Structural Oppression and Suicide in Black LGBTQ Men

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Structural Oppression and Suicide in Black LGBTQ Men

Jim Windell

          If transgender youth have high rates of mental health problems, what about LGBTQ men? Especially Black LGBTQ men? Are they at risk for depression and suicide? If so, why?

           A study recently published in the Journal of Research on Adolescence in a special issue devoted to systems of oppression and Black youth examines how structural oppression and anti-LGBTQ policies in individual U.S. states intersect and can predict suicide risk.

         The researchers from Rutgers School of Public Health and other universities assessed a group of 497 Black and 1,536 white gay, bisexual, and other sexual minority men between the ages of 16 and 25. The group studied came from a 2017–2018 internet-based U.S. national survey.

           The results of the study indicate that suicide rates among Black youth are increasing at higher rates than any other racial/ethnic community in the U.S. But the research also found that suicide among Black sexual minority youth is largely under researched. 

           The Rutgers School of Public Health researchers found anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ policies linked to inequities in states’ housing, education, incarceration, and economic opportunity among Black and LGBTQ communities are associated with suicide risk factors. Those suicide risk factors include depressive symptoms, heavy drinking, perceived burdensomeness, thwarted belongingness, suicidal ideation, self-harm and suicide attempts among young Black sexual minority men. In addition, the study found neither form of oppression nor their interaction were associated with suicide risk among young white sexual minority men.

           According to lead researcher Devin English, assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health, “Our research suggests that structural oppression is a matter of life and death for young Black sexual minority men.” The data indicates, English added, that racist and anti-LGBTQ U.S. state policies,  like those that discriminate against Black and LGBTQ communities in housing, incarceration and economic opportunity, are linked to higher risk for suicide for these young men.

           “This study’s results highlight how white sexual minority men are often protected from the negative impact of anti-LGBTQ policies,” says Cheriko A. Boone, study coauthor from The George Washington University. “For far too long Black queer people have been left behind in terms of health- and socioeconomic-related outcomes, while white queer people are shielded from discrimination, particularly in states where there’s a perfect storm of anti-Black racism and anti-LGBTQ discrimination.”

           The authors recommend, in order to combat suicide among young Black sexual minority men, that structural and policy interventions are necessary. Such interventions would include federal protections like the Equality Act for LGBTQ communities that faced the largest yearly increase in state anti-LGBTQ legislation in 2021. Furthermore, the study authors suggest that policies be instituted that have the goal of dismantling structural racism, racist policing, and the numerous manifestations of anti-Black racism at all levels of U.S. society.

           To read the study, entitled Intersecting Structural Oppression and Suicidality among Black Sexual Male Adolescents and Emerging Adults, click here.



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