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Media representation and early disclosure of sexual orientation: A formula for suicide risk among gay and bisexual male adolescents

26 July 2013


Gay and bisexual (GB) male adolescents are at increased risk for engaging in suicidal behaviors, when compared to their heterosexual counterparts. Traditional models of the coming out process suggested that GB male youths are vulnerable to negative mental health outcomes (e.g., suicidality) due to their feelings of estrangement from same-sex peers and the lack of media representation of GB men (Troiden, 1979; Cass, 1984). However, GB male representations in the media have increased significantly. This review of the literature suggests that this increased representation of GB men may be related to a decision for many GB male adolescents to disclose their sexual orientations at younger ages than previous generations. This may, in turn, contribute to an increase in GB adolescent suicide risk, as early disclosure of sexual orientation is a significant risk factor for suicidal behaviors. The paper discusses clinical and societal implications of this finding, recommendations for culturally competent treatment, and limitations of the research.


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