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Concordia ("harmony"): goddess of agreement, understanding, and marital harmony.
February 4, 2011 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Physiological Impacts of Homophobia. 'New research from Concordia University suggests that the stress of being rejected or victimized because of sexual orientation may disrupt hormonal responses in lesbians, gays and bisexuals. ''Compared to their heterosexual peers, suicide rates are up to 14 times higher among lesbian, gay and bisexual high school and college students''Michael Benibgui, who led this investigation says abnormal cortisol activity in LGB youth, combined with the vicious cycle of stress, could be further influenced by a complex set of biological, psychological and social factors. “This study shows a clear relation between abnormal cortisol levels and environmental stressors related to homophobia,” he says.'

'Benibgui also identified protective factors that can help safeguard mental health in young gays, lesbians and bisexuals. His research confirms that social support from parents and peers have protective effects.

“LGB young adults who experienced more homophobic discrimination, yet felt accepted and supported by their peers, showed very few symptoms of depression,” he says.

These findings underline the impact – both physical and mental – that homophobia may have on LGB young adults. “The effect on mental health of bullying in schools has received much attention,” says Benibgui. “Our study supports the notion that homophobic bullying can lead to physical and mental health problems.” '

'Preventative interventions are needed to protect vulnerable lesbian, gay or bisexual youth, Benibgui stresses, to discourage homophobic and heterosexist behaviours from peers and communities.

Paul Hastings, a former Concordia psychology professor who supervised Benibgui’s thesis research, says this study should push the conversation about the impact of homophobia. '
posted by VikingSword (44 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
But, but, but ..... it's a lifestyle choice and those gay kids can tamp down their out-of-whack cortisol levels if they just pray on it hard enough!!! Praise Jesus!
posted by blucevalo at 10:26 AM on February 4, 2011


.
posted by leviathan3k at 10:27 AM on February 4, 2011


Any environmental stress would raise cortisol levels, surely?

I reckon "don't be mean to people" lessons at school shouldn't stop when a child gets able to talk in complete sentences.
posted by Solomon at 10:41 AM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


I am grateful that someone has done this research to definitively prove that homophobia inflicts real suffering. I am deeply saddened that it is necessary to solicit scientific evidence rather than (increasingly less and less) common human decency to convince of this conclusion.
posted by mister-o at 10:41 AM on February 4, 2011 [22 favorites]


I think it's important to point out the limitations of some people's dismissal of casual homophobia - "sticks and stones won't break my bones, but words can never hurt me." They very well might.
posted by VikingSword at 10:42 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


“This study shows a clear relation between abnormal cortisol levels and environmental stressors related to homophobia,” he says.'

How about all the confounding variables....oh, i get it. This is one of those 'WHOA' results that was published for the media so he could become famous. I wish there was clear science in there though.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:45 AM on February 4, 2011


“LGB young adults who experienced more homophobic discrimination, yet felt accepted and supported by their peers, showed very few symptoms of depression,” he says.

If you're looking for a silver lining (or an action item), it's this: support, support, support. Do it every single day.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:48 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


You know what I would donate real money to?
A sort of panic button system whereby a gay kid feels at the end of his rope, clicks on some site somewhere and a team of awesome gay dudes dispatches to his city and takes him to the nearest big city gay district for the weekend. Show him that it's not only not the end of the world but very possibly the beginning of them entering a way radder new one.

It's a silly daydream but I like it
posted by Senor Cardgage at 10:55 AM on February 4, 2011 [30 favorites]


as an adult queer-identified person who went through this (and i still do), and as a person working in the world of domestic violence advocacy, where we say that "the bruises may heal, but the words stay with us," i didn't need a study to prove this. i've lived it and seen it.

and even with that being the case, it still breaks my heart.

hopefully this research will lead to more $$$ for grassroots and national organizations taking on trans- and homophobia (research often paves the way for the benjamins to follow), and more action by allies and other communities. and more of us (regular folks) doing something about it, instead of sitting on the sidelines.
posted by anya32 at 10:59 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


How about all the confounding variables....oh, i get it. This is one of those 'WHOA' results that was published for the media so he could become famous. I wish there was clear science in there though.

What is the basis of your assumption that the researchers didn't compensate for confounding variables? It's quite common practice in psychological research and the techniques for doing so become progressively more sophisticated. And "published for the media so he could become famous?" What a bullshit thing to say. It's someone's PhD thesis being reported on his college's website. Your knee-jerk hostility is really weird here.
posted by nanojath at 11:03 AM on February 4, 2011 [14 favorites]


A sort of panic button system whereby a gay kid feels at the end of his rope, clicks on some site somewhere and a team of awesome gay dudes dispatches to his city and takes him to the nearest big city gay district for the weekend.

