News, Wit & Commentary for Lesbians
JIC Post: By Christopher Curtis, Gay.com.uk/PlanetOut.comDiscrimination, including denial of legal recognition of relationships, could be to blame for higher levels of depression and substance abuse amongst lesbians and gay men, according to a US study that is set to re-open the gay marriage row stateside.The American National Sexuality Resource Centre revealed the results of the first US study to analyse the impact of marriage discrimination on the mental health and well-being of gay men and lesbians yesterday.The report, titled, "I Do, But I Can't", examined 150 studies on same-sex couples. It will be published in the centre’s journal Sexuality Research and Social Policy."What I have come to understand from our study is that there is a double problem," said Gilbert Herdt, PhD, lead author of the study."On one hand there is no association between mental illness and homosexuality," Herdt said. "On the other hand, we also know that gays and lesbians have higher levels of stress problems," he added, naming depression, alcoholism and drug abuse as examples.Herdt told reporters those problems could be blamed on "minority stress", the impact of discrimination in housing, jobs, and other forms of bigotry LGBT people experience.A main form of discrimination gay men and lesbians face is the denial of marriage rights in every US state except Massachusetts, campaigners say.Researchers said the studies they examined showed far more similarities than differences in the psychological attributes and advantages of being coupled in same-sex and opposite-sex relationships.One study reported that lesbians and gay men in general were no more likely to experience dissatisfaction in their relationships than heterosexuals.However, on this side of the pond, researchers have revealed that legal recognition will result in better mental health amongst lesbian and gay people.British researchers also found that children with lesbian mothers were just as well-adjusted and had the same gender role behaviours as children of heterosexual parents.Robert-Jay Green, director of the Rockway Institute, an LGBT research and public policy centre at California's Alliant International University, added, "I think that what's most important is that the denial of marriage rights leaves gays and lesbians with feelings that they cannot fulfil their deepest dreams."Some lesbian and gay couples had a sense of ambiguous commitment, researchers found, consisting of uncertainty about when relationships started, the extent of mutual obligations and recognition of the partnership by family, friends and co-workers.The researchers noted that discrimination and fear of discovery can undermine relationships if the partners do not have internal ways of countering the social stigma of homosexuality."We felt the shame placed right back upon us," said Stuart Gaffney, who married his partner of 17 years in San Francisco in 2004 only to have it invalidated by the courts. "We live as married," Gaffney asserted, "but without the protections of marriage."Gaffney provided an example: he and his partner, John Lewis, took his mother to the hospital when she was complaining about chest pains. The medical staff recognised the resemblance between Gaffney and his mother but wanted to know Lewis' relationship."This was not the place to justify your relationship," said Gaffney."We believe the laws should be changed to allow marriage equality," Herdt concluded, "for everyone's mental health."
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