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LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc.) youth are at increased risk for negative outcomes. Yet little is known about their engagement with communities and resources that may ameliorate risk, particularly online. Oriented by a uses and gratifications approach, this secondary analysis (n = 4,009) of LGBTQ+ youth (aged 14-29) compares online versus offline experiences. Respondents were significantly more likely to participate in LGBTQ+ communities online. Youth were also more active, and felt safer and more supported, when participating in online LGBTQ+ communities. Additionally, respondents sought online information, support, and resources at higher rates than offline. Increased attention toward online programming and resource development is warranted.
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Journal of Technology in Human Services
ISSN: 1522-8835 (Print) 1522-8991 (Online) Journal homepage:
LGBTQ+ Youths’ Community Engagement and
Resource Seeking Online versus Offline
Lauren B. McInroy, Rebecca J. McCloskey, Shelley L. Craig & Andrew D. Eaton
To cite this article: Lauren B. McInroy, Rebecca J. McCloskey, Shelley L. Craig & Andrew D.
Eaton (2019): LGBTQ+ Youths’ Community Engagement and Resource Seeking Online versus
Offline, Journal of Technology in Human Services, DOI: 10.1080/15228835.2019.1617823
To link to this article:
Published online: 01 Jun 2019.
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LGBTQþYouthsCommunity Engagement and
Resource Seeking Online versus Offline
Lauren B. McInroy
, Rebecca J. McCloskey
, Shelley L. Craig
, and
Andrew D. Eaton
The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio;
University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada
LGBTQþ(lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc.) youth
are at increased risk for negative outcomes. Yet little is known
about their engagement with communities and resources that
may ameliorate risk, particularly online. Oriented by a uses
and gratifications approach, this secondary analysis (n¼4,009)
of LGBTQþyouth (aged 1429) compares online versus offline
experiences. Respondents were significantly more likely to par-
ticipate in LGBTQþcommunities online. Youth were also
more active, and felt safer and more supported, when partici-
pating in online LGBTQ þcommunities. Additionally, respond-
ents sought online information, support, and resources at
higher rates than offline. Increased attention toward online
programming and resource development is warranted.
Received 26 March 2019
Accepted 8 May 2019
LGBTQ; online; Internet;
community; resources
LGBTQþ(lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, etc.) adolescents and
young adults disproportionately encounter social isolation, family/peer
rejection, and harassment. They also experience increased risk for negative
health and mental health outcomes when compared to their non-LGBTQþ
counterparts, including depression, negative self-image, suicidal ideation
and behavior, substance misuse, and other risk-taking behaviors (Higa
et al., 2014; Hunter, Cohall, Mallon, Moyer, & Riddel, 2006; Prock &
Kennedy, 2017). However, insufficient research has investigated the exist-
ence and format of programming and resources targeted to contemporary
LGBTQþyouth. Research is particularly lacking regarding emergent online
resources and applications (Saewyc, 2011; Wagaman, 2014). Additionally,
little is known about the types of programs and services that LGBTQþ
youth tend to favor (Wagaman, 2014), or the degree of their engagement
in LGBTQþcommunity contexts offline and online (Evans et al., 2017).
This secondary analysis (n¼4,009) of an online survey sample of
CONTACT Lauren B. McInroy College of Social Work, The Ohio State University, 325R
Stillman Hall, 1947 College Road, Columbus, OH 43210.
ß2019 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
LGBTQþyouth (aged 1429) compares their engagement with and percep-
tions of a range of offline and online LGBTQþcommunities and activities.
It also explores their access to relevant health information and other
resources in both offline and online contexts. Implications for the future
development and provision of programming and resources tailored to this
population are discussed.
Theoretical framework
An approach to conceptualizing media consumption, Uses and
Gratifications Theory (UGT) focuses on why and how people use media
(Lee, 2013, p. 301). UGT is goal-oriented, positing that people seek, from
amongst the media available to them, content which satisfies their individ-
ual social and psychological needs and wants. Ultimately, peoples media
consumption behaviors are hypothesized to be motivated by the personal
gratification they receive from engaging in those behaviors (Muhammad,
2018; Shade, Kornfield, & Oliver, 2015; Whiting & Williams, 2013).
Originally developed as a theoretical approach to mass communication
(e.g., television, radio), UGT has more recently been applied to online
contextssuch as social media and online gaming (Muhammad, 2018;
Whiting & Williams, 2013; Wu Wang & Tsai, 2010). This online applica-
tion has included a shift toward thinking about participating individuals
as users,as opposed to audience members(Shade et al., 2015), recog-
nizing the degree to which individuals actively direct their use of
online media.
Gratifications are often conceptualized into two broad categories, content
gratifications (i.e., the individual benefits from the information provided in
the content) and process gratifications (i.e., the individual benefits from the
action of utilizing the media; Chen, 2011). Whiting and Williams (2013)
identified 10 uses and gratifications related to social media, including social
interaction, information seeking, and convenience utilityor its accessibil-
ity and ease of use. In addition to gratifying needs and wants, online media
content has been found to motivate individuals to communicate, as well as
socially and emotionally connect with others (Chen, 2011). However, UGT
remains primarily focused upon peoples utilization of media, rather than
the impact of media on the user. It also acknowledges an expectation of
individual variation in the type and degree of media engagement (Shade
et al., 2015). Thus, UGT is appropriate for this investigation, which focuses
on LGBTQþyouthsengagement with online communities, information
and resources (as opposed to offline), while considering how individual
circumstances and preferences may play a role in behavior.