That would make a good Intervention-style reality show.
posted by fuq at 11:14 AM on February 4, 2011 [7 favorites]


That would make a good Intervention-style reality show.

"It's the... GAY PANIC DEFENSE SQUAD!"
posted by hermitosis at 11:17 AM on February 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


NOBODY EXPECTS THE GAY PANIC DEFENSE SQUAD!
posted by Reverend John at 11:24 AM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


and as a person working in the world of domestic violence advocacy, where we say that "the bruises may heal, but the words stay with us," i didn't need a study to prove this. i've lived it and seen it.

but I think that your words were necessary to be said for those of us who struggle with the old adage "sticks and stones etc" because the words do stay, even. Thanks.
posted by infini at 11:35 AM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


"A sort of panic button system whereby a gay kid feels at the end of his rope, clicks on some site somewhere and a team of awesome gay dudes dispatches to his city and takes him to the nearest big city gay district for the weekend."

They should wear capes!

I don't know whether it's just general homophilia plus geekery, but when I read Silver Age comics it's really hard not to see the super-heroism as metaphoric queerdom (which I realize has been the last ten years of X-men comics), especially how the super-heros relate to women and romance in a really weird alternate identity construction way. I'm surprised that there aren't a lot, lot, lot more comics that play the secret identity and passing as super-queer. AND THEN THEY SAVE ALL THE STRAIGHT PEOPLE DESPITE THEM BEING DICKS.

Sorry for the derail.
posted by klangklangston at 11:40 AM on February 4, 2011 [10 favorites]


This will not matter one bit to the narrow minded asshats. They will always find someone to go after - blacks, gays, Hispanics, 7-year old girls with terminal diseases.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 11:48 AM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


thanks (really), infiniti
posted by anya32 at 11:51 AM on February 4, 2011


This will not matter one bit to the narrow minded asshats. They will always find someone to go after - blacks, gays, Hispanics, 7-year old girls with terminal diseases.


No, this is where you've underestimated their sadism. Realize that after reading about this, there is a percentage of people that say "Good. Good. It's working."
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 12:09 PM on February 4, 2011 [6 favorites]



This will not matter one bit to the narrow minded asshats. They will always find someone to go after - blacks, gays, Hispanics, 7-year old girls with terminal diseases.


Amen. Have you noticed that conservatives have already moved on to Muslims, once poll numbers shifted past some threshold toward queer acceptance?
posted by msalt at 12:20 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


This will not matter one bit to the narrow minded asshats. They will always find someone to go after - blacks, gays, Hispanics, 7-year old girls with terminal diseases.

from my experience working on various levels of legislation (local, state), except for the honest reality that sometimes you are working with people who simply will not move in your direction, the opposition always asks, "where is the evidence or proof for this?" they ask this, even though we all know, anectdotally and from common sense, what is going on.

i can't even count the number of times i have been in a meeting pushing for legislation and the response from my primary opposition (or the legislator) is "well, we need to study this to better understand it." (aka, delay, delay, delay!)

i think this will make a difference. maybe "the opposition" will move on to a new topic, but it will make a difference in this context. especially in wanting to change education policy, research is important.
posted by anya32 at 12:22 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


clicks on some site somewhere and a team of awesome gay dudes dispatches to his city and takes him to the nearest big city gay district for the weekend.

How could you resist pushing that button every week?
posted by small_ruminant at 12:31 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


How could you resist pushing that button every week?


Therein lies the conundrum. You'd have to vet it somehow.

Hell, I am hetero and I'd click that button more often than I should.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:40 PM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


A sort of panic button system whereby a gay kid feels at the end of his rope, clicks on some site somewhere and a team of awesome gay dudes dispatches to his city and takes him to the nearest big city gay district for the weekend. Show him that it's not only not the end of the world but very possibly the beginning of them entering a way radder new one.

Well, that would work if the gay kid were male, cute, and fit in with the predominant look and style of the day in the big city gay district, and didn't mind having a lot of unwanted and inappropriate attention. If not, not so much. The big city gay district is not really the first place I'd imagine most kids in that situation would want to go if they wanted to feel a sense of belonging. The bar scene is a bad venue to learn about urban gay life. The non-profit LGBT community center scene is not the most accurate reflection of urban gay life either, except in a very narrow sense.

