Wed, Sep 05, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Anti-LGBT referendums harmful

By Liu An-chen 劉安真

In the same period, there was no significant increase in the prevalence of any psychiatric disorder observed among LGBT people in states that had not voted on amendments narrowly defining marriage. No significant change in the prevalence of psychiatric disorders among straight people was found as a result of the referendums or policy changes.

Another study, conducted in 2016 by David Frost and Adam Fingerhut, studied gay people living in four US states that held referendums on same-sex marriage in 2012 and examined the effects of daily exposure to campaign messages and debates regarding the right to marriage equality had to their mental health.

They found that, during the referendum period, daily exposure to the large volume of negative signaling regarding same-sex relationships led to an increase in negative emotions and a decrease in positive feelings, as well as less relationship satisfaction.

On May 22, 2015, Ireland held a marriage equality referendum. The following year, a survey was published about its psychological and social effects on Irish LGBT people. It showed that in the months leading up to the referendum, 71 percent of the participants reported having negative feelings often and 63 percent said they often felt sad, while 57 percent said that they rarely felt happy.

Among the respondents who saw posters against marriage equality on buildings, 80 percent reported being upset by these images, while 66 percent reported feeling anxious and 64 percent felt distressed.

Younger LGBT people suffered the greatest negative effects and felt more anxiety than their elders. They also felt more fear when hearing their family members’ negative comments on marriage equality, as many had not come out to their families.

Although the children of LGBT parents were not surveyed, stories told by the participants showed that these children might have experienced the greatest negative impact. One parent mentioned during an interview that his or her child “would come home from school crying,” likely because they heard hostile remarks about LGBT people at school.

When compared with urban areas, LGBT people in rural areas were more likely to have negative feelings after their family members expressed opposition, possibly because they have fewer LGBT friends, as well as more family members who oppose same-sex marriage.

The families of LGBT people were also affected by the referendum, with 64 percent reporting that they often had negative feelings during the period.

These studies show that if there is an anti-LGBT referendum, the social atmosphere would be unfriendly to gay people, who would have to endure hostility toward their identity on a nearly daily basis.

Preconceived ideas and wrong information about LGBT people, stigmatization and disputes with friends and relatives are scenarios more likely to expose gay people to social rejection and antipathy. These experiences could cause feelings of shame and disgust toward their sexual orientation at a time when they are in the process of establishing an identity and self-respect, and could lead to strong inner conflict, which in turn might cause depression or anxiety disorders.

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