Minority stress, or the unique stressors encountered by sexual minorities, has a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of this population. One minority stressor, internalized heterosexism, refers to incorporating stigma against sexual minorities into one’s self-concept as a product of social bias. This minority stressor has been consistently related to worse mental health in sexual minorities. We evaluated experiences of internalized heterosexism longitudinally, over 24 months, in a sample of 450 young men who have sex with men (YMSM; age range = 16–20 years old at baseline). Latent class growth analyses revealed three classes: individuals with low-decreasing internalized heterosexism (57.1%), medium-stable internalized heterosexism (37.3%), and high-stable internalized heterosexism (5.6%). Multinomial logistic regression analyses revealed that some racial/ethnic minorities, non-gay identified individuals (i.e., bisexual/other), and individuals with less femininity and greater masculinity were significantly more likely to be in the medium- and high-stable internalized heterosexism classes. Higher victimization, as well as lower gay/bisexual community involvement, peer support, and outness predicted membership in the medium-stable internalized heterosexism class (relative to the low-decreasing class). Further, higher past 6-month victimization and lower outness were also predictive of high-stable internalized heterosexism class membership (relative to the low-decreasing class). These findings reveal that there is not a single trajectory of internalized heterosexism—the degree to which it changes differs across men and depends on demographic characteristics and interpersonal experiences. Furthermore, the results indicate interpersonal targets for future work aimed at promoting positive identity development and decreased internalized heterosexism for sexual minority youth.
- Internalized heterosexism
- Minority stress
- Social support
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Psychology
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)