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An analysis of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic experiences on a young person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and mental wellbeing.
- What forms of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia do LGBT+ young people experience?
- How do those experiences relate to sexual orientation, and/or gender identity, and/or mental wellbeing?
- What are the impacts that arise from these experiences and what would help young people to address these?
- How does the theory of oppression explain these experiences?
Sexual Orientation is defined as the emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people (Human Rights Campaign, 2018).
Gender Identity is defined as how individuals perceive themselves, their concept of self as female, male, both or neither (Human Rights Campaign, 2018).
Mental wellbeing is defined as how well they can cope with everyday life, how they are feeling and their mental state (MIND, 2013)
Background and Purpose 400
Over the last fifty years the United Kingdom has come a long way in recognising equality for the LGBT+ community. In 1967, the Sexual Offences Act partially decriminalised homosexuality (Tatchell, 2017) and in 2003 the section 28 clause was repealed (Sommerlad, 2018). The Equality Act 2010 currently protects sexual orientation and gender reassignment from discrimination (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2017). However, despite these social movements and changes in the legal system homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and heteronormativity issues are still faced today in society by many LGBT+ people (Ellis, 2007). This is evident when considering Stonewalls School Report, showing nearly half of LGBT+ young people experience bullying because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (Bradlow, Bartram, Guasp, and Jadva, 2017). The report states half of LGBT+ pupils hear homophobic and transphobic language, with a third hearing biphobic language. Consequently, the report states 61-84% of LGBT+ young people have self-harmed and 22-45% have attempted to take their life. With Formby’s (2018) research findings, commissioned by a local organisation, identified 97% of LGBT+ young people need support with mental health and wellbeing, and 92% need help with bullying or discrimination.
For many years the LGBT+ community has faced oppression and stereotypes, prejudicial beliefs and acts of discrimination which still result in homophobia, biphobia and transphobia today (Bradlow, Bartram, Guasp, and Jadva, 2017). The cycle of oppression (Schmidt, 1994) suggests stereotypes are the justification for prejudicial beliefs. Consequently, it is when these beliefs are acted upon that discrimination occurs. The cycle suggests it is when many acts of discrimination occur that oppression is formed. Thompson’s (1997) PCS Model of oppression suggests there are three levels to explaining power relationships between individuals, groups and society. At the centre of the model, the personal level is a person’s individual views and actions, and how individual prejudice beliefs can be acted upon, subsequently leading to discrimination. The cultural level is when these beliefs and values are shared and there is a consensus about what is right and wrong. This consensus leads to oppression, which is implanted further through the structural level by institutions such as the media or government supporting personal values and cultural norms (Thompson, 2001). Gilchrist 2002 (as cited in Tweelvetrees, 2002) corresponds with Thompson (1997) in that discrimination is caused psychologically, through prejudice and differing values and politically through institutional power. Furthermore, Gilchirst 2002 (as cited in Twelvetrees, 2002) suggests practical access issues may play a role. In turn, the cycle of oppression suggests it is when individuals, who are oppressed, begin to believe the given stereotypes, the oppression becomes internalised and the cycle is reinforced (Schmidt, 1994).
When considering internalised oppression, Bowler, Buchroth and Parkin (2013) suggest identities, both personal and social, are distinguished in the way individuals are grouped, and the attributions associated with those groups. Bowler, Buchroth and Parkin (2013) call this the labelling theory and suggest, similar to stereotypes, labels can become internalised. Within the LGBT+ community this can manifest in internalised homophobia, biphobia and transphobia causing internal conflict (Plummer, 1999). When considering oppression and labels, it is important to recognise that intersectionality (Cole, 2009) as sexual orientation and gender identity are only part of an individual’s identity (Bowler, Buchroth and Parkin, 2013).
Past research by Buston and Flowers (2001), found homophobia and heteronormativity played a key part when they interviewed homosexual men about their identity formation during adolescence. In conjunction with this, a study using open-ended questionnaires found nearly half of young people’s families and fellow students had reacted negatively to their sexual identity expressing homophobic prejudices (Telljohann and Price, 1993). Nagoshi et al. (2008) found a high correlation between those who hold prejudice homophobic and transphobic views.
Furthermore, a longitudinal study by Rosario, Schrimshaw, Hunter and Braun (2006) explored the sexual identity of young people. They found young people who consistently identified as the same sexual orientation showed higher rates of being comfortable and accepting of their own sexual identity; had positive attitude towards homosexuality and bisexuality, showing more resistance towards external and internal homophobia and biphobia, compared to those who did not. Similarly, a study by Rowen and Malcolm (2008) found a correlation between high levels of internalised homophobia and low sexual identity formation, self-esteem and emotional stability. This suggests internalised homophobia negatively effects mental wellbeing. In conjunction, a study by Nemoto, Bodeker and Iwamoto (2010) found a correlation between transphobia, depression, suicidal ideation and levels of education.
