There are pros and cons to owning a pet as a marginalized individual.
- Since 2018, an ongoing study at the VCU School of Social Work has been analyzing the way pets impact the lives of young LGBTQ individuals.
- From animal-assisted therapy practices to having therapy dogs in schools to reduce anxiety, there are many mental health benefits to animal-human interactions.
- While the majority of current research is being focused on people who are not discriminated against or marginalized by society, this specific study could bring more clarity to how pets positively and negatively impact the lives of young LGBTQ people.
Does human-animal interaction impact a person’s experience and well-being?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzYwOTk3MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzIwNTMzM30.Ds_HSw-0zhZF5YeR89_wjGHIxxFX5_mEwOaJXKXvSQ4/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C103%2C0%2C1&height=700" id="062fe" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="178f39b7a1684e0e36195bcd14d9cdef" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="two women standing in front of the golden gate bridge with their dog" />
From animal-assisted therapies to having dogs visit schools to bring down stress and anxiety levels, there have been many studies that look at the benefits of pet ownership.
Photo by Joshua Resnick on Shutterstock<p>Absolutely. Over the years, many studies have proven the benefits of human-animal interactions. From <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4248608/#:~:text=Studies%20on%20the%20use%20of%20animals%20on%20blood%20pressure.,pressure%20and%20greater%20physical%20activity." target="_blank">animal-assisted therapy practices</a> to having <a href="https://theconversation.com/therapy-dogs-can-help-reduce-student-stress-anxiety-and-improve-school-attendance-93073" target="_blank">therapy dogs in schools to reduce anxiety</a> - there are many mental health benefits to animal-human interactions.</p><p><strong>A similar study has been done on the impact of pets in the lives of older LGBT individuals. </strong></p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6027597/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A different 2018 study</a> explored the role of pets in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults over the age of 50. </p><p>This particular study addressed the following questions: </p><ol><li>How does living with a pet impact perceived social support and social network size? </li><li>How do LGBT older adults describe the meaning of pets in their lives? </li></ol><p>In this study, over 59 percent of participants reported that they have pets and described them in affectionate terms, often referring to them as family. Many individuals classified their pets as "supportive" either by offering companionship or keeping them active and socializing. Many participants explained that their pets help them cope with some form of physical or mental health condition. </p><p><strong>How is this study different?</strong></p><p>The goal of this particular study is to focus on the younger LGBTQ population and to examine how human-animal interactions might impact a person's experience and well-being when faced with victimization over their sexual orientation or identity. Not only that, but this study takes a look at both the positive and negative impacts of having a pet as an LGBTQ individual. </p><p>The vast majority of current research focuses on people who are not discriminated against or marginalized by society. According to the researchers, pets may lead marginalized people to "a path of financial stress and housing instability," which are issues the LGBTQ community already struggles with.</p><p>"Pets can better people's lives," Richards <a href="https://commonwealthtimes.org/2020/09/02/study-probes-relationship-between-lgbt-youth-pets/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">explains to Commonwealth Times</a>, "but it's also been interesting to see the ways in which pets can be stressors for people experiencing homelessness and financial insecurity."</p><p>Shelby McDonald, one of the lead associate professors on the study, has <a href="https://commonwealthtimes.org/2020/09/02/study-probes-relationship-between-lgbt-youth-pets/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">dedicated the last decade of her</a> life to researching the role of animals in the lives of children and has recently turned that focus toward LGBTQ youth. </p><p>As of September 2, the researchers have conducted 164 initial interviews. O'Ryan, one of the student researchers, explains: "We've collected a pretty diverse bunch, but the participants we interviewed have been largely white, cisgender, bisexual women. I wish we had the chance to interview more people of color and more people from diverse gender identities."</p><p>For more information on the study or a change to join as a participant, email firstname.lastname@example.org.</p>
Mexico City, already progressive, takes more steps to protect its LGBT+ citizens.
- Mexico City has just issued a ban protecting its citizens from "conversion therapy."
- "Conversion therapy" is a loose term covering a wide variety of "treatments" which claim to alter a person's sexuality.
- With the law, Mexico City joins a small club of countries, provinces, and municipalities with such a law.