A recent qualitative study of LGBTQþadolescents in the United States and
Canada inquired about their perceptions of their communities and the
resources available to them (Eisenberg et al., 2018). Interpersonal supports
(e.g., family, friends, peers, and teachers) were identified as the most
important resource. Youth also stated that LGBTQþevents and programs
were additional sources of acceptance and support, and were locations
where they often accessed various services. General resources, activities,
and casual spaces that were welcoming to the LGBTQþcommunity (e.g.,
community centers and student groups) were also mentioned as helpful
and supportive (Eisenberg et al., 2018). However, as with much of the pre-
vious research on LGBTQþyouthsaccess to resources and supports,
Eisenberg and colleagues(2018) sample was restricted to those recruited
via LGBTQþorganizations and school-based groups. Thus, participants in
the study already engaged to some degree with offline LGBTQþ
communities and services.
A range of formal and informal health and mental health resources for
LGBTQþyouth exist within school and community settings. These resour-
ces are sometimes identity specific, but may also be open to youth regard-
less of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. For example, Gender
and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs)also referred to as Gay-Straight
Alliancesare a school-based resource available to many LGBTQþyouth
in the United States (Kosciw, Greytak, Zongrone, Clark, & Truong, 2018).
While there is evidence that GSAs can facilitate safer and more affirming
school contexts for LGBTQþstudents and allies, potentially contributing
to improved psychosocial outcomes and school achievement for LGBTQþ
students (Heck, Flentje, & Cochran, 2011; Kosciw et al., 2018; Seelman,
Forge, Walls, & Bridges, 2015), they may not be designed to provide clin-
ical services or meet complex needs (McInroy & Craig, 2012; Craig,
McInroy, & Austin, 2018).
Further, in 2017 only 53% of LGBTQþstudents reported that their
schools had GSAs, and more than one third (36%) of students reported not
participating in GSAs even if they were available (Kosciw et al., 2018).
Research has demonstrated that GSAs may be particularly ill equipped to
serve gender minority (e.g., transgender and gender diverse) students
(Greytek, Kosciw, & Boesen, 2013), as well as students who simultaneously
possess other marginalized identities (e.g., ethno-racial minorities; Diaz &
Kosciw, 2009; McCready, 2004). To better support LGBTQþyouth,
Kennedy (2013) has recommended collaborative school-community part-
nerships. Together, schools and communities can help create more
inclusive and accepting offline environments for LGBTQþyouth and their
families, effectively improving mental health and academic success.
However, the exponential growth of the Internet also warrants consider-
ation for emerging opportunities toward the development of accessible pro-
gramming and the effective provision of resources.
While research has to some extent discussed the provision of offline resour-
ces to LGBTQþyouth, very minimal scholarship addresses online resour-
ces for the population. Additionally, comparatively little research exists
concerning LGBTQþyouth who do not have access to school or commu-
nity-based resources and supportsor those who have resources available
but do not utilize them. Not all LGBTQþyouth reside in home and com-
munity contexts which facilitate their ability to access offline resources that
meet their needs. Research continues to demonstrate that LGBTQþyouth
experience disproportionate familial conflict and rejection, school-based
harassment and victimization, and hostile communities which contribute to
elevated rates of psychological distress and reduced overall well-being
(Baams, Dubas, Russell, Buikema, & van Aken, 2018; Higa et al., 2014;
Johns et al., 2018; Russell & Fish, 2016). These difficulties constitute bar-
riers to accessing offline services. Youth in rural areas and in certain
regions of the United States (e.g., midwestern and southern states) also
continue to be more likely to experience hostile climates and less access to
school-based supports (Kosciw et al., 2018).
While school and community-based programs and resources may be
needed and desirable for many LGBTQþyouth, such opportunities may
not be perceived as welcoming, safe, or validating by all individuals and
LGBTQþidentities (Eisenberg et al., 2018; Higa et al., 2014; Maccio &
Ferguson, 2016; Wagaman, 2014). Thus, the potential of online contexts to
support the well-being and community connectedness of LGBTQþyouth
necessitates further investigation. In the United States, LGBTQþyouth
may use the Internet and social media at higher rates than their non-
LGBTQþpeers (GLSEN, 2013; Paradis & Pascoe, 2010). Further, a growing
body of research indicates that LGBTQþyoung people use the Internet to
gather information related to their gender, sexuality, and relationships, as
well as their physical, mental, and sexual health (Paradis & Pascoe, 2010).
They also develop identity-specific community connections online, and
engage with content that validates their unique experiences of being
LGBTQþindividuals. These are activities which may not be possible in
their offline spaces due to contextual constraints and the heightened risk of
identity exposure (Craig & McInroy, 2014; Craig, McInroy, McCready, Di
Cesare, & Pettaway, 2015; Fox and Ralston, 2016; Kosciw et al., 2018;
Paradis & Pascoe, 2010). For LGBTQþyouth who do not have families
and offline communities who are supportive of their gender and/or sexual
identities, online communities may provide a necessary and validating
space to find information and social support (Higa et al., 2014).
