WGS Spotlight on Graduate Student Research

Our first colloquium event, Spotlight on Graduate student Research: LGBTQ Health and Well-Being was featured in the Daily Nebraskan.

Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A seminar highlighting graduate student research on health and LGBTQ issues was hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Women’s and Gender Studies faculty in the Heritage Room of the Nebraska Union Monday. Researchers presented on topics ranging from clinical psychology to communications.

Carly Woods, an assistant professor in communication studies and a faculty member of UNL’s Women’s and Gender Studies program, helped organize the event.

“We as a faculty decided to organize the fall colloquia series around the theme of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer) health and well-being,” Woods said in an interview before the seminar.

Three research projects were presented at the seminar.

The first was by Amy Vanderpool, a master’s student, who conducted research on the usage of gender inclusive language.

“If we look at history, we can see that (history) was written by people who held power, Vanderpool said. “Language is no different. Language has a huge impact on health, especially the health of LGBTQ individuals. When we aren’t inclusive of people of all genders in our language, that impacts how they perceive themselves.”

Vanderpool said most modern languages employ a gender-binary system: People and objects fall into two categories, male or female, with no in-betweens. Vanderpool claims this binary system fails to reflect the full gender experience.

Vanderpool’s research suggests that the gender-binary system is a product of colonialism.

“Many indigenous populations had gender systems that were fluid and didn’t conform to the gender binary,” Vanderpool said. Vanderpool believes that the male/female dichotomy in place among those populations today was introduced by colonists.

“The gender binary isn’t natural,” Vanderpool said. “It’s simply a product of colonialism.”

Peter Meidlinger, a fourth-year graduate student in clinical psychology, conducted a statistical analysis on depression and anxiety among LGB individuals.

According to Meidlinger’s research, LGB individuals face rates of depression and anxiety nearly twice that of non-LGB persons.

“This is primarily caused by minority stress,” Meidlinger said. Minority stress refers to the prejudices and grief minorities face that often manifest as depression or health problems.

Meidlinger further explained how LGB individuals’ openness about their gender identity or sexuality contributes to their overall mental health.

“The concealment of one’s identity is stressful,” Meidlinger said. “What we’ve found is that a person’s ‘outness’ is associated with higher overall well-being.”

The final research project was a communication study conducted by three Ph.D. students: Christina Ivey, Allison Bonander and Amy Arellano. Their study tracked the relationships between parents and their LGBT children who had recently come out about their sexuality. They tracked the closeness of these families over time.

“We wanted to determine the relationship between LGBT children and their parents after the child ‘comes out’, specifically from a parental perspective,” Ivey said.

“We noticed a gap in the research on this topic,” Bonander said. “A lot of research about families with LGBT children only focus on the child’s perspective. Very little research has been done from the viewpoint of the parents.”

According to Arellano, previous research has suggested that LGBT children desire closeness with their parents after they come out.

“What was surprising about our research was that parents of these LGBT children felt even closer to them after they came out,” Arellano said.

Tara Harding, a freshman finance major who attended the seminar, found the research of Ivey, Bonander and Arellano especially interesting.

“I found their conclusions about the parents in their study unexpected,” Harding said. “The media leads us to believe that parents try to distance themselves from their LGBTQ children after they come out, but this research suggests otherwise.”

This seminar was part of a three-part colloquium series on health issues within the LGBTQ community. On Oct. 7, in the Nebraska Union, another seminar will be held titled “In the Shadow of Sexuality: LGBT African American Elders and Social Support.” The final seminar will be held on Oct. 28, in the union and is titled “Socio, Political,and Medical Impacts on Transgender Health: National Patterns and Local Experience.”

Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2013