Project QTMINDS: Queer and Trans Mending of Inflexibility when facing Non-Affirmation, Discrimination, & Stigma
Background: Sexual and gender minorities (SGM) in the United States are faced with a unique historical moment in the 2020s. Changes in sociocultural unrest and discriminatory legislation have made identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) or other SGM identities increasingly fraught. Purpose: Grounded in the context of the current political landscape, the following set of studies revolved around a central question: does having a psychologically flexible worldview help SGM people navigate the stress and strain of this sociopolitical moment and, more broadly, does psychological flexibility serve a protective function for these populations when coping with sexuality and gender specific marginalization stress? Methods: Manuscript 1 explored these questions by focusing on people with diverse sexual identities and assessed psychological inflexibility’s mediating role in the relationship between sexual orientation marginalization stressors and psychological distress outcomes, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. Participants were recruited via listservs of related professional organizations, through a university research participation system, and through posts on social media, resulting in a sample of 412 participants who met eligibility criteria. Manuscript 2 focused on people with diverse gender identities and explored psychological flexibility’s mediating role in the relationship between gender-related marginalization stressors and gender dysphoria. The same methods used in study 1 were used to recruit a sample of 187 participants who met criteria for study 2. The third and final manuscript is a qualitative, thematic analysis study that focused on the present moment by examining resilience narratives for those identifying as transgender or gender diverse during the current push for anti-trans legislation and messages. Semi-structured interviews were analyzed to assess what role psychological flexibility has in the strategies currently used by transgender and gender
diverse people in a time when they are the direct targets of anti-trans sentiments. Participants in studies 1 and 2 were provided the option to participate in study 3 if they met criteria. Along with this method and social media posts, 8 participants were recruited for the semi-structured interviews. Results: Manuscript 1 found expected results, in that psychological inflexibility partially mediated the relationship between marginalization stress for those with diverse sexual orientations and psychological distress. The results of manuscript 2 were less clear, suggesting a more nuanced relationship of psychological flexibility in association to gender-related marginalization stress and gender dysphoria. Lastly, manuscript 3 uncovered the variety of stressors transgender and gender diverse are experiencing in the face of anti-trans movements as well as the ways that psychologically flexible approaches (as well as others such as community and identity pride) provided positive coping and resilience. Implications: Findings suggest that counseling psychologists can empower those of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities in their spheres with psychological flexibility interventions, particularly when their experiences of marginalization stress may translate into anxiety or mood symptoms. However, more work must be done to see if psychological flexibility interventions are useful for those coping with gender dysphoria.