The Many Faces of Stigma and Its Impact on Help Seeking Behaviors Among Sexual and Gender Minorities

November 20, 2020

Transgender Day of Remembrance is a day to draw attention to the ongoing experiences of violence against transgender individuals. One of the sources of transphobia is negative stigma surrounding what it means to be transgender, which not only impacts level of violence and victimization experienced, but also can also negatively influence employment, healthcare, and mental health.

Stigma takes on many forms, from systemic barriers to health care utilization, to prejudice and poor treatment of a particular group or identity, and internalized feelings of doubt or shame[1]. A growing body of research seeks to address the impact that different levels of stigma has on help seeking behaviors among sexual and gender minorities (SGM), as it is a major driver of health disparities.

Minority stress theory, as outlined by the RTI researchers (link below), suggests that SGM experience unique and chronic stigma-related stress that increases their risk for poor health conditions. In this RTI report entitled A systematic review of stigma in sexual and gender minority health interventions, researchers found in their review of stigma-focused research related to SGM that stigma research has traditionally focused on HIV- or mental health-related stigma among male SGM. This study highlights this gap and discusses the need for an intersectional lens within stigma research, including the intersections of SGM identities with race, location, and religion, among other identities.

“Few interventions developed content designed to address the intersection of multiple identities and none quantitatively assessed stigma intersectionally.”

Without considering these intersecting experiences of stigma, interventions risk losing out on opportunities to effectively address potential health disparities experienced by SGM. Even more, studies that do not adequately take stigma into account or do not consider the role of intersecting identities and stigma have the potential of worsening already existing health disparities.

Read the full report here.

[1] CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/reducing-stigma.html