The Impact of Internalized Homophobia on Outness for Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Individuals

Published: January 12, 2012

The current study examined the relationship between internalized homophobia and outness to family (both nuclear and extended), friends, and colleagues for 291 lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals. Level of outness was assessed through questions adapted by Rankin (2003), and internalized homophobia was assessed using the Internalized Homophobia Scale (IHP).

A set of statistical regression procedures were conducted to examine how being “out” to friends, family, and colleagues predicted scores on the IHP. Results suggested internalized homophobia is a predictor of outness to friends, colleagues, and extended family, but not nuclear family. This means that LGB individuals who experience higher degrees of internalized homophobia are less likely to be out to multiple groups of people, but not nuclear family. These findings are surprising considering the high degree of difficulty and anxiety associated with coming out to parents, the anticipated rejection by the nuclear family, and the fact that many LGB individuals remain closeted to family members indefinitely or until later in life.

A strong relationship between internalized homophobia and level of outness at work also was found in our study. Outness to colleagues was the largest predictor of internalized homophobia. Based on this finding, we defend previously cited research that LGB individuals are more likely to be out and experience less internalized homophobia when they have had positive experiences with coming out in the past, or when their organizations are gay-friendly, include written non-discrimination policies and advocate on behalf of LGB people (i.e., offer trainings and workshops that incorporate LGB issues).

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