Self Esteem Among the LGBT

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Updated: Mar 09, 2021
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This study observed how self-esteem is seen among those who are a part of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community. At times it will be referred to as LGBTQ which includes queer as well. Data from multiple studies on each part of the LGBT was studied to see if self-esteem is affected. Minority stress scales, self-esteem scales, mindfulness acceptance, and family and friends were looked at to see if any of those might influence stress.

Self-esteem is an individual assessment oh how one views themselves but does being a part of a minority group such as the LGBT and being opening and out in the community influence one’s self-esteem? LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexuals, and transgender. However, there are many more terms for one’s sexual orientation that could fall under this umbrella term. Within the LGBT community does one sexuality tend to have a lower self-esteem than the others? Does one’s sexual orientation influence their self-esteem? Discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation could cause some self-esteem issues and that could influence one’s mental health. Many other of the other factors could also play a role one’s self-esteem. According to Vosvick and Stem (2019) “despite its popularity, research on self-esteem within LGBT populations is limited.” With research being so limited it is hard to see if any of these factors can influence self-esteem among those in LGBT. With the research being limited many of the articles looked at different ages from school age up to older individuals. Austin and Goodman (2016) stated that “Given the importance of self-esteem to overall wellbeing and the potential threats to high self-esteem resulting from minority stress, it is vital that researchers explore the factors that potentially enhance or undermine self-esteem among TGNC individuals.” TGNC stands for transgender and nonconforming, these are both apart of the LGBT community. This statement could also go along with everyone within the LGBT and not just transgender and non-conforming individuals. Self-esteem is so vital to individuals and how one sees themselves that it can affect many different aspects of one’s life. Wrench and Knapp (2008) made a statement that “there is an overemphasis on physical appearance within the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer (GLBTQ) community.” This can be seen within the phrases that are known within the community such as “bears”, “lipstick lesbians”, “femmes”, and many more. Some of the studies looked at image fixation along with antifat attitudes. Others looked at stress, self-stigma, mindful acceptance, and even quality of life along with self-esteem to see if they correlated. Parental involvement can also help or hinder self-esteem especially those who are younger in the LGBT community. Those in adolescence are coming out in the LGBT community and their peers and coming out at such an early age could possibly have an influence on self-esteem.

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Greene & Britton (2013) states, “Thus, it may be argued that it is the sustaining of shame’s anger and blame, directed toward the self, others, or situations, that may underlie shame proneness and that it is the capacity for forgiveness that supports self-esteem.” From this statement it shows that forgiveness can go a long way in helping the individual’s self-esteem. Along with that on the opposite end is having identity integration. Knowing your own identity and being able to accept that could help with self-esteem. Zosky and Alberts (2016) states that “Identity integration or identity affirmation entails consolidating the formed identity with acceptance, commitment, and possibly pride. This may include being “out” or living authentically as an LGBT person, developing an LGBT community, and having positive self-esteem as an LGBT person.” Longares, Escartín, & Rodríguez-Carballeira, (2016) looked at collective self-esteem and how that might portray self-stigma. Zosky and Alberts (2016) looked at a four stage model that included “awareness, exploration, deepening/commitment, and internalization/synthesis.”. In the same study D’Augelli’s life-span development model mentions phases that include “exiting a heterosexual identity, developing a personal LGB identity status, developing a social LGB status, claiming an identity as a LGB offspring, developing an LGB intimacy status, and entering an LGB community.” (Zosky and Alberts, 2016) Along with Arlene Istar Lev who has a six stage model for transgenders that includes “awareness, seeking information and reaching out, disclosure to a significant other, exploration including identity and self-labeling, exploration of transitioning issues and options, and integration and acceptance of post-transition.” (Zosky and Alberts, 2016)

Through media and other portrayals of lesbians their self-esteem is not really shown or mentioned. Wrench and Knopp (2008) “The researchers concluded “although lesbian ideology rejects our culture’s narrowly defined ideal of female beauty and opposes the overemphasis placed on women’s physical attractiveness, such ideology may not be strong enough to enable lesbians to overcome already internalized cultural beliefs and values about female beauty”” From this statement lesbians tend to view beauty differently than what the culture around them demes as beautiful.

