Outness and LGBTQ Youth Resilience

Title: Reflecting Resiliency: Openness About Sexual Orientation and/or Gender Identity and Its Relationship to Well-Being and Educational Outcomes for LGBTQ Students

By: Kosciw, J.G., Palmer, N.A., Kull, R.M.

In: American Journal of Community Psychology (2015) 

Abstract: For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, queer (LGBTQ) youth, coming out (i.e., disclosure of LGBTQ identity to others) can be a key developmental milestone, one that is associated with better psychological well-being. However, this greater visibility may come with increased risk of peer victimization. Being out, therefore, may reflect resilience and may unfold differently depending on ecological context as some spaces may be more or less supportive of LGBTQ youth than others. This article explores a model of risk and resilience for outness among LGBTQ youth, including whether it varies by community context. We tested our hypothesized model with a national dataset of 7,816 LGBTQ secondary school students using multi-group structural equation modeling. Consistent with our hypotheses, outness was related to higher victimization but also to higher self-esteem and lower depression. Greater victimization was related to negative academic outcomes directly and indirectly via diminished well-being. The increases in victimization associated with outness were larger for rural youth, and benefits to well-being partly compensated for their lower well-being overall. This article suggests that being out reflects resilience in the face of higher risk of victimization, in addition to promoting well-being in other ways. Nonetheless, contextual factors influence how this model operates among LGBTQ youth.