Thoughts on Pride Month

Matt Treble

June 10th 2019 

For many generations, June has been a month of celebration; it is the end of the school year, the beginning of summer vacation, the arrival of hotter weather…  but over the last two decades, we have seen another reason to celebrate in June– Pride month!

The pride movement started as a riot by LGBTQ+ patrons at the Stonewall Inn when police arrived to arrest them – instead, the patrons resisted and rioted to send a clear message to police and governing bodies (if you are interested in learning a bit more on the history of Pride, this article gives a brief description of what happened.

What does this have to do with psychology?

In order to better understand the psychological implications of Pride and LGBTQ+ identities, we need to look at some theories that have been influential in LGBTQ+ research. There are two theories that can be helpful for understanding the potential underlying mechanisms that contribute to the poorer mental health outcomes in LGBTQ+ folks: Gender Socialization Theory and the Minority Stress Model.

Gender Socialization Theory

Gender is something that is imposed on every single person from the moment they are born [4]. In the delivery room, gender is assigned to newborn babies based on their genitalia at birth [4]. This assigned gender sets the newborn up for years and years of being socialized specific ways (typically being socialized to take on stereotypical “female” or “male” roles) [5].

The way society operates reinforces these assigned gender identities through dichotomous clothing options (boy or girl), toy selection (boy toys or girl toys), etc. [5]. These identities are also reinforced in home environments as families tend to rely on each member fulfilling a specific role [6]. In addition, language used by families to describe boys is often centered on physical characteristics such as strength and agility, whereas language used to describe girls tends to focus on affection, expressivity, and fragility [6]. This can be particularly problematic for folks who identify as 2-spirit, queer, trans, or gender non-conforming, as these assigned gender identities are not necessarily in line with their self-identity and gender-identity.

Minority Stress Model

According to The Minority Stress Model, people of minority status (e.g., LGBTQ+, people of colour, disabled people, etc.) experience poorer long-term mental health outcomes due to the stigma and discrimination they encounter in their daily lives [7].

The model posits that minorities first experience increased distal stress (i.e., overt, external experiences such as being called derogatory terms or being physically harassed for being LGBTQ+), which in turn increases  proximal stress (i.e., internal experiences such as negative self-schemas, increased trauma symptoms, and  internalized self-homophobia) [7]. This increased proximal stress is then believed to lead to negative mental and physical health effects, including cardiovascular problems, anxiety, and depression [7]. As such, understanding how society’s treatment of individuals with minority status in daily life leads to increased negative health effects is vital when considering the disproportionately high rates of suicide and high-risk behaviours.

Theory to Reality

The world has made a lot of positive progress for LGBTQ+ folks, but there is still lots of work to be done. The Gender Socialization Theory and Minority Stress Model are just two examples of how individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ are theoretically disadvantaged to having poorer physical and mental health.

Within our own lab’s Many Minds study, we have identified higher rates of engagement in high-risk behaviours (e.g., disordered eating, binge drinking, non-suicidal self-injury, and suicidal ideation) within LGBTQ+ students compared to non-LGBTQ+ students [8]. The most significant differences were in non-suicidal self injury and suicide attempts [8]. These results are sad, but not surprising given the historical statistics. It shows that problems LGBTQ+ folks have faced in the past are still present today, and that we all need to be aware of the negative effects of homophobia and transphobia. These findings are in line with the negative health effects that are hypothesized by the Gender Socialization Theory and Minority Stress Model.

Combating these disproportionately high rates of suicide, harassment and high-risk behaviours starts with our own internalized biases. Any forms of discrimination and exclusion contribute to the mechanisms described above can contribute to poorer wellbeing for LGBTQ+ folks. It is thus crucial that as individuals and as a society strive to be more inclusive and accepting. Even though Pride month is technically just for June, we must continue to support, empower, and love all LGBTQ+ folks for 365 days of the year, not just for a colourful parade.


[1] Ahuja, A., Webster, C., Gibson, N., Brewer, A., Toledo, S. & Russel, S. (2015). Bullying and suicide: The mental health crisis of LGBTQ youth and how you can help. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 19(2), 125-144. doi: 10.1080/19359705.2015.1007417

[2] Blosnich, J., & Bossarte, R.(2012). Drivers of Disparity: Differences in socially based risk factors of self-injurious and suicidal behaviors among sexual minority college students. Journal of American College Health, 60(2), 141–149. doi:10.1080/07448481.2011.623332

[3] Egale Canada Human Rights Trust. (2019). What you should know about LGBTQ youth suicide in Canada. Accessed from:

[4] Meyer-Bahlburg, H. F. L. (2005). Introduction: Gender dysphoria and gender change in persons with intersexuality. Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 34(4). 371-373. doi: 10.1007/s10508-005-4335-8

 [5] Leaper, C. & Friedman, C. K. (2007). The socialization of gender. In Handbook of Socialization: Theory and Research (pp. 561-582). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

[6] Carter, M. J. (2014). Gender socialization and identity theory. Social Sciences, 3(2). 242-263. doi: 10.3390/socsci3020242

 [7] Goldbach, J.T., & Gibbs, J. J. (2017). A developmentally informed adaptation of minority stress for sexual minority adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 55, 36-50. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.12.007

[8] Prud’homme, J., & Turner, B. J. (manuscript in preparation).  Co-occurrence of health risk behaviours and its stability in first year of university: Are sexual minority students more at risk?

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