologist, 30, 620-651.
Gibson, L. (2010, Sept 28). Acute Stress Disorder: A Brief Description. Retrieved November 10, 2010, from http://mental-health-matters.com/acute-stress-disorder/1218-acute-stress-disorder-a-brief-description.
MacBean, N. (2008, Nov 11). Bullying 'pushing homosexual students to suicide'. ABC News. Retrieved November 10, 2010, from http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/11/11/2416453.htm.
Reilly, A. &Rudd, N. A. (2007). Stress and Dress: Investigating the Relationship Between Social Anxiety
and Appearance Management Among Gay and Straight Men. Journal of Homosexuality, 52: 3, 151 —166. Retrieved November 9, 2010, from http://pdfserve.informaworld.com.proxy2.lib.umanitoba.ca/179576_770885140_902709645.pdf.