Romantic relationships help gay youth cope with homophobia

We should be enabling gay teenagers to find romance with one another, just like their heterosexual counterparts, say researchers.

A new study has confirmed that young lesbian and gay American youth who are in relationships suffer less psychological distress than those who are not.

The research by Northwestern Medicine and the University of Cincinnati also concluded that being in a relationship buffered these young people against the negative effects of bullying and victimisation.

“Romantic relationships add luster to life,” said corresponding author Brian Mustanski, the director of the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

“Your romantic partner can be the first person you reach out to when you have good news to celebrate or for a shoulder to cry on when you have bad news. Having a partner then can amplify the good things in life and provide critical support during tough times.”

This is believed to be the first time that the protective benefits of being in a relationship for lesbian and gay youth has been documented.

“There are lot of questions about if and how we should help LGBT teens form romantic relationships, so that they can have the same experiences of dating and learning about relationships as their heterosexual peers,” said Sarah Whitton, PhD, first author and associate professor of psychology at the University of Cincinnati.

“The findings suggest there might be great value in initiatives that could help LGBT youth meet other youth such as citywide ‘queer proms,’ and engage in healthy learning about dating and romance.”

The study discovered, however, that bisexual teens did not appear to benefit from being in relationships. In fact they were 19 percent more distressed in relationships than when single. This compares to lesbian and gay youth who were 17 percent less distressed when in relationships.

“Bisexuals may face unique stressors in relationships,” noted Mustanski. It’s been widely documented that bisexual people often experience discrimination and a lack of acceptance and integration from both the LGBTQ community as well as the heterosexual community.

The study was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

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