Young sexual and gender minorities (SGMs) of color are at the intersection of multiple marginalized identities, and thus may be more likely to experience intersectional discrimination. That happens when multiple injustices occur simultaneously -- say, based on race or ethnicity as well as sexual orientation.
For instance, Florida is trying to pass a “Don’t Say Gay” bill that would ban teaching issues specific to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, and would also require schools to “out” LGBT students to their parents or guardians. At the same time, it has banned the classroom teaching of critical race theory -- a concept that deepens our understanding of institutionalized racism.
While some segments of American society have made significant strides in respecting and advancing the rights of young SGMs of color, many still face intersectional stigma and discrimination in their day-to-day lives.
Much research documents how the deleterious effects of exposure to intersectional discrimination can lead to stress and anxiety that hampers an individual’s overall well-being. Clearly, intervention efforts must address intersectionality, and our research lab at NYU is seeking to do just that, by examining the impact of racism and homophobia, in an effort to improve the health and lives of young SGMs of color.
Research has shown that emerging adult SGMs experience disproportionate mental health burdens, as compared to their older SGM counterparts. Other research shows that SGMs of color have poorer mental health outcomes, as compared to their White SGM counterparts. However, there are limited interventions to address the mental health of SGMs who are both young and of color.
Mindfulness interventions may be an effective way to reduce stress and increase well-being among SGMs of color. But there are myriad mindfulness interventions -- and components of these interventions (e.g., awareness, purpose, connection, and positive reappraisal). So we don’t know for sure which components of which interventions are the most effective.
Using daily diary methods, our REDUCE study (Optimizing a Daily Mindfulness Intervention to Reduce Stress from Discrimination among Young Sexual and Gender Minorities of Color) is an innovative, multiphase optimization strategy (MOST) to help us determine the most effective, efficient, and immediately scalable combination of these various components. In particular, REDUCE seeks to address individual-level stress that is compounded by intersectional discrimination.
We believe it’s time for the needs of SGMs of color to be made more visible. We must acknowledge and understand the lived experience of people at the intersection of multiple identities (e.g., Black and female) and oppressions (e.g., racism and sexism). We challenge researchers and our public health colleagues to increase the ability of communities at large to provide effective services, and embark on a journey that supports and protects the mental health of SGMs of color.
Stephanie Cook, DrPH
Assistant Professor of Social & Behavioral Sciences and Biostatistics
Erica Wood, MPH
Doctoral Student in Social and Behavioral Sciences