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LGBTQ+ Psychology

LGBTQ+ Psychology

Photo by Lidya Nada on Unsplash

LGBTQ+ psychology, often referred to as the psychology of sexual orientation and gender diversity, is an emerging field that examines the experiences, issues, and mental health needs of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or other non-heteronormative sexual and gender identities. This field seeks to understand the unique psychological experiences of these individuals while challenging entrenched notions of gender and sexuality in psychological research and practice.

Historical context

Historically, non-heteronormative sexual and gender identities have been pathologised in psychological and medical literature. For example, homosexuality was classified as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) until 1973 (American Psychiatric Association, 1973). It then remained a diagnosis in the International Classification of Diseases until the new tenth version (ICD-10) was published in 1990, in which it was depathologised. These changes have occurred largely due to shifts in our understanding of human sexual diversity, and this would probably not have been possible without the significant human rights efforts that have been made in the process. This historical context underlines the importance of LGBTQ+ psychology as a corrective and inclusive field of study.

Key areas of interest

  • Mental health: Research shows that LGBTQ+ people often face higher rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health problems due to social stigma and discrimination (Meyer, 2003; Pitoňák 2017, 2022).
  • Development of identity: It is essential to understand the processes by which people discover and embrace their LGBTQ+ identity. This includes the process of ‘coming out’, which can pose a significant emotional and psychological challenge.
  • Intersectionality: LGBTQ+ psychology also explores how sexual and gender identities intersect with other identities such as race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, leading to complex experiences of discrimination or privilege (Crenshaw, 1989).
  • Affirmative therapy: This therapeutic approach emphasises the importance of accepting and affirming LGBTQ+ identities, challenging societal prejudices and addressing the specific mental health needs of this target group (Crisp, 2006).

Challenges and future fields of interest

Although significant progress has been made in this field of study, challenges still remain. There is a need for more inclusive research that represents diversity within LGBTQ+ communities, including non-binary, asexual and intersex people. Furthermore, as societal attitudes and policies evolve, the psychological needs and challenges faced by these groups will continue to change, requiring ongoing research and adaptation. LGBTQ+ psychology is an important and developing field that seeks to understand, support and empower the diverse experiences of LGBTQ+ people. As understanding of gender and sexuality increases within society, the importance of the field will continue to grow.

References to literature:

Clarke, V., Ellis, J. S., Peel, E., & Riggs, D. (2010). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer Psychology An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN-13 978-0-521-87666-7.

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antiracist politics. In u. Chi. Legal f. (pp. 139-168).

Crisp, C. (2006). The Gay Affirmative Practice Scale (GAP): A new measure for assessing cultural competence with gay and lesbian clients. Social Work, 51(2), 115-126.

Goldberg, A. E. (Ed.). (2016). The SAGE encyclopedia of LGBTQ studies. SAGE publications.

Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychol Bull, 129(5), 674-697.

Meyer, I. H., & Mary, E. (2007). The health of sexual minorities: Public health perspectives on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations.

Patterson, C. J., & D’Augelli, A. R. (Eds.). (2013). Handbook of psychology and sexual orientation. Oxford University Press, USA.

Pitoňák, M. (2017). Mental health in non-heterosexuals: Minority stress theory and related explanation frameworks review. Mental Health & Prevention, 5, 63-73.

Pitoňák, M. (2022). Menšinový stres v perspektivě zdravotních nerovností mezi heterosexuálními a neheterosexuálními lidmi. Psychiatrie pro praxi, 23(2), 100-104.

Richards, C., & Barker, M. J. (Eds.). (2015). The Palgrave handbook of the psychology of sexuality and gender. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Smalley, K. B., Warren, J. C., & K Nikki Barefoot, P. (Eds.). (2017). LGBT health: Meeting the needs of gender and sexual minorities. Springer Publishing Company.

autor příspěvku:
RNDr. Michal Pitoňák, Ph.D.
posl. aktualizace (srpen 2023)