The ashes in the dustbin of history, examined.<p>Conversion therapy refers to a wide array of procedures that ostensibly alter a person's sexual orientation. These can include anything from trying to "pray the gay away" to aversion therapies that border torture. Variations of the idea of curing homosexuality have been around since the dawn of modern psychology. The amount of acceptance that the concept enjoyed waxed and waned as our understanding of sexuality evolved.</p><p>Sigmund Freud famously declared homosexuality "nothing to be ashamed of, no vice, no degradation" in a letter to the mother of a gay man who sought his help in "curing" her son. In the same letter, Freud expressed doubt that any therapy could reliably alter human sexuality in a meaningful <a href="http://www.openculture.com/2014/09/freud-letter-on-homosexuality.html" target="_blank">way</a>. </p><p>His daughter, an influential psychologist in her own right, felt differently, suggesting that such a treatment could exist and describing homosexual tendencies in terms of neurotic illness. In the United States, several psychologists argued that such behavior could be "cured" through a variety of procedures, such as electroshock treatment, lobotomy, aversive conditioning, and confrontational therapy often indistinguishable from <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_therapy#United_States" target="_blank">abuse</a>. </p><p>After <a href="https://bigthink.com/politics-current-affairs/5-times-rioting-worked" target="_blank">Stonewall </a>and the rise of modern views of human sexuality, most psychologists and their associations stopped considering homosexuality as a disease. </p><p>In the 21<sup>st</sup> century, the American Psychological Association asked its members to "avoid misrepresenting the efficacy of sexual orientation change efforts by promoting or promising change in sexual orientation when providing assistance to individuals distressed by their own or others' sexual orientation." Similar actions have taken place around the world. Recently, the United Nations' expert on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identify called for a global ban on the <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/06/1066652" target="_blank">practice</a>. </p><p>Despite these efforts and others like them, some forms of conversion therapy continue to exist, and a few people still preach its benefits.</p><p>This is rather dangerous. While no widely accepted study demonstrates the effectiveness of conversion therapy, credible studies show its adverse outcomes. People who undergo these discredited treatments are at a higher risk of suicide, anxiety, depression, and <a href="https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0735-7028.33.3.249" target="_blank">drug use</a>. </p>
Who isn’t as progressive as Mexico City yet? Where is progress being made?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUyMjQ0NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTY0NTc0NH0.9gotuBiC6Yc63J7V5YTdaeS8XOHcIOHn1jqQci1L0MA/img.png?width=1245&coordinates=83%2C-1%2C84%2C1&height=700" id="b7b0c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dc3fed01a9cad38a35633e2ef0fccec3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Areas in dark blue have issued bans on conversion therapy. Light blue signifies a case by case ban. Areas in yellow are/have considered bans. The grey areas offer no protections against conversion therapy.
By Stinger20 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66533359<p>The above map shows the various places around the world where conversion therapy is banned, legal, or being challenged. Many of the locations shown in yellow are making significant progress towards a ban of this harmful group of procedures. As you might expect, the details of the laws in effect vary by location. Some of the prohibitions are <em>de facto </em>rather than explicit, some only apply to medical professionals carrying out these procedures, and some are enforced not by law but by the mutual agreement of psychologists.</p><p>The United Kingdom has taken substantial steps towards a ban, with the NHS and the major psychological and counseling associations of the UK condemning the practice. The government has promised to study the issue in detail before moving forward with legislation that could end the practice. Several organizations <a href="https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/06/30/religion-lgbt-homophobia-conversion-therapy-ozanne-foundation-islam-christianity-judaism/" target="_blank">continue to advocate</a> for law immediately settling the matter.</p><p>In India, Prince <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manvendra_Singh_Gohil" target="_blank">Manvendra Singh Gohil</a> revealed that he had endured <a href="https://www.out.com/news/2020/7/27/gay-indian-prince-was-subjected-electroshock-conversion-therapy" target="_blank">electroshock therapy</a> as a young man after coming out to his less than supportive parents. Since coming out in 2006, he has worked with various charities to help LGBT+ individuals and even <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/prince-manvendra-singh-gohil-palace-lgbt-people-a8146491.html" target="_blank">opened up his palace grounds</a> for those who were forced out of their families for who they are. His opening up comes alongside protests in India against the <a href="https://theconversation.com/lgbtq-conversion-therapy-in-india-how-it-began-and-why-it-persists-today-140316" target="_blank">practice</a>. <br> <br> In the United States, discussions of a ban have taken place in many areas not currently protected by one. LGBT+ organizations in those states without bans are <a href="https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-involved/trevor-advocacy/50-bills-50-states/about-conversion-therapy/" target="_blank">actively campaigning for them</a><a href="https://www.thetrevorproject.org/get-involved/trevor-advocacy/50-bills-50-states/about-conversion-therapy/" target="_blank"></a>. The state of Minnesota attempted to pass legislation to that effect last year, but that portion of the bill was cut out. Activists have taken to the local level as they prepare to try <a href="https://mspmag.com/arts-and-culture/the-fight-to-ban-conversion-therapy-in-minnesota/" target="_blank">again</a>. </p><p>Mexico City's ban is entirely in character for a city with a reputation of a protector of LGBT+ rights. In 2009, it was the first place in Mexico to legalize gay marriage and institute a variety of legal <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20100102102038/http:/www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34514521/ns/world_news" target="_blank">equalities</a>. Gay Rights have been slower to gain respect in the rest of <a href="https://www.borderreport.com/regions/mexico/baja-california-state-congress-says-no-to-gay-marriage/" target="_blank">Mexico</a>, though its Supreme Court stands ready to protect the rights of LGBT+ individuals in states that have dragged their feet on adopting federal law equalizing <a href="https://www.gaystarnews.com/article/mexicos-legal-battle-to-establish-same-sex-marriage-may-finally-be-coming-to-a-head/" target="_blank">marriage</a>. </p>
Gender and sexual minority populations are experiencing rising anxiety and depression rates during the pandemic.
- Anxiety and depression rates are spiking in the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in individuals who hadn't struggled with those issues in the past.