Given that very little is known about LGBTQþyouthspreferences and
resource access in offline and online contexts, additional research is neces-
sary (Wagaman, 2014). In particular, greater understanding of the differences
between LGBTQþyouthscommunity engagement and resource seeking in
offline compared to online contexts would significantly benefit planning for
future programming and provision of services. This article contributes by
comparing LGBTQþyouthsengagement in and perceptions regarding off-
line and online LGBTQþcommunities and activities, as well as their access-
ing of relevant health information and other resources in offline versus
online contexts. A uses and gratifications approach frames this work, includ-
ing the conceptualization of process and content gratifications. The hypothe-
ses are motivated by our position that LGBTQþyouth may benefit from
engaging with online LGBTQþcontent, particularly utilizing online mecha-
nisms to meet identity-based socialization and information needs given the
significant ongoing barriers they experience to accessing offline support and
resources. Four hypotheses were investigated: (a) that youth would partici-
pate more actively in online LGBTQþcommunities, as compared to offline
LGBTQþcommunities; (b) that online LGBTQþcommunities would be
perceived as safer than offline LGBTQþcommunities; (c) that online
LGBTQþcommunities would be perceived as more supportive than offline
LGBTQþcommunities; and (d) that LGBTQþyouth would access more
identity-related information and resources online, as compared to offline.
The data for these analyses are drawn from Project #Queery, a mixed-
methods online survey of 6,309 LGBTQþadolescents and young adults
residing in every state and province across the United States and Canada.
The online survey took approximately 45 min to complete, and consisted of
a variety of question types (e.g., scale, closed-choice, open-ended). It
focused on respondentsengagement with online technologies and plat-
forms, as well as their health and mental health, identity development, and
community involvement. Respondents included in these analyses
(n¼4,009) are those who completed a series of six scale questions inquir-
ing about their activeness, and perceptions of support and safety, in offline
and online LGBTQþcommunities. Sample questions: I am active as a
LGBTQþperson in my online LGBTQþcommunity;I feel supported as
a LGBTQþperson in my online LGBTQþcommunity; and I feel safe as
a LGBTQþperson in my online LGBTQþcommunity.
Data were collected MarchJuly 2016. Recruitment was undertaken online,
employing: (a) e-mail-based outreach to agencies serving the population, (b)
outreach and promotion in social media groups and on other online plat-
forms, and (c) paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram. The study was
approved by a University of Toronto Research Ethics Board Protocol (ID
31769). The requirement for parental consent was waived for respondents
under age 18. For this population and study design, seeking parental consent
had the potential to be a greater risk than allowing youth to independently
assent to participate. All respondents (regardless of age) completed an online
consent procedure prior to survey completion. This procedure included ani-
mated videos to reinforce youth comprehension of study goals and the con-
sent process (McInroy, 2017).
A number of survey design and data cleaning techniques were used to
identify dishonest or inauthentic responses. These included asking similar
Table 1. Descriptive statistics (n¼4,009).
American Indian/Canadian First Nations 203 5.10
Asian 193 4.80
Black 149 3.70
Hispanic 320 8.00
Multiracial 288 7.20
White 3,264 81.40
Gender identity
Agender 88 2.20
GenderQueer/GenderFluid 889 22.20
Gender nonbinary/Nonconforming/Independent 1,050 26.20
Man/Male 634 15.80
Trans man/Male 454 13.6
Trans woman/Female 84 2.10
Two-spirit 53 1.30
Woman/Female 1577 39.3
Sexual orientation
Asexual (Ace) umbrella
458 11.40
Bi umbrellab 981 24.5
Demi umbrellac 88 2.20
Gay 629 15.70
Lesbian 661 16.50
Not sure/Questioning 235 5.90
Queer 991 24.7
Pan umbrellad 1275 31.8
Straight/Heterosexual 58 1.40
Two-spirit 44 1.10
Country of residence
Canada 1,201 30.00
United States 2,747 68.50
Note. Respondants could choose multiple race/ethnicity options.
Asexual, aromantic, gray asexual, etc.
Bisexual, biromantic.
Demisexual, demiromantic.
Pansexual, panromantic, pansensual.
questions (e.g., age and birth year) on separate pages of the survey, and
assessing for consistency in responses (McInroy, 2016). Responses deter-
mined to be inauthenticas well as multiple responses from the same
individual and responses by individuals who did not meet inclusion crite-
riawere removed from the final data set. Following their participation,
respondents could enter into a raffle for the chance to win one of a selec-
tion of incentives (e.g., gift cards of various values). A published research
protocol for the Project #Queery online survey is available from Craig et
al. (2017).