Gay is usually used to describe men within this community, but it can also be a blanket term for the other sexualities as well, but for this purpose it will describe men. From how media portrays gay individuals it seems as if they are full of confidence and self-worth. Their self-esteem seems to be high just from watching movies and television shows, once and awhile they will show someone struggling with their self-esteem. However, according to Wrench and Knapp (2008) “Furthermore, a study by [60] noted negative self-perceptions of one’s physical appearance were negatively related to gay men’s self-esteem, but unrelated to straight men’s self-esteem.” One study by Vosvick and Stem (2019) mentioned how “High self-esteem is also associated with good health in gay men (Walters & Simoni, 1993).” Woodford and et. All (2014) mentioned that “Research suggests that global self-esteem and trait-specific stigma about being gay are associated with one another; however, not to a degree that would suggest conceptual overlap (Herek, Gillis, & Cogan, 2009).” While it does not have a conceptual overlap self-esteem and the stigma are related.

Bisexuals are individuals that tend to like both sexes. According to Lambe, Cerezo, and O’Shaughnessy (2016) state that “It may be that bisexual women experience high levels of negative messages, which are then internalized and influence women’s sense of self, so that low and moderate levels of connecting with the bisexual community are not strong enough to have a buffering effect.” They also go on to mention how being active and having advocacy related to their bisexuality could help one’s sense of self.

Transgender is defined as someone who was born with male or female genitals and are transitioning to the opposite sex using hormones, therapy, and surgery. Not all transgender individuals choose to use these methods to transition and some use all of them. These individuals may change their name, pronouns, and clothing to fit more into how they internally view themselves. Some choose to transition as children if they are able to and others do it later in life, there is no “right” age to transition it is up to the individual. Transgenders tend to have a lower self-esteem because many have been living the way they were born and it does not fit how they feel and see themselves. According to Vosvick and Stem (2019) “Transgender people face substantial barriers to health care coverage, are more likely to have no insurance and their health care needs.”


Stress can play a big factor on one’s overall wellbeing but can stress affect a person’s self-esteem? Most of the articles looked at minority stress and how it might affect those in the LBGT community. Vosvick and Stem (2019) stated that “An increase in daily stress is associated with an increase in interpersonal conflicts and an overall negative mood (Schönfeld, Brailovskaia, Bieda, Zhang, & Margraf, 2016) that may contribute to psychological quality of life.” Stress can affect a person on so many levels including how they see themselves, if they quality of life is lower their self-esteem could be as well. Anxiety along with stress was also looked at in the Woodford et. all (2014) study. Lambe, Cerezo, and O’Shaughnessy (2016) go on to mention minority stress among bisexuals and how it may affect those in the bisexual community. “Recent research suggests that although the minority stress experiences of bisexual individuals may overlap with those of lesbians and gay men, there are additional factors, such as binegativity, that are unique to bisexual individuals (Balsam & Mohr, 2007; Eliason, 1997; Feinstein, Dyar, Bhatia, Latack, & Davila, 2014; Mohr, Israel, & Sedlacek, 2001)” (Lambe, Cerezo, and O’Shaughnessy year) According to Russell, Toomey, Ryan, & Diaz (2014) “Meyer’s model directly draws from Goffman in arguing that minority stress produces disparities in health through interactions among stigma at the societal level, potentially compromised relationships at the interpersonal level, and internalization of stigma at the individual level.” Stigma can play a large part in the stress of those within the LGBT community.

Mindful acceptance:

Mindful acceptance of how one purposefully views the moment they are currently existing in and how they view themselves. This can help raise self-esteem overall for the individual.

