In judgmental contexts, "those who come out may actually feel no better than those who conceal," says Legate.
To measure these different effects, the researchers asked 161 lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals detailed questions about their experiences with five groups: friends, family, coworkers, school peers, and religious community. The participants were recruited from discussion boards, community and social networking web sites, and university LGB alliance listservs. They reported their answers anonymously online.
For each of the five contexts, participants indicated their level of outness, their sense of well-being, and their perceptions of acceptance or "autonomy support". For well-being, they rated the veracity of such statements as: "When I am with my family, I am lonely" or "When I am with my school peers I feel positive about myself." For autonomy support, they agreed or disagreed on a seven-point scale with assertions like: "My coworkers listen to my thoughts and ideas" or "My religious community provides me with choice and options."
Across all contexts, participants were more closeted in environments they rated as controlling and judgmental. They kept their sexual orientation hidden the most in their religious communities (69 percent), schools (50 percent), and at work (45 percent) and were somewhat more open with their families (36 percent). Friends by far represented the most accepting group for most lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals. All but 13 percent of participants had come out to their friends, and they reported feeling significantly less anger and greater self-esteem with friends than with any other group.
The study, which included participants from 18 to 65 years old, found that age made no difference in who comes out. Nor did gender or sexual orientation. Instead, the key determinant for revealing a minority sexual orientation was the supportiveness of the enviro
|Contact: Susan Hagen|
University of Rochester