Sample composition
Respondents ranged in age from 14 to 29 years (M¼18.35; SD ¼3.64). See
Table 1 for the descriptive statistics of the sample. Options for sexual
orientation and gender identity were nonmutually exclusive, and respond-
ents could select all terms that they felt applied to them. With regard to
sexual and romantic orientation, related identities were grouped into
identity umbrellasfor reporting (e.g., pansexual and panromantic were
included in a pan umbrella; bisexual and biromantic were grouped into a
bi umbrella; Craig et al., 2017). Respondents were most likely to identify
in the pan umbrella (30.5%), the bi umbrella (24.2%), and/or as queer
(24.7%). For gender identity, respondents were most likely to identify as
woman/female (39.3%), as nonbinary/nonconforming (26.2%) and/or as
genderqueer/genderfluid (19.4%). In all, 48.7% of the sample identified
within the spectrum of transgender or gender nonconforming identities.
Respondentswere predominantly White, non-Hispanic (81.4%). The
majority of respondents resided in the United States (68.5%).
Approximately half of respondents (49.2%) lived in urban settings, though
many lived in suburban (37.9%) and rural (10.8%) communities.
Measurement and analysis
Most items used in these analyses were generated for the Project
#Queery study. The questions on Internet usage and online engagement
were significantly informed by the Pew Research Centers Internet &
American Life surveys. The items inquiring about the age of accomplishing
various social milestones (e.g., age of first participating in the LGBTQþ
community) were developed from a review of the literature on LGBTQþ
identity development (Rosario et al., 2006; Rosario, Schrimshaw, & Hunter,
2011; Schrimshaw et al., 2006). All measures used in the study are outlined
in Craig et al. (2017). All analyses reported in this article were completed
using the Statistical Pack for the Social Sciences (SPSS) Version 24 (IBM
Corp., 2016). To examine differences between respondentsonline and off-
line experiences, McNemars tests and paired t-tests were conducted (Green
& Salkind, 2011). Missing data on questions used in these analyses ranged
from 1.6% to 4.2%. Additionally, due to skip-logic the sample size for the
analysis inquiring about how old respondents were when they first partici-
pated in the LGBTQþcommunity online and offline is 2,454.
Table 2 displays respondentsdaily online activity, as well as their participa-
tion in the LGBTQþcommunity offline and online (measured dichotom-
ously; e.g., have you ever participated in the LGBTQþcommunity
online?). Nearly half the sample (48.2%) reported spending more than 5 hr
online each day, while only 10.7% spent less than 2 hr online daily. A
McNemars test was used to examine respondentsengagement in the
LGBTQþcommunity, and showed that the proportion of respondents who
had ever participated in the LGBTQþcommunity online was significantly
different from the proportion that ever had participated offline, p.000 (2
sided). Hypothesis 1 was supported by these findings. While over two
thirds of the sample had participated at least once in the LGBTQþcom-
munity offline (69%), respondents were significantly more likely to report
they had ever participated in the LGBTQþcommunity online (88.5%).
However, the effect size was small (/¼.19).
Respondents (n¼2,454) were on average 15 years old when they first
participated in the LGBTQþcommunity online (range 729, SD ¼2.79),
and were slightly older when they first participated in the LGBTQþcom-
munity offline (range 528, M¼15.74, SD ¼2.92). The age difference
between first online and first offline participation was statistically signifi-
cant [t(2453) ¼13.22, p.000]. The Cohens effect size value (d¼.27)
suggested a small practical significance (see Table 3).
A series of paired samples t-tests were performed to compare online and
offline activity (see Table 3). Items were measured on an 11-point scale,
ranging from 0 to 10 (not at all”–“very). Hypotheses 13 were supported
by the findings. Respondents indicated that they were more active [t(4008)
¼10.12, p.000], felt more supported [t(4008) ¼26.28, p.000], and
Table 2. Online and offline activity (n¼4,009).
Time spent online daily
<2 hr 430 10.70
25 hr 1,648 41.10
>5 hr 1,930 48.10
Participation in the LGBTQ þcommunity
Online 3,546 88.50
Offline 2,766 69.00
felt safer [t(4008) ¼35.78, p.000] participating in the LGBTQþcom-
munity online versus offline. All results were statistically significant. While
the practical significance for online activity was small (d¼0.16), effect sizes
of respondentsfeeling more supported (d¼0.41) and safer (d¼0.56) in
the online LGBTQþcommunity were moderately significant (Green &
Salkind, 2011).
One-way between-subjects analyses of variance (ANOVA) tests were per-
formed to compare the effect of average hours spent online daily and
respondentsreports of being active, and feeling supported and safe in the
online LGBTQþcommunity. As expected, results determined that those
who spent more time online on a daily basis were also more active [F(2,
4005) ¼46.61, p.000], felt more supported [F(2, 4005) ¼20.36, p
.000], and felt safer [F(2, 4005) ¼9.71, p.000] online than those who
spent less time online. Post-hoc comparisons using the Bonferroni correc-
tion with an adjusted alpha level of .016 per test (.05/3) indicated that
reports of being active as a LGBTQþperson in the online LGBTQþcom-
munity among those reporting high daily online activity (M¼6.03,
SD ¼3.10) was significantly higher than those reporting average (M¼5.45,
SD ¼3.01) and low (M¼4.54, SD ¼3.03) daily online activity. Additionally,
respondentsreports of feeling more supported as a LGBTQþperson in
their online LGBTQþcommunity when also reporting high daily online
activity (M¼7.48, SD ¼2.72) was significantly higher when compared to
those reporting average (M¼7.14, SD ¼2.76) and low (M¼6.59,
SD ¼3.06) daily online activity. Finally, for respondents reporting high
daily online activity, they were significantly more likely to report feeling
safe as a LGBTQþperson in their online LGBTQþcommunity (M¼7.58,
SD ¼2.62) than those reporting average (M¼7.38, SD ¼2.61) and low
(M¼6.97 SD ¼2.95.04) daily online activity. In other words, more time
spent online was correlated with higher rates of activity in LGBTQþcom-
munities online, as well as increased likelihood of feeling supported and
safe in those online community contexts.