I was a gay kid once and I moved to the big city gay district to find out what it was I'd been missing and to get a sense of that "community" I'd read so much about. It was indeed overwhelming and life-changing -- but in some ways, not so much for the good. What I really could have used were the team of awesome gay dudes to whom you refer, or even just one -- to give me a friendly smile and tell me, "Hey, blucevalo, this stretch of boulevard is the public face of urban gay life. It's glamorous, and it can be fun, but watch out. You can take it or leave it. Me, I left it, and so did many of my friends, and we're perfectly happy, normal people. Here's what I'm doing now, and here is the way I make my adult gay life work, unafraid, well-adjusted, living day to day."
posted by blucevalo at 12:40 PM on February 4, 2011 [20 favorites]


Call me when this fellow manages to get any of this published in a peer-reviewed journal.
posted by docgonzo at 12:41 PM on February 4, 2011


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8v9ckeF4Y_g
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:52 PM on February 4, 2011


Point taken blucevalo.
Didn't mean to trivialize things with my admittedly outside perspective.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 12:53 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am grateful that someone has done this research to definitively prove that homophobia inflicts real suffering. I am deeply saddened that it is necessary to solicit scientific evidence rather than (increasingly less and less) common human decency to convince of this conclusion.

To me, the sad thing is that the kind of people who hate homosexuals are not the kind of people who look to scientific studies to inform their opinions about things.

I don't know how to reach that kind of person, but unfortunately, I suspect this is not it.
posted by edguardo at 12:58 PM on February 4, 2011


Related study -- "The NTDS is the first large-scale national study of discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming Americans ... An astonishing 41% of respondents reported attempting suicide, compared to only 1.6% of the general population."
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:02 PM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


(Also published today.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 1:02 PM on February 4, 2011


Didn't mean to trivialize things with my admittedly outside perspective.

I apologize -- I didn't mean to imply that you were trivializing anything. As I said, I like your image of the team of awesome gay dudes. They would have made my life a million times better if they'd been around when I was 17.
posted by blucevalo at 1:11 PM on February 4, 2011


No it's good. You gave me some great insight there :)
posted by Senor Cardgage at 1:25 PM on February 4, 2011


I am so, so grateful for this study. The nation has been talking for months — and many of us have been talking for years — about higher suicide rates among LGBT youth. But there had never been an academic study with sound results. There had never been firm results showing clearly the great problem in this country, and the need for dramatic change in schools and churches and homes. There had never been statistics.

Now we know: LGB teens are up to 14 times more likely to take their own lives.

Jesus.
posted by Sfving at 1:57 PM on February 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Senor Cardgage: "A sort of panic button system whereby a gay kid feels at the end of his rope, clicks on some site somewhere and a team of awesome gay dudes dispatches to his city and takes him to the nearest big city gay district for the weekend."

I would only support this if they arrive by rappelling down from a helicopter.
posted by brundlefly at 2:14 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bigotry is irrational. A bigots mind wont be changed by this or any study. The steamroller of time will simply plow over their bigoted ass and one day they will wake up a miserable, hateful old person shaking their fist at a world more beautiful than theirs ever was.
posted by munchingzombie at 2:29 PM on February 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


A sort of panic button system whereby a gay kid feels at the end of his rope, clicks on some site somewhere and a team of awesome gay dudes dispatches to his city and takes him to the nearest big city gay district for the weekend.

Not quite that, but if you have the cash and desire to donate, The Trevor Project seems to be fighting the good fight as a suicide hotline for GLBT teens. GLSEN appears to be the go-to group for supporting in-school activism.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:12 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nice. Thx KirkJobSluder.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 3:18 PM on February 4, 2011


I wonder if one day cortisol levels (or some other biochemical marker) will be measured from people, just after being harassed, bullied, threatened, etc., to determine a scientifically measurable amount of stress that person experienced, and compare that to an average baseline of that same person. As technology progresses, real-time biometric metering could be possible in years to come.

Why? For scientific research and study, naturally.

However, I can see that some time after that, it may be misappropriated by lawyers to indicate the level of fear incited by an attacker.

"You see, my client may have spoken harshly, but the court can plainly see that the actual physical response of the plaintiff is nowhere near the levels of fear of immediate death, or immediate attack, so his request for damages should be denied..."

Or inversely, someone could artificially induce such a state, have it logged, and use it as evidence against someone in a falsely charged case.

Or even "I know my child was misbehaving in class, but your stern lecture set off his cortisol alarm, and I am charging my child's teacher with assault."

Of course, this is all speculative, and a long time off if it ever would happen.

