Resilience, butching it up in Sri Lanka and family therapists’ beliefs about conversion therapy

This is the first of my Garden Fence blogs, sharing recent research on lesbian and bisexual women’s health (read more about what I’m trying to do, here)

Studies about lesbian, bisexual women (and sometimes men, and sometimes trans* people):

Resilience in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Individuals. Kwon P. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 2013

Abstract: To promote psychological health among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals, more comprehensive research on resilience factors in LGB individuals is needed. This article presents a theoretical framework based on the existing literature, with an eye toward guiding future research in this area. Social support clearly serves as a resilience factor for LGB individuals, in part through its ability to lower reactivity to prejudice. Social support is particularly effective when it specifically supports people’s sexual orientation and is congruent with individuals’ developmental needs. The ability to accept emotions and to process them in an insightful manner also buffers the negative impact of prejudice. In addition, hope and optimism allow LGB individuals to maintain psychological health when faced with prejudice.

Nice point: “For psychologists who engage in research or practice with the aim of improving the well-being of LGB individuals, it is not enough to understand the factors that lead to suffering in this population. It is also of paramount importance to under – stand the attributes that lead to flourishing and fulfillment in LGB individuals“

Butching it up: an analysis of same-sex female masculinity in Sri Lanka. Kuru-Utumpala J. Culture, Health & Sexuality. 2013;15(sup2):S153-S65

Abstract: This paper seeks to examine the embodiment of female masculinity as experienced by 12 gender-non-conforming lesbians in Sri Lanka. By drawing on western feminist and queer theories, it critiques western theories in relation to a non-western subjectivity, attempting to unravel the seemingly empowering, albeit problematic, category of female masculinity. Data gathered through qualitative interviews address one key research question: how do gender-non-conforming lesbians in Sri Lankan embody female masculinity? As the discussion unfolds, this paper analyses the ways they view themselves, the extent to which their actions and behaviours fit within a masculine framework and the ways in which notions of desire are felt and understood in relation to their understanding of gender. In terms of theory, the analysis is located in social constructivist theory, while drawing on a postmodernist approach. Theoretically, the concept of female masculinity allows a woman embodying masculinity to dislodge men and maleness from it. The reality within a SriLankan experience, however, can at times be different, as this paper reveals.

An Exploration of Family Therapists’ Beliefs about the Ethics of Conversion Therapy: The Influence of Negative Beliefs and Clinical Competence With Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Clients McGeorge, C. R., Carlson, T. S. and Toomey, R. B. (2013), Journal of Marital and Family Therapy.

Abstract: The majority of the literature on conversion therapy has focused on clients’ experiences and rationales for seeking such therapy. This study sought to explore differences in the beliefs and clinical competence of therapists who practice and believe in the ethics of conversion therapy and those who do not. The sample for this study included 762 family therapists who were members of the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. Data were collected using electronic surveys that assessed participants’ negative beliefs about and perceived clinical competence with lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals. Results indicate that those who believe in the ethics of and/or practice conversion therapy report statistically higher levels of negative beliefs about LGB individuals and lower levels of clinical competence working with LGB clients. Implications for clinical practice and organizational policy are discussed.

Scary finding: One in five family therapists said it was ethical to practice conversion therapy and they would if presented with the opportunity. Unsurprisingly, these people have statistically lower “levels of clinical competence working with LGB clients and higher levels of negative beliefs about LGB individually”; making their beliefs inconsistent with the professional organisation they are members of (American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy).

Studies that mention lesbian and bisexual women:

Women wearing white: Discourses of menstruation and the experience of menarche Jackson, Theresa E & Joffe Falmagne, Rachel. Feminism & Psychology August 2013 23: 379-398, first published on February 5, 2013

Abstract: This study examines how dominant societal discourses of menstruation are appropriated, rejected, or interpreted as adolescent girls make meaning of their menarche. Thirteen women ages 18–21 participated in flexible in-depth interviews to retrospectively recount their menarcheal experience. A variation of the Reading Guide was used for primary data analysis, which identified four themes highlighting girls’ ambivalence regarding menarche. Participants were conflicted at menarche about their putative status as ‘women’; used imprecise, distancing language when discussing menstruation; engaged in material and discursive practices of concealing menstruation; and referenced a community of menstrual suffering. Further, discourse analysis of participants’ talk suggests their continued discomfort. We argue that girls experience menarche ambivalently in relation to menstrual taboos, body shame and emergent womanhood. Negative discourses of menstruation and women’s bodies converge to set girls on a problematic gendered trajectory at menarche that can be expected to inform meaning making and experiences across the lifespan.

Relevant points for LBQ women’s health: (2 bisexual women in the sample). The authors cite literature showing lesbian and bisexual women are more likely to report positive feelings associated with menstruation: in relation to sxuaol activity during menstruation (Allen KR and Goldberg AE (2009) Sexual activity during menstruation: A qualitative study. Journal of Sex Research 46: 1–11; Fahs B (2011) Sex during menstruation: Race, sexual identity, and women’s accounts of pleasure and disgust. Feminism & Psychology 21: 155–178). They also cite literature showing lesbian women experience “more support and responsiveness from their partners in regards to a variety of premenstrual changes or distress” (Ussher JM and Perz J (2008) Empathy, egalitarianism and emotion work in the relational negotiation of PMS: The experience of women in lesbian relationships. Feminism & Psychology 18: 87–111)

Self-Reported Preconception Care of HIV-Positive Women of Reproductive Potential: A Retrospective Study. Loutfy MR, Blitz S, Zhang Y, Hart TA, Walmsley SL, Smaill FM, et al. Journal of the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (JIAPAC). 2013.

Abstract: Objectives: We determined the proportion and correlates of self-reported pregnancy planning discussions (that is preconception counseling) that HIV-positive women reported to their family physicians (FPs), HIV specialists, and obstetrician/gynecologists (OB/Gyns). Methods: In a cross-sectional substudy, HIV-positive women of reproductive potential were asked whether their care providers discussed pregnancy planning. Logistic regression was used to calculate odds ratios for the correlates of preconception counseling.  Results: A total of 431 eligible participants (median age 38, interquartile range = 32-43) reported having discussion with a physician (92% FP, 96% HIV specialists, and 45% OB/Gyns). In all, 34%, 41%, and 38% had their pregnancy planning discussion with FP, HIV specialist, and Ob/Gyns, respectively; 51% overall. In the multivariable model, significant correlates of preconception counseling were age (P = .02), marital status (P < .01), number of years living in Canada (P < .001), and age of youngest child (P < .01).  Conclusions: Preconception care in our cohort was suboptimal. We recommend that counseling on healthy preconception should be part of routine HIV care.

Relevant points for LBQ women’s health: HIV positive lesbian bisexual and other identifying women were slightly more likely to have received preconception counselling; although there was no discussion of this finding in the text. (Survey questions were (1) ‘‘Has your family doctor talked to you about pregnancy planning?’’ (2) ‘‘Has your HIV specialist talked to you about pregnancy planning?’’ and (3) ‘‘Has your OB/Gyn talked to you about pregnancy planning?’)


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