- Overall, depression increased by an average PHQ-9 score of 1.21 and anxiety increased by an average GAD-7 score of 3.11.
- The researchers recommended that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.
Study findings<p>For the study, <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-020-05970-4" target="_blank">published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine</a><em>, </em>Flentje and her team evaluated survey responses from nearly 2,300 individuals who identified as being in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. Most of the participants were white, while nearly 19 percent identified as a racial or ethnic minority. Multiple genders were represented with cisgender women (27.2 percent) and men (24.6 percent) making up a majority of the participants. Sixty-three percent had been assigned female at birth. For the most part, participants identified their sexual orientations as queer (40.3 percent), gay (36.5 percent), and bisexual (30.3 percent).</p><p>The JGIM study participants were recruited from the 18,000-participant <a href="https://pridestudy.org/" target="_blank">PRIDE Study</a> (Population Research in Identity and Disparities for Equality), which is the first large-scale, long-term national study focusing on American adults who identify as LGBTQ+. It conducts annual questionnaires to understand factors related to health and disease in this population. </p><p>Participants filled out an annual questionnaire (starting in June 2019) and a COVID-19 impact survey this past spring. Flentje noted that on an individual level, some people may not have experienced a big change in anxiety or depression levels, but for others there was. Overall, depression increased by a <a href="https://patient.info/doctor/patient-health-questionnaire-phq-9" target="_blank">PHQ-9 score</a> of 1.21, putting it at 8.31 on average. Anxiety went up by a <a href="https://www.mdcalc.com/gad-7-general-anxiety-disorder-7" target="_blank">GAD-7</a> score of 3.11 to an average of 8.89. Interestingly, the average PHQ-9 scores for those who screened positive for depression at the first 2019 survey decreased by 1.08. Those who screened negative for depression saw their PHQ-9 scores increase by 2.17 on average. As for anxiety, researchers detected no GAD-7 change among the study participants who screened positive for anxiety in the first survey, but did see an overall increase of 3.93 among those who had initially been evaluated as negative for the disorder. </p>
Risks among gender and sexual minorities<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc3fd1ae68b77bbbf58a6995638d6d65"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EnUqDjCqg0A?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>The LGBTQ+ community is a vulnerable population to mental health concerns because of their fear of stigmatization and previous discriminatory experiences.</p> <p>Previous research by the Human Rights Campaign has found "that LGBTQ Americans are more likely than the <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/general+population/" target="_blank">general population</a> to live in poverty and lack access to adequate medical care, paid <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/medical+leave/" target="_blank">medical leave</a>, and basic necessities during the pandemic," said researcher Tari Hanneman, director of the health and aging program at the campaign.</p> <p>"Therefore, it is not surprising to see this increase in anxiety and depression among this population," Hanneman said in the release. "This study highlights the need for <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/health+care+professionals/" target="_blank">health care professionals</a> to support, affirm and provide <a href="https://medicalxpress.com/tags/critical+care/" target="_blank">critical care</a> for the LGBTQ community to manage and maintain their mental health, as well as their physical health, during this pandemic."</p>
What should health care providers do?<p>The authors of the study recommend that health care providers check in with LGBTQ+ patients about stress and screen for mood and anxiety disorders in members of that community—even among those with no prior history of anxiety or depression.</p><p>As cases of COVID-19 continue to mount, the sustained social distancing, potential isolation, economic precariousness, and personal illness, grief, and loss are bound to have increased and varied impacts on mental health. Effective treatments may include individual therapy and medications as well as more large-scale coronavirus support programs like peer-led groups and mindfulness practices. </p><p>"It will be important to find out what happens over time and to identify who is most at risk, so we can be sure to roll out public health interventions to support the mental health of our communities in the best and most effective ways," said Flentje.</p>
Sexuality is fluid and it's important that people get to define it for themselves.
- Sexuality is fluid and ever-changing, and our understanding of it has come a long way since the invention of the Kinsey Scale in the 1940's.
- Defining your own sexuality is important as it is a uniquely personal experience.
- While creating labels for yourself can help you better understand your orientation and build connections along your sexual journey, it's important not to place labels on others. Be open to hearing how they see themselves and respectful enough to refer to them on those terms.
Defining lesser-known orientations along the spectrum<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE2OTIwOS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNTYxNzk5Mn0.NF95JhhXPcLdT5k6fMP54AQYvFdZiPK3aVQ90Wa9g0o/img.png?width=980" id="bfd51" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5d68bd6890a288fd97a3fb5e6724c78d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Unofficial Kinsey Scale test (an official test does not exist, according to the Kinsey Institute)
Striving for diversity is honorable — but the focus should settle on something much deeper than phenotypic traits.
- In efforts to achieve diversity, whether within workplace teams or elsewhere, leaders often focus on variation of identities regarding race, gender, sexual orientation, and physicality.
- Evolutionary biologist Heather Heying urges that these efforts be taken a step further to focus on diversity of viewpoints and socioeconomic status — two forms of identity that are less apparent without thoughtful conversation.
- Achieving diversity in these ways adds varying life experiences and opinions that enrich office or team culture and provide more innovative solutions.