Respondents accessed a variety of identity-based online and offline com-
munity resources and activities (see Table 4). Supporting Hypothesis 4,
Table 3. Characteristics of online versus offline participation in the queer commu-
nity (n¼4,009).
Online (M) Offline (M)
difference (M)tdfSig. (2-tailed) Cohensd
Pair 1a: Age first participated 15.00 15.74 0.75 13.22 2,453 0.00 0.27
Pair 2
: Active 5.56 5.11 0.52 10.12 4,008 0.00 0.16
Pair 3
: Feel supported 7.24 5.90 1.34 26.28 4,008 0.00 0.41
Pair 4
: Feel safe 7.43 5.61 1.82 35.78 4,008 0.00 0.56
aPair 1: n¼2454.
bPair 2 Pair 4: n¼4009.
cSmall effect size.
dMedium effect size.
respondents reported accessing more resources and engaging in more activ-
ities online than offline. Notably, while many respondents (64.9%) saw a
mental health counselor or accessed health information offline (47.3%),
respondents were more likely (65.0%) to have accessed health information
online. Large majorities of respondents reported reading LGBTQþnews
websites (76.2%) or consuming LGBTQþblogs or social media sites
(87.1%). Youth also reported high rates of watching LGBTQþTV shows
or movies (86.2%), as well as consuming identity-specific web series or
YouTube channels (79.4%). McNemars tests found statistically significant
differences between the proportion of respondents who: (a) accessed sexual
health information online compared to offline (p¼.000), (b) accessed any
health information online compared to offline (p¼.000), and (c) accessed
LGBTQþnews information online compared to offline (p¼.000). In other
words, respondents were significantly more likely to access any health
information (including sexual health information) online versus offline, and
were more likely to consume LGBTQþnews online.
Study respondents were actively engaged on the Internet, with the vast
majority (89.2%) spending at least 2 hours online per day. This finding is
reflective of general youth usage trends. In 2018, 45% of adolescents in the
United States were online almost constantly,and 44% were online at least
several times a day(Pew Research Center, 2018). As mentioned, research
Table 4. Community resources accessed online and offline (n¼4,009).
Offline/In-person n %
Gay Straight Alliance meeting 2,102 52.4
LGBTQ þdance/prom 933 23.3
LGBTQ þcommunity or drop-in center 898 22.4
LGBTQ þyouth support group 1,200 29.9
LGBTQ þorganization 1,535 38.3
LGBTQ þpride event 2,148 53.6
HIV/STD test 935 23.3
Sexual health information from a clinic or provider 1,424 35.5
Health information from a clinic or provider 1,898 47.3
Saw a mental health counselor 2,602 64.9
Read a LGBTQ þnewspaper or magazine 2,073 51.7
Volunteered for a LGBTQ þorganization 1,026 25.6
Went to a LGBTQ þtalk or speech 1,256 31.3
Participated in a LGBTQ þpolitical campaign 636 15.9
Sexual health information from a website/online 2,535 63.2
Health information from a website/online 2,606 65.0
Read a LGBTQ þnews website 3,055 76.2
Read LGBTQ þblogs and/or social media sites 3,490 87.1
Watched a LGBTQ þTV show or movie 3,456 86.2
Watched a LGBTQ þweb series or YouTube channel 3,183 79.4
Signed a LGBTQ þpetition 2,582 64.4
Note. LGBTQþ¼lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and so forth.
has also suggested that LGBTQþyouth may use the Internet more fre-
quently than general youth populations (GLSEN, 2013; Paradis & Pascoe,
2010). With regard to community engagement, respondents were more
likely to have participated in the LGBTQþcommunity online than offline.
Respondents also indicated being considerably more active, as well as feel-
ing significantly safer and more supported, when participating in the
LGBTQþcommunity online. The effect sizes for the safety and support
findings were particularly notable. Thus, online community contexts
appeared more conducive to LGBTQþyouth addressing their identity-
specific social needs and desires than offline community contexts
(Chen, 2011).
