The link between rumination about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity and negative mental health symptoms is influenced by how connected LGBTQ people feel to the LGBTQ community, according to a new study published in Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity.
Those who felt disconnected from the LGBTQ community during Donald Trump’s presidency were more likely to experience negative impacts on their mental health than those who had an average connection to the community. An unexpected finding was that those who felt highly connected to the LGBTQ community were also more likely to experience negative mental health effects compared to those with an average level of connectedness.
Researchers were motivated to explore the topic of community connections between LGBTQ people, recognizing that such connections could play a crucial role in their psychological well-being. Previous research had suggested that association with a minority community such as the LGBTQ community may protect against anxiety and depressive symptoms and lead to positive mental health outcomes such as increased self-esteem and resilience.
The aim of the study was to examine the impact of community connections, particularly in political and social events that marginalized LGBTQ people. The Trump administration was specifically chosen as a focal point because it was known for proposing state and federal legislation aimed at restricting the rights of persons belonging to sexual and gender minorities.
The researchers recognized the importance of the Trump administration’s investigation in the context of LGBTQ mental health as it presented a stark contrast to the previous Obama administration. Significant advances in LGBTQ rights and protections were made during the Obama administration. The abrupt shift in the political climate from progress to potential regression could have profound implications for LGBTQ people’s mental health.
To conduct their study, the researchers recruited a sample of 250 sexual or gender minority adults living in the United States. The participants were predominantly white and between 18 and 61 years old. Researchers used online recruitment methods and posted announcements on social media sites and online message boards targeted at LGBTQ people. Participants were asked to complete a survey that assessed various aspects of their mental health and connection to the community.
To measure community connection, the researchers used scales that rated each person’s experience of connecting to the LGBTQ community and the impact of anti-LGBTQ climate on their mental health. They also used scales to measure rumination specific to sexual or gender minority identity (e.g., “I think about everything that I don’t have because of my sexual orientation”). Data collection took place from March to June 2018 as part of a larger study of LGBTQ people’s experiences during the Trump administration.
Researchers found that the association between rumination about sexual orientation or gender identity and negative mental health symptoms was influenced by community connection, albeit in more complex ways than previously thought.
Contrary to the assumption that stronger connection to the community is always better for mental health, the study found that among participants who felt strongly connected to the LGBTQ community, the association between rumination and negative mental health symptoms was stronger. This means that being connected to the community does not necessarily protect against negative mental health consequences.
“The results of the present study have important implications for consultants and clinicians. The results presented here suggest that some clients who feel disconnected or isolated from the LGBTQ community may experience more severe negative mental health outcomes than those who feel more average closeness to the community,” write the author Researchers.
“That is, for those individuals who scored within one standard deviation of the mean for community connectedness, community connection worked as previous studies said it should work — the closer a person felt to community, the fewer negative mental health consequences they would have.” received. Conversely, however, some people may experience increased rumination when they feel they are very close to the LGBTQ community. This could be due to shared ruminations within the LGBTQ community.”
Interestingly, community connection did not dilute the association between gender identity rumination and mental health in transgender people. In other words, among transgender participants, their sense of connectedness with the LGBTQ community did not have a significant impact on the impact of rumination on their mental health.
These results suggest that factors other than community connection may have a greater impact on transgender people’s mental health. However, it is important to note that the study included a smaller sample size of transgender participants, which may limit the generalizability of these results.
The researchers also noted that participants in this study may have been influenced by negative experiences related to anti-LGBTQ events during Trump’s presidency. Future research should examine how community connections work in different policy contexts and consider the impact of longer anti-LGBTQ administrations or more supportive administrations.
The study “LGBTQ Rumination, Anxiety, Depression, and Community Connection During Trump’s Presidency” was authored by Lex Pulice-Farrow, Kirsten A. Gonzalez, and G. Tyler Lefevor.