Additionally, McDermott, Roen and Scourfield (2008) found a strong relationship between homophobia and self-destructive behaviours. Furthermore, Dick (2009) suggests homophobic prejudices often result in hate crimes. Herek, Gillis, Cogan and Glunt (1997) implied those who had experience homophobic hate crimes demonstrated increased levels of anxiety, depression, anger and stress suggesting an impact on their mental wellbeing.
Furthermore, a report by Meyer (2003) studied the prevalence of poor mental wellbeing in homosexual and bisexual communities with findings suggesting increased rates in comparison to heterosexuals due to homophobia and biphobia. Meyer (2003) found these experiences of oppression to be intimidating and stressful resulting in anticipation of rejection, suppression of sexual orientation and internalised homophobia and biphobia.
In addition, Bowers, Plummer and Minichiello, (2007) found not only experiences of homophobia, but the fear of a homophobic experience to have an influential impact on participants. With Plummer (1999) suggesting experiences of homophobia and biphobia shaping one’s identity, often with life-long consequences, Lombardi (2009) infers transphobic experiences can have a powerful impact on an individual.
Throughout the literature, there is a clear association between the formation of sexual orientation and the effects of homophobia and biphobia. Whilst there is vast research on this subject area, and evidence of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia having a negative impact on one’s mental wellbeing, there is little research around gender identity and transphobia. This research project will further explore this gap in the literature, whilst also exploring the young person’s view point, different types of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia experienced and how this relates to a young person’s own gender identity and sexual orientation, furthermore, the impact of these experiences on their mental wellbeing.
The ontological approach used for this research will be relativism and the epistemology framework will be constructionism. Relativism ontology will be used as the findings from this research will look for meaning in individuals experiences and their own realities rather than exploring one single reality (Baghramian, 2004). Braun and Clarke (2014) suggest one’s own reality is not universal, it is fluid and changes over time. Burr (2003) states constructionism is applying meaning to interactions and social environment to construct our own way of knowing the world. Furthermore, Gergen (1999) says knowledge is dependent on social, moral, political, cultural and an ideological situation rather than there being one absolute true knowledge. Therefore, when looking at experiences of LGBT+ young people, their own experiences and understanding may change how they perceive their own sexual or gender identity.
A qualitative approach will be used as the focus is on understanding meaning rather than testing a hypothesis to give one true answer (Matthews and Ross, 2010). This research is dependent on context and meaning unlike quantitative data; the aim of this research is not for replication (Braun and Clarke, 2006), rather trustworthiness and authenticity. Qualitative data is subjective and open to interpretivism. Quantitative researchers suggest subjectivity can lead to biased findings, however qualitative researchers argue such bias occurs due to our own experiences and it is important to encompass these rather than rejecting them (Maykut and Morehouse, 1994). Qualitative approaches, unlike quantitative approaches, allow for openness meaning, enabling in-depth, rich and detailed data (Plummer, 2001).
Interviews will be used to generate data, meaning the method for collecting the data will be experimental. Semi-structured interviews will be used as they allow for flexibility enabling the researcher to maintain a level of control whilst still being able to probe, increasing the likelihood of useful data (Denscombe, 2017). Compared to questionnaires, interviews have the advantage of the researcher being able to probe and recognise non-verbal cues, as the topic is sensitive, which may encourage participates to engage, through a guided conversation (Fielding and Thomas, 2008). In comparison to unstructured interviews, semi-structured interviews follow an agenda allowing for comparable data whilst empowering interviewees to express their own perspectives and opinions (Bernard, 1988).
The findings will be analysed through a thematic analysis methodology (Braun and Clarke, 2006). Thematic analysis enables rich, in-depth and complex descriptions of the findings, whilst remaining a simple methodology (Braun and Clarke, 2006). This will be done through exploring and examining patterns within the data.
Participants, Procedure and Materials
Participants will be recruited dependent on their sexual orientation and gender identity. Therefore, the sampling strategy used will be purposive as it will be deliberate, and participants will be selected to generate ‘information rich’ data rather than generalisability (Patton, 2002). As interviews will be used to generate data only a small number of participants will be needed to generate sufficient data (Braun and Clarke, 2006). It is my aim to use eight participants over the age of years and ex-service users of an LGBT+ organisation. Permission will be sort frm the organisation before conducting any research.
A non-random, mixed sampling approach (Silverman, 2010) will be used to enhance accessibility as engagement may be challenging due to the vulnerability and stigmatisation (James and Platzer, 1999) of LGBT+ young people. I will use convince sampling, who is assessable at the time and snowball sampling, by advertising the research in LGBT+ social venues, once a participant responds, further participates will be gained through networking.
Overt participation will mean participants can choose to participate and the motives of the research will be known (Bryman, 2008). Prior to participants taking part in the research they will be required to read an information sheet, give informed consent and understand their right to withdraw. The interviews will take place in a central location where they will be conducted in a quiet, secure environment where the participants feel safe and comfortable to express their responses without being disturbed. The interview will consist of different styles of questions, such as introducing, follow-up and interpreting questions (Kvale, 1996). A list of questions will be used to allow for the exploration of participants experiences. A password protected mobile phone will be used to record the interview. Participants will be informed when the interview is concluded and given a debrief form reassuring confidentiality and providing self-help information.
