Sexual & Gender Minority Stigma

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The GBQT community is comprised of a rich diversity of individuals who identify all along the sexual and gender identity continuums. And although gay, cisgender guys are still sexual minorities and do face stigma and discrimination, they are also the largest subgroup within the broader GBQT community. A lot of power and privilege come with being the dominant subgroup within a minority so it’s important not to use that power and privilege in such a way – however unintentionally – to further stigmatize and marginalize other, smaller subgroups within the community.

For example, when we look at sexual orientation, a systematic review of sexual minority mental health studies found that bisexual guys were at higher risk for conditions such as depression, anxiety, and suicide compared to their gay counterparts. This was linked to the fact that they were more likely to experience some form of rejection from both straight and gay communities.1 With about one in four guys who responded to the Sex Now Survey in Edmonton identifying as bisexual, we need to ask ourselves what impact exclusion and stigma might be having on even smaller subgroups such as people who identify as pansexual or asexual.

In regards to gender identity, it has been clearly shown that people who identify along the transgender spectrum experience widespread stigma both inside and outside of the LGBTQ community. Gender minority stigma – or transphobia – has been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and overall psychological stress.2 Additionally, members of the trans community also tend to experience higher structural barriers which limit their access to important things like education and employment opportunities, as well as competent healthcare.3

In 2014, the Canadian AIDS Society completed a Trans Needs Assessment, surveying more than 450 trans individuals across the country. Here were some of their findings:4

  • More than half of respondents made less than $20,000 in pre-tax income in the last 12 months
  • One in five were not out to any of their healthcare providers
  • One in six were not out to any of their family members
  • 85% had been harassed for being trans; 22% physically assaulted; 19% sexually assaulted
  • More than 10% stated that they did not feel safe in their own homes

So, what can we as a community do in order to combat the further stigmatization and of sexual and gender minorities within our own community? First of all, don’t make assumptions. The TransPulse Survey in Ontario found that 44% of aboriginal respondents identified as Two-Spirited5 whereas the Canadian AIDS Society Trans Needs Assessment found that one in four respondents identified as qenderqueer.4 Additionally, misgendering trans people has been shown to be psychologically disruptive, stigmatizing, and lead to lower self-esteem.3

Finally, be a good ally. This goes beyond just not making assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Speak up when you see transphobia in action. Work to ensure LGBTQ spaces truly are safe and inclusive for smaller subgroups within our community. As an LGBTQ community we have asked the general population to listen to us, recognize our needs, and be good allies. So, when smaller subgroups within our own community ask for the same, it’s important that their calls aren’t ignored.

  1. Plöderl M, Tremblay P. Mental health of sexual minorities. A systematic review. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2015;0261(November):1-19. doi:10.3109/09540261.2015.1083949.
  2. Bockting, Walter O., Michael H. Miner, Rebecca E. Swinburne Romine, Autumn Hamilton, and Eli Coleman. “Stigma, Mental Health, and Resilience in an Online Sample of the US Transgender Population.” Am J Public Health American Journal of Public Health5 (2013): 943-51.
  3. Mclemore, Kevin A. “Experiences with Misgendering: Identity Misclassification of Transgender Spectrum Individuals.” Self and Identity1 (2014): 51-74.
  4. Scruton, S. Trans Needs Assessment Report (2014) Canadian AIDS Society, Ottawa, ON
  5. Ayden I. Scheim Randy Jackson Liz James T. Sharp Dopler Jake Pyne Greta R. Bauer , (2013),”Barriers to well-being for Aboriginal gender-diverse people: results from the Trans PULSE Project in Ontario, Canada”, Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, Vol. 6 Iss 4 pp. 108 – 120.