Increasingly, all youth are using the Internet to seek out resources and
information, as well as social support and connections (Pew Research
Center, 2018). Online spaces have also been found to facilitate the connect-
edness of LGBTQþyouth in particular, especially those with limited
opportunities for peer support in offline contexts (Higa et al., 2014). As
discussed, LGBTQþyouth often experience substantial risks and barriers
to accessing existent identity-based supports and resources, including not
feeling comfortable or safe doing so (Craig & McInroy, 2014; Craig et al.,
2015; Higa et al., 2014; Kosciw et al., 2018; Paradis & Pascoe, 2010;
Wagaman, 2014). Additionally, needed services may simply not exist or
otherwise be inaccessible (e.g., transit barriers; Ballard, Jameson, & Martz,
2017; Kosciw et al., 2018). Respondents in this study were geographically
dispersed, with many located in suburban (37.9%) and rural (10.8%) com-
munities. As one of the identified uses and gratifications of online plat-
forms is the relative convenience utility, including greater accessibility and
easier communication (Whiting & Williams, 2013), the findings of this
study reinforce qualitative research which has begun to identify the import-
ance of online communities for LGBTQþyouth. Emerging research indi-
cates that LGBTQþyouth use the Internet to engage in identity
development activities, access role models, and build community connect-
edness in comparatively lower risk (e.g., safer and more anonymous) and
easier-to-access contexts (Craig & McInroy, 2014).
Respondents were also significantly more engaged with LGBTQþonline
resources and sources of information, as compared to offline. Another
identified use of online platforms in UGT is for information-seeking,
including self-directed learning (Whiting & Williams, 2013). Nearly two
thirds (65.0%) of respondents had accessed health information online. By
comparison, only slightly over one third (35.5%) had accessed health infor-
mation offline. Many LGBTQþyouth, even those with supportive families
or communities, experience particularly challenging barriers to offline
health and mental health services. Logistical concerns (e.g., navigating
systems) and practical care concerns (e.g., lack of LGBTQþprotocols or
trained professionals) contribute to poor offline experiences with health
and mental health systems, which may cause LGBTQþindividuals to delay
or avoid accessing necessary care (Craig et al., 2015; Gridley et al., 2016).
With regard to accessing identity-based information more generally, three-
quarters (76.2%) of respondents had accessed LGBTQþnews websites.
Many also engaged with other forms of LGBTQþmedia online. These
findings are consistent with research which has identified a rapid growth in
digital news access among the general U.S. population, alongside concerns
about the accuracy of the content (Bialik & Matsa, 2017; Matsa &
Shearer, 2018).
The accuracy (or lack thereof) of online media and health resources
requires further attention from human services organizations and social
work practitioners serving LGBTQþpopulations. It is likely that LGBTQþ
youth will continue to consume online resources at higher rates than off-
line, yet virtually nothing is known about the quality of the resources they
are accessing. Alarms have been raised in the current climate about
inaccurate news and information online, and its social and political conse-
quences (Vosoughi, Roy, & Aral, 2018). Similarly, while seeking health
information online has increased amongst the general population in recent
years, significant concerns exist about incorrect, incomplete, and unverified
content (Diviani, van den Putte, Giani, & van Weert, 2015). There are
undoubtedly important gratifications to accessing online health resources,
such as social support. However, consuming inaccurate health information
online has the potential to lead to ill-informed health decision making
(Jiang & Street, 2017, p. 1024) which can limit the usefulness of the infor-
mation provided and contribute to poorer health-related outcomes. Taken
together, opportunities to foster safer and more accessible contexts of com-
munity engagement and social support for LGBTQþyouth, as well as to
engage in the development of accurate, evidence-based resources and serv-
ices, necessitate consideration by human service organizations and individ-
ual practitioners.
Implications for practice
The Internet may play an increasingly important intermediary role in facili-
tating a connection to offline resources for LGBTQþyouth (DeHaan et al.,
2013). Many diverse LGBTQþyoung people use the Internet to garner infor-
mation about inclusive health and mental health services and providers,
which they may subsequently visit offline (DeHaan et al., 2013; Evans et al.,
2017). In offline contexts, community resources that use symbolic cues (e.g.,
rainbow flags and all-gender bathrooms) have been cited as particularly
important in demonstrating a commitment toward acceptance of LGBTQþ
populations (Craig et al., 2015; Eisenberg et al., 2018). It is important for
human service organizations and individual service providers to consider
strategies for communicating that same commitment in their online spaces.
For example, organizations seeking to demonstrate that they welcome
LGBTQþyouth could add symbols (e.g., rainbow flags and pictures of same-
sex couples) to their websites and social media. They could also provide and
highlight relevant information and resources related to LGBTQþhealth and
mental health (Evans et al., 2017; Miller, 2017). Individual providers could
also be encouraged by their organizations to consider adding preferred pro-
nouns after their name and credentials on websites and in e-mail signatures
(or take initiative themselves, if in private practice). Organizations and pro-
viders may also advertise in their online spaces if their offices and clinics
have LGBTQþaffirmative practices, policies, and physical spaces (Craig
et al., 2015; Eisenberg et al., 2018; Evans et al., 2017).