This research will follow the BERA (2018) ethical guidelines and will adhere to the GDPR (2018) guidelines when storing data. Ethical issues to be considered are informed consent, the right to withdraw, minimisation of harm and confidentiality and anonymity (Birch and Miller, 2012; Bryman, 2008).
As the research is qualitative, the risk of harm is broader than for quantitative data due to is complexity (Hammersley and Traianou, 2012) and as the research is sensitive in nature there is further risk of potential harm (Gough et al., 2013). Therefore, it is important not take any undue risks or intrusions. The distress to a participant should be no greater than that of everyday life in order to minimise harm. If this does occur self-help information will be provided through debriefing.
Prior to the interview participates will be aware of their right to withdraw at any given time, given informed consent and debriefed afterwards to avoid causing distress and deception. Weatherall, Gavey and Potts (2002) suggest this to be more complex for qualitative data as it is open-ended. This shall be done by participants signing two forms, one will be kept by the participant and the other shall be kept by the researcher and securely stored, alongside the data collected. This will remain confidential and be password protected (Braun and Clarke, 2013). The data collected will not disclose any personal information with the aim of anonymity, however Miller and Bell (2012) suggest it important to be aware using real-life phrases and experience may slightly increase this risk. This research will respect the confidentiality and anonymity of participants who will be able to review their data if required and understand how and why it is being stored.
October 2018: Proposal
January 2019: Literature review/methodology
May 2019: Data collection/analysis
June 2019: Write up
July 2019: Final version
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Participant Information Sheet (E3)
Research Project Title: An analysis of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic experiences on a young person’s sexual orientation, gender identity and mental wellbeing.
Thank you for reading this. I am inviting you to take part in my research project. This sheet gives you a little information about it. Please ask me if something isn’t clear.
What is the purpose of the project?
I am doing a project for my dissertation (my ‘Major Study’) which forms part of my university degree. I am interested in gaining insight into the forms of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia experienced by LGBT+ young people. Whether these experiences have an impact on a young person’s sexual or gender identity, and if so, what effect does this have on their mental wellbeing.
Why have I been chosen? You have been selected to take part in this research as you are part of the LGBT+ community and have previously attended a LGBT+ youth organisation.
Do I have to take part?
No, not if you don’t want to. You can also withdraw at any point – you don’t need to say why.
What do I have to do?
You will be invited to take part in an interview. This should take no more than 15 minutes of your time.
Are there any disadvantages to taking part?
No, as far as we know. If you are worried, please talk to me (the researcher) or get in touch with Dr Helen Jones at the University of Huddersfield (01484 478236 / [email protected])
Will all my personal details be kept confidential?
Yes. Any information about you which is collected will be strictly confidential. Data will be anonymised before being used in my Major Study. It will comply with the Data Protection Act and ethical research guidelines and principles.
What will happen to the results of the research study?
The results of this research will be written up in my Major Study and presented for assessment in May 2018. If you would like a copy, please contact me.
Who has reviewed and approved the study, and who can be contacted for further information? Dr Helen Jones, Director of Graduate Education, School of Education and Professional Development, University of Huddersfield (01484 478236 / [email protected])
Name and Contact Details of Research:
Harriet Wan-Hallam/[email protected]
University of Huddersfield
School of Education and Professional Development
Participant Consent Form (E4)
Title of Research Study: Do Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic Experience’s Impact on a Young Person’s Sexual or Gender Identity and Emotional Wellbeing.
I confirm that I have read and understood the participant Information sheet related to this research and have had the opportunity to ask questions.
I understand that my participation is voluntary and that I am free to withdraw at any time without giving any reason.
I understand that all my responses will be anonymised, so nobody will know who I am.
I give permission for members of the teaching team to have access to my anonymised responses.
I agree to take part in the above study
Name of Participant:
Signature of Participant:
University of Huddersfield
School of Education and Professional Development
Agency Consent Form (E5)
This form is to be used when consent is sought from those responsible for an organisation or institution for research to be carried out with participants within that organisation or institution. This may include head teachers of schools, departmental heads of colleges, managers of youth work facilities etc.
Title of Research Study: Do Homophobic, Biphobic and Transphobic Experience’s Impact on a Young Person’s Sexual or Gender Identity and Mental Wellbeing.
Brief description of proposed activity and its objectives
Participants will be required to participate in a short, semi-structured interview about their experiences of homophobia, biphobia or transphobia and how these may have impacted upon their own sexual orientation and/or gender identity and/or mental wellbeing. The interview will last approximately ten minutes and be audio record to allow for the data to be transcribe and analysed. The research will use young people who are over the age of 18 and the interviews will take place in the building where the organisation is based.
I confirm that I give permission for this research to be carried out and that permission from all participants will be gained in line within my organisation’s policy.
Name and position of senior manager:
Signature of senior manager:
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