Family & Friends:

Family and friends are another important factor of self-esteem among those in the LGBT community. Within Legate, Weinstein, Ryan, Dehaan, & Ryan’s (2018) article they quoted “Snapp, Watson, Russell, Diaz, and Ryan (2015) found that acceptance from multiple sources—friends, family, and one’s community—all positively impacted the self-esteem of LGBT young adults, but when sources were compared, family acceptance mattered the most.” Those in the LGBT who have family that support them could have higher self-esteem than those who are not as accepted. Families who help their LGBT children at a younger age view themselves as important may help their child’s self-esteem as they grow into young adults. If family and friends, try to shape the children into who they want them to be instead of helping the children be who they want to be it could cause lower self-esteem along with other psychological issues in the future.

The purpose of this study is to identify if those who are a part of the LGBT community struggle with low self-esteem. If they do what can be done to raise self-esteem within those who do struggle. Another aspect is does one part of the community struggle more than another part and what could be causing those individuals more self-esteem issues. This is important because mental health can also go along with one’s self-esteem and if self-esteem among these individuals can be raised than hopefully so can their mental health. Another aspect was to see if any past research can find any connections such as stress as a reason for lower self-esteem among these individuals. Each study seemed to use the same method to measure self-esteem which was the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale or (RSES). Research was slightly limited since many were online surveys or done with a limited amount of people. For future research more LGBT individuals of varying ages could be surveyed.


For this study the questions are does one part of the LGBT community have lower self-esteem than the others? What plays a large role in self-esteem among those in the LGBT community? The hypothesis is that stress plays a major part in lower self-esteem among the LGBT community.


  1. Austin, A., & Goodman, R. (2016). The Impact of Social Connectedness and Internalized Transphobic Stigma on Self-Esteem Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults. Journal of Homosexuality, 64(6), 825-841. doi:10.1080/00918369.2016.1236587
  2. Greene, D. C., & Britton, P. J. (2013). The Influence of Forgiveness on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Individuals’ Shame and Self-Esteem. Journal of Counseling & Development, 91(2), 195-205. doi:10.1002/j.1556-6676.2013.00086.x
  3. Lambe, J., Cerezo, A., & O’Shaughnessy, T. (2017). Minority Stress, Community Involvement, and Mental Health Among Bisexual Women. ., Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 4(2), 218-226. doi:10.1037/sgd0000222
  4. Legate, N., Weinstein, N., Ryan, W. S., Dehaan, C. R., & Ryan, R. M. (2018). Parental autonomy support predicts lower internalized homophobia and better psychological health indirectly through lower shame in lesbian, gay and bisexual adults. Stigma and Health. doi:10.1037/sah0000150
  5. Longares, L., Escartín, J., & Rodríguez-Carballeira, Á. (2016). Collective Self-Esteem and Depressive Symptomatology in Lesbians and Gay Men: A Moderated Mediation Model of Self-Stigma and Psychological Abuse. Journal of Homosexuality, 63(11), 1481-1501. doi:10.1080/00918369.2016.1223333
  6. Russell, S. T., Toomey, R. B., Ryan, C., & Diaz, R. M. (2014). Being out at school: The implications for school victimization and young adult adjustment. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(6), 635-643. doi:10.1037/ort0000037
  7. Vosvick, M., & Stem, W. (2019). Psychological Quality of Life in a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, TransgenderSample: Correlates of Stress, Mindful Acceptance, and Self-Esteem. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 6(1), 34-41.
  8. Woodford, M. R., Kulick, A., Sinco, B. R., & Hong, J. S. (2014). Contemporary heterosexism on campus and psychological distress among LGBQ students: The mediating role of self-acceptance. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(5), 519-529. doi:10.1037/ort0000015
  9. Wrench, J. S., & Knapp, J. L. (2008). The Effects of Body Image Perceptions and Sociocommunicative Orientations on Self-Esteem, Depression, and Identification and Involvement in the Gay Community. Journal of Homosexuality, 55(3), 471-503. doi:10.1080/00918360802345289
  10. Zosky, D. L., & Alberts, R. (2016). What’s in a name? Exploring use of the word queer as a term of identification within the college-aged LGBT community. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 26(7-8), 597-607. doi:10.1080/10911359.2016.1238803
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Self Esteem Among the LGBT. (2021, Mar 09). Retrieved from