However, in addition to offline organizations making their online spaces
more LGBTQþaffirmative and providing specific digital information and
resources, human service organizations should also seriously consider the
potential of the Internet for actual service provision in the form of more com-
plex resources and programming. Such services would hypothetically be bene-
ficial for individuals who are not able to access offline services, or who choose
not to access offline services due to identity-based barriers (McInroy, Craig,
& Leung, 2018; Mustanski et al., 2015). While a small number of online pro-
grams and e-therapies for LGBTQþyouth are being developed and eval-
uatedsuch as Rainbow SPARX (Lucassen, Merry, Hatcher, & Frampton,
2015), QueerViBE (Martin, 2019), and Project Youth AFFIRM (Craig et al.,
2019)there are significant opportunities for the growth of evidence-based
online programs. Recent qualitative research has found that LGBTQþyouth
indicate an interest in identity-specific e-therapies, provided that program-
ming is delivered in a format which is contemporarily relevant, engaging, and
sufficiently meets their needs (Lucassen et al., 2018). Additionally, profes-
sional trainings and online certificate programs for providers are emerging,
either focusing on or incorporating concerns related to LGBTQþhealth and
mental health (e.g., the National LGBT Health Education Center, Kognito for
suicide prevention; Rein et al., 2018). However, research on the efficacy of
such trainings and programs remains almost nonexistent.
There are ongoing limitations to online resources and service provision
which should also be considered. For example, unsupportive parents may
prevent youth from accessing information and support online, out of fear
that their parents would disapprove or find out about their LGBTQþiden-
tity if they were to access that information (Mehus, Watson, Eisenberg,
Corliss, & Porta, 2017). Ongoing inequities in access to technology and the
Internet for certain populations and in particular geographic contexts (e.g.,
high-speed broadband access in rural areas) may also limit the accessibility
of online resources and services (McInroy, Craig, & Leung, 2018). Finally, as
mentioned, it can be challenging to distinguish misinformation from accur-
ate content in online contexts (Diviani et al., 2015; Higa et al., 2014). Thus,
organizations and providers should pay careful attention to ensuring that the
resources and programming they do provide are evidence-based, as well as
cite (or even link to) sources as much as possible to demonstrate accuracy to
potential consumers. Further, professional associations and organizations
serving LGBTQþyouth could potentially collaborate to develop a broader
presence online, as well as theoretically create better resources and specialty
certifications for professionals who have expertise in providing services to
LGBTQþyouth (Evans et al., 2017).
This study consisted of a sample recruited primarily through online path-
ways, resulting in a potential tendency among respondents to prefer online
engagement. The perspectives of the many LGBTQþyouth who have limited
Internet access may remain underrepresented in this research. Additionally,
respondents included in these analyses were required to answer a series of
six questions on offline and online experiences and perceptions of the
LGBTQþcommunity, which resulted in a sample with at least some famil-
iarity with both community contexts. With regard to UGT, further research
is necessary investigate the whyof LGBTQþyouthsonline activities, and
to establish a nuanced understanding of the specific needs and gratifications
causing youth to make greater use of online LGBTQþcommunities, infor-
mation, and resources compared to offline (Chen, 2011; Lee, 2013).
Additionally, UGT is limited in that it does not focus on the impacts of
media on users (Shade et al., 2015). Future research utilizing other theoretical
frameworks should subsequently address how online versus offline commu-
nity engagement and activities may differentially impact LGBTQþyouth.
This study employs UGT to provide new information regarding LGBTQþado-
lescentsand young adultsengagement with and perceptions of offline versus
online LGBTQþcommunities, as well as their accessing of resources and
information in offline and online contexts. Results demonstrate that LGBTQþ
youth are more active online, and feel safer and more supported in online com-
munity spaces, as compared to offline. They are also more likely to access
health information and LGBTQþnews online, and indicate lower levels of
engagement with offline LGBTQþsupports (e.g., GSAs and support groups).
The potential development of online programming and resources for this
population warrants increased attention by human service organizations and
providers. Further, ongoing research is greatly needed to understand the
impacts of online versus offline participation by LGBTQþyouth, as well as the
feasibility, desirability and effectiveness of conducting LGBTQþspecific
programming online.
The authors wish to express their gratitude for the generosity of the study participants.
Disclosure statement
The authors have no financial interests of benefits to disclose.
This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of
Canada under Grants #475-2015-0780 and #895-2018-1000. Shelley Craig is the Canada
Research Chair in Sexual and Gender Minority Youth. Andrew Eaton is supported by a sal-
ary award from the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN).
Notes on contributors
Lauren B. McInroy is an Assistant Professor in the College of Social Work at The Ohio
State University. Dr. McInroys research investigates the impacts of information and com-
munication technologies (ICTs) on the well-being of marginalized adolescents and emerg-
ing adultsparticularly LGBTQþyoung people. She explores how LGBTQþyouth build
communities of support, engage in identity development activities, foster resilience and
well-being, and engage in advocacy using digital technologies.
Rebecca J. McCloskey is a PhD Candidate in the College of Social Work at The Ohio State
University. As a licensed social worker since 2002, she has worked with children, their fami-
lies, and perinatal women via case management, advocacy, and counseling services. Prior to
the PhD program, she was a clinical professor in Monmouth Universitys School of Social
Work. Her dissertation investigates links between adverse childhood experiences and postpar-
tum depression, anxiety, physical health, and breastfeeding challenges as well as the potential
role of social support, material hardship, and discrimination in moderating these associations.
Shelley L. Craig is a Professor in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the
University of Toronto, and the Canada Research Chair in Sexual and Gender Minority
Youth. Dr. Craigs research focuses on the social determinants of health and mental health
and the impact of the service delivery system on vulnerable populations. Her primary spe-
cializations are: (a) the needs of LGBTQ þyouth and subsequent program development
and service delivery, (b) the roles and interventions used by health social workers to impact
the social determinants of health, and (c) developing competent social work practitioners
through effective social work education.
