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Journal of counseling psychology

Essentialist beliefs, sexual identity uncertainty, internalized homonegativity and psychological wellbeing in gay men.


PMID 25915465

Abstract

The present study examined essentialist beliefs about sexual orientation and their implications for sexual identity uncertainty, internalized homonegativity and psychological wellbeing in a sample of gay men. A combination of targeted sampling and snowball strategies were used to recruit 639 gay identifying men for a cross-sectional online survey. Participants completed a questionnaire assessing sexual orientation beliefs, sexual identity uncertainty, internalized homonegativity, and psychological wellbeing outcomes. Structural equation modeling was used to test whether essentialist beliefs were associated with psychological wellbeing indirectly via their effect on sexual identity uncertainty and internalized homonegativity. A unique pattern of direct and indirect effects was observed in which facets of essentialism predicted sexual identity uncertainty, internalized homonegativity and psychological wellbeing. Of note, viewing sexual orientation as immutable/biologically based and as existing in discrete categories, were associated with less sexual identity uncertainty. On the other hand, these beliefs had divergent relationships with internalized homonegativity, with immutability/biological beliefs associated with lower, and discreteness beliefs associated with greater internalized homonegativity. Of interest, although sexual identity uncertainty was associated with poorer psychological wellbeing via its contribution to internalized homophobia, there was no direct relationship between identity uncertainty and psychological wellbeing. Findings indicate that essentializing sexual orientation has mixed implications for sexual identity uncertainty and internalized homonegativity and wellbeing in gay men. Those undertaking educational and clinical interventions with gay men should be aware of the benefits and of caveats of essentialist theories of homosexuality for this population.