I am glad research like this is finally being done, and the evidence presented here can be used to inform people who may just brush off the real physical effects of threats and harassment who cannot see the injuries those acts cause. However, I am always a bit wary of how 'single biochemical markers' such as these may be misused by a public that does not fully understand the science behind research like this, and will try and use these results out of context to suit their own ends, from both the bullies and the bullied.

This research, and more like it, can do a immense deal of good for people. Just be wary of who is using it, and more importantly, what are their motives.
posted by chambers at 3:58 PM on February 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cortisol research is pretty tricky to do in real life, though, and it's affected by all kinds of things, like time of day, how long you ate previously, etc. In the lab it's pretty simple to standardize, but in the real world it would be more difficult to actually use it in any real way I think.
posted by bizzyb at 5:13 PM on February 4, 2011


For those of you who pointed out that scientific studies are not going to change the minds of bigoted homophobes: you are probably right. But that doesn't mean studies like these can't effect real positive change in the sense that it may lead them to think twice about how they express that homophobia.

Back in 2000, my cousin shot herself in a motel room rather than go home after graduating from college. Now, as bigoted as her parents were, the last thing they wanted was for their daughter to die. They may have hated that she was a lesbian (and continue to do so), but I know for certain they deeply regret having ever driven her to such a desperate and tragic end. Studies like these, even if they don't address the irrational basis of homophobia, at the very least force people to consider the potential consequences of their actions. This counts especially when it comes to family members, who might still feel some semblance of love toward the people they love to hate.
posted by adso at 6:24 PM on February 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


They should wear capes!

No capes!
posted by kirkaracha at 6:41 PM on February 4, 2011


What is the basis of your assumption that the researchers didn't compensate for confounding variables? It's quite common practice in psychological research and the techniques for doing so become progressively more sophisticated. And "published for the media so he could become famous?" What a bullshit thing to say. It's someone's PhD thesis being reported on his college's website. Your knee-jerk hostility is really weird here.

My basis for my first assumption is that this study isnt even published. Its a dissertation which about 10 people may have fully read. Whenever I hear of something fantastic in research, my knee-jerk reaction is to say "ok, what group of really stringent editors published this?". The answer to that question her is "none".

The real question here is why is this publicized but not published?

I'm sorry that you consider a critical response to research "bullshit". But I consider it the soul of science to not believe anything unless they show their data and research...even if the results back up something I support.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:57 AM on February 5, 2011


For those of you who pointed out that scientific studies are not going to change the minds of bigoted homophobes: you are probably right. But that doesn't mean studies like these can't effect real positive change in the sense that it may lead them to think twice about how they express that homophobia.


Knee jerk hostility is the first line of argument for bigots who respond irrationally. More dangerous are when they have the power to force their arguments into policy decisions. Herd mentality whipped up by fear is not a new phenomenon. We have seen this in public life. Now when we face it in private life, it becomes a personalized attack. There is no way to reason with such people. Can they be stopped? Again, perhaps on a policy level but that takes time to implement. In the meantime, the greater the number of people who are aware of what is going on, the easier it makes the cross to bear. [My experience is from first hand institutionalized xenophobia]
posted by infini at 1:40 AM on February 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Call me when this fellow manages to get any of this published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Damn straight.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:22 AM on February 5, 2011


"my knee-jerk reaction is to say 'ok, what group of really stringent editors published this?'"

I hate to break this to you, but as someone who looks up and fixes citations and bibliographies for various papers-in-progress, I can tell you that those "really stringent editors" aren't actually very stringent.

Observing how bibliographic errors get replicated over the years through many authors and publications shows you not only that many scientists are just copy/pasting the bibliographies of other journal articles (so who knows if they actually read the articles they're citing?) but that the peer reviewers and editors aren't even checking the cited references to verify that they say/support what the author claims they say/support, because if they had checked they would discover that the author got the title, year, first author, or name spellings wrong (and thus would presumably fix those errors before the article went to press).

Plus there's been a few times when I couldn't even verify that a widely cited reference even existed and when I queried the authors of the article I was working on for a copy it turned out that none of them had one or could remember why or by whom the citation was originally added because the erroneous or incomplete citation came from some boilerplate text and/or reference management database passed along to them by other researchers many years ago and they'd never bothered to double-check it.

I have lost my faith in scientists' attention to detail, which makes me suspect the accuracy of a lot of their other work.

And don't even get me started about how most published psychological research is really just studies about what American college students who either need a fast $20 or extra credit in their Psychology 101 class think. The inherent sampling bias of that demographic is ridiculous.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:59 PM on February 5, 2011


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