Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Stress and Dress: Is there a link?

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

MacBean, N. (2008, Nov 11). Bullying 'pushing homosexual students to suicide'. ABC News. Retrieved November 10, 2010, from

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

Dana W


  1. Your blog relates well to the video we watched in class. I was shocked to hear that people who are gay or who are perceived to be, are bullied so severely to the point where the individual thinks about or commits suicide. It shows how the way we treat others affect their self worth to a profound degree.

    Sarah H

  2. The tile of your blog really caught my eye and drew me in to read your post. I agree that we should reduce stigmatization towards the homosexual community; we are all equal and deserve a fair chance despite our appearance or beliefs.

    Autumn B.

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  4. "82% considered taking their own life." That is a huge and very scary statistic. I think that you are right about the fact that the media has recently increased it's attention to teen bullying of people who identify or present as homosexual. In particular a lot of celebrities are speaking out about this issue, which I think is great. It's very obvious that teenagers (as well as adults) are influenced by pop culture and while it is a bit odd, I believe that the victims, the bystanders and the bullies will place some value in the words of respected celebrities. Also, the victims will find comfort in knowing that they are really not alone with this problem. It took too long for the world recognize the severity of this issue, but late is better than never.

    -Crystal M.

  5. Bullying is becoming a national crisis and there has been a great deal of talk homosexual bullying and perceived homosexuality leading to suicide. I was reading on the internet that The statistics show that "suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among those 15 to 25 years of age and the 6th leading cause of death among those 5 to 14 years of age" ( I find this very disturbing that a 5 year old child would ever think of killing themself. I remember just last week watching Dr. Phil about Asher Brown who was just 13 when he killed himself for alleged anti-gay bullying. Children need to be stopped in their tracks for bullying.


  6. interesting. Not all gay men dress and act differently than straight men however. I have two close friends, both of which are gay. One, most people can tell by looking at him and talking to him, he has a great sense of style, and the other you'd have no idea until really getting to know him. It all depends on the person and how comfortable they are with their sexuality.


  7. That is a interesting idea. The heterosexual community has to accept the homosexual community. The community is apart of todays society. The United States has had alot of issues lately with anti-gay bullying and kids are taking their own life, which is tragic.