Quality of Life and Drug Use at the Intersections of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

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Sexual minorities, or those who do not identify as straight, face stigmatizing experiences which can lead to disparities in physical and mental health, as well as social and economic resources. Additionally, transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) persons, or those whose sex assigned at birth is not fully aligned with their gender identity, experience similar disparities related to stigma and lack of resources. The current study aimed to examine quality of life and drug use between TGNC and cisgender (or non-TGNC) individuals who all identify as sexual minorities to explore how being TGNC may further widen gaps in quality of life beyond sexual orientation. We examined four components of quality of life – physical, psychological, social, and environmental. Additionally, we examined frequency of use of various drugs as a component of quality of life and risk behavior. Within a sample of 213 sexual minorities, 63 (29.6%) identified as TGNC. Independent samples t-test were run to examine differences in quality of life Page 180 2017 Appalachian Student Research Forum and drug use between TGNC and cisgender participants. TGNC participants reported significantly lower physical quality of life (M=13.35, SD=2.97) than cisgender participants (M=14.99, SD=2.59), t(211)=-4.05, p<.001; lower psychological quality of life (M=11.24, SD=3.18) than cisgender participants (M=12.62, SD=2.99), t(211)=-3.04, p=.003; and lower environmental quality of life (M=15.41, SD=2.78) than cisgender participants (M=16.83, SD=2.94), t(211)=-3.25, p=.001. Additionally, TGNC participants reported higher use of sleep medications (M=0.87, SD=2.01) than cisgender participants (M=0.39, SD=1.29), t(210)=2.06, p=0.040; higher use of opioids (M=0.30, SD=0.98) than cisgender participants (M=0.05, SD=0.38), t(210)=2.66, p=.008; and higher use of barbiturates (M=0.03, SD=0.18) than cisgender participants (M=0.00, SD=0.00),t(211)=2.21, p=.028. These findings indicate that experiences related to gender identity may explain additional disparities in quality of life above and beyond those related to sexual orientation, and that future research should examine multiple identity characteristics when attempting to explain health disparities.


Johnson City, TN

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