Inside and Outside: Heteronormativity, Gender, and Health in the Lives of Bi/Sexual Minority Youth
AuthorPollitt, Amanda Marie
AdvisorRussell, Stephen T.
Curran, Melissa A.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn this two-manuscript dissertation, framed through queer and minority stress theories, I focus on heteronormative pressures and their impact on sexual identity fluidity and health of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and young adults. Heteronormativity, or the expectation to meet heterosexual norms in relationships, may be stressful for lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth and be linked to poorer health. In particular, I focus on bisexual young people because bisexual people can enter into either same- or different-gender relationships; these young people could experience pressure from family members and religious communities to conform to heterosexual norms, resulting in sexual identity transitions that could explain health differences between sexual minority groups. In the first manuscript, I conducted life history narratives interviews with 14 racially and ethnically diverse youth and young adults between the ages of 18-24 on how LGB youth make sense of expectations to conform to heterosexual norms and how their experiences vary based on youths’ characteristics. In the second manuscript, I used structural equation modeling analysis of one of the largest community samples of LGB youth and young adults between the ages of 15-21 in the U.S. to examine youths' current and future relationship desires in a broader system of heteronormative expectations and how these expectations operate as mechanisms to influence the mental health of sexual minority youth. Qualitative results from the first manuscript show that for many youth and youth adults, gender and sexuality intersect to influence their experiences of heteronormativity: Gender and sexuality were conflated for gay men who stated that their gender nonconformity meant that family members already knew their sexuality before they came out as gay. Many bisexual women described their experiences being gender conforming in which they struggled to legitimize their sexuality to others because they were feminine. Though gay and lesbian identities were present in discussions of gender, an expression of gender that signaled and was named as bisexuality was fundamentally missing in the interviews. That is, participants did not describe a gender presentation that would indicate someone attracted to more than one gender. Participants consistently considered childbearing, but not marriage, to be highly desirable. Latino participants discussed heteronormativity through the racialized lens of machismo. However, religion was a greater source of pressure to conform to heterosexuality for Latino participants than were racial communities. My quantitative results from the second manuscript showed that gay men, lesbian women, and bisexual men are more likely to desire same-gender marriages later in life compared to bisexual women, who are more likely to desire different-gender marriages. Participants who desired different-gender marriage were more likely to identify as a different sexual identity over time. However, neither relationship desires nor sexual identity transitions related to depressive symptoms. The findings of this manuscript suggest that initial transition to a sexual minority identity may be the most vulnerable time for youth. After this initial transition, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth may be inoculated to stress related to identity transitions, even in the context of heteronormativity. This research informs queer and minority stress theories: Gender, sexuality, and family norms intersect to structure how youth understand heteronormativity and predicts whether youth maintain their sexual identity, but such norms might not be stressors that influence health after youth first identify as LGB.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Family & Consumer Sciences