When Alexis Pegues came out to her relatives on her father’s side of the family, at age 16, they were shocked and upset and wouldn’t accept that she had a girlfriend. Her life was in turmoil.
Even when she lived with her more-accepting mother’s side of the family, a few years later she had to deal with outside prejudice.
Today, at 25 and living in Chicago with her girlfriend, Pegues still faces the stress of coming out to colleagues at work.
What’s helped her feel better in each of these cases has been the loving support of a girlfriend.
“Whether coming out of work or family issues, it’s nice to have someone to confide in, come home to and provide you with a sense of normality … [and] to know that it was worth it,” Pegues says.
A recent study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology finds that being in a romantic relationship can help gay and lesbian youth like Pegues feel less mental distress — even more so if they are black or Latino. This contrasts with the fact that, in heterosexual teens’ lives, romance is generally found to cause distress rather than alleviate it.
But the study of LGBT youth also showed romance — defined as an ongoing relationship with a lover, boyfriend, girlfriend or someone a person feels very close to — can make bisexual youth feel worse. Too few transgender youth were included in the study to determine the effects of romance on this group.
Joanne Davila, a professor of clinical psychology and director of clinical training at Stony Brook University in New York who was not involved in the study, said the findings on gays and lesbians were encouraging. “In some ways, what it tells us is gay and lesbian couples are basically getting the same benefits from being in a relationship as heterosexuals do. I think that’s really important, because there are so many potentially negative ideas about gay and lesbian relationships,” Davila said.
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