Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, 8:204

First online:

“We’d Be Free”: Narratives of Life Without Homophobia, Racism, or Sexism

  • Ilan H. MeyerAffiliated withThe Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law Email author 
  • , Suzanne C. OuelletteAffiliated withDoctoral Program in Psychology: Social/Personality, Developmental, and Environmental, Graduate School, The City University of New York
  • , Rahwa HaileAffiliated withYale Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDSState University of New York, College of Old Westbury
  • , Tracy A. McFarlaneAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University

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Stigma and social inequality deprive disadvantaged social groups of a sense of social well-being. Stress researchers have focused on prejudice-related events and conditions but have not described more intangible stressors experienced by sexual minorities. We use narrative methods to examine how sexual minorities experience stigma and social inequality as we focus on the more intangible stressors that are both pervasive and difficult to measure. Three themes emerged in the narratives of our ethnically diverse sample of 57 adult sexual minority women and men: (a) stigma deprived them of access to critical possibilities and opportunities; (b) stigma deprives them of safety and acceptance; and (c) despite this, the experience of stigma is also related to the adoption of a positive and collective orientation towards their stigmatized identities. Recognizing these stressors and related resilience can direct policy makers toward interventions that go even beyond eliminating prejudice by including goals to strengthen minority communities.


Sexual minorities Stigma Prejudice Stress Social well-being