Andrew D. Eaton is a PhD Candidate and Research Director in the Factor-Inwentash
Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto. His thesis project is a community-
informed pilot trial to determine feasible group therapy for people aging with HIV-
Associated Neurocognitive Disorder (HAND).
Lauren B. McInroy
Rebecca J. McCloskey
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... Thus, Internet-based prevention and intervention programs may be particularly feasible for LGBTQ youth (Craig et al., 2015b;McInroy, 2020;Paceley et al., 2020). The emergence of digital interventions indicates the potential for evidencebased programming for LGBTQ youth delivered via Internetenabled technologies (McInroy et al., 2019a). Given the prospective reach of Internet-based programming, the current study documents the development and delivery of a synchronous, adult-facilitated, chat-based community support program for LGBTQ youth called Q Chat Space. ...
... Internet-based service provision may be appropriate and feasible for LGBTQ youth, indicated by the development and ongoing evaluation of a small but rapidly increasing number of digital programs designed for the population (McInroy, 2020). Significant opportunities exist for the continued development of evidence-informed, Internet-based programming for LGBTQ youth delivered in formats engaging and relevant to the population while adequately addressing safety concerns (McInroy et al., 2019a). This need for Internet-based services and programming is heightened in the current COVID-19 context, wherein LGBTQ youth are further removed from school and community services and confined to sometimes non-affirming home environments (Fish et al., 2020b;Paceley et al., in press). ...
... Despite an increase in Internet-based resources for LGBTQ youth, the developing evidence-base lacks synchronous, structured, or adult-facilitated programs (Lucassen et al., 2015;McInroy et al., 2019a). Guided by the constructs of reach and effectiveness from the RE-AIM model (Glasgow et al., 1999), we assessed the utility, feasibility, and acceptability of Q Chat Space-a synchronous, adult-facilitated, Internet-based program designed to address risk factors (e.g., isolation, rejection, stress) associated with the wellestablished mental and behavioral health needs of LGBTQ youth. ...
Full-text available
There are few psychosocial support programs specifically designed to meet the unique developmental and health needs of LGBTQ youth. Even when available, many youth face significant barriers to accessing LGBTQ-specific services for fear of being “outed” to parents, peers, and community members. The current study assessed the utility, feasibility, and acceptability of a synchronous, adult-facilitated, chat-based Internet community support program for LGBTQ youth aged 13–19. Chat transcripts were analyzed to examine how LGBTQ youth used the chat-based platform to connect with peers and trusted adults. A separate user satisfaction survey was collected to assess the personal (e.g., sexual orientation, gender identity, age) and contextual (e.g., geography, family environment) characteristics of youth engaging in the platform, their preferred topics of discussion, and their satisfaction with the program focus and facilitators. Qualitative data analysis demonstrated the degree to which LGBTQ youth were comfortable disclosing difficult and challenging situations with family, friends, and in their community and in seeking support from peers and facilitators online. Youth also used the platform to explore facets of sexual and gender identity/expression and self-acceptance. Overall, users were very satisfied with the platform, and participants accurately reflect the program’s desired populations for engagement (e.g., LGBTQ youth of color, LGBTQ youth in the South). Together, findings support the feasibility and acceptability of synchronous, adult-facilitated, chat-based Internet programs to connect and support LGBTQ youth, which encourage future research and innovation in service delivery.
... These patterns of behavior may reflect safety concerns among SGMY (Katz-Wise & Hyde, 2012). Indeed, qualitative research focusing on the online experiences of SGMY highlights how they feel that online contexts are safer than offline contexts McInroy et al., 2019). SGMY are more likely to have online friends than their heterosexual counterparts, and they report that these friends provide more support than their offline friends . ...
... SGMY are active participants in using online spaces, and can play a critical role in improving these spaces for themselves and their peers. Online, SGMY can network with each other, communicate about events, and develop tools for addressing inequalities that they see in their schools and communities (DeHaan et al., 2013;McInroy et al., 2019). Furthermore, adult-led organizations, such as the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and the Gender and Sexuality Associations Networks/Queer-Straight Alliance network have supported youth in these kinds of activities by providing online resources for youth and their allies trying to organize within their communities. ...
Adolescents, in general, are spending more time in online environments, and understanding how youth navigate these contexts may be particularly important for addressing and improving outcomes among sexual and gender minority youth. Taking a developmental perspective, this review discusses online environments as contexts of both risk and resilience for youth in gender and sexual minority communities. In particular, we review literature highlighting how online environments provide a context for many salient aspects of adolescent development, including the promotion of identity development and the exploration of intimate, romantic and sexual behavior. The potential for online environments to serve as contexts for discrimination and victimization for gender and sexual minority youth are also discussed. Specific recommendations for parents, teachers and sexual and gender minority youth themselves are made for creating and promoting positive wellbeing in online spaces.
... Sexual and gender identity could play a role with respect to clients' openness to OC. Research suggests that female college students have more positive attitudes about OC (Tsan & Day, 2007) and are more willing to seek online mental health support compared to male students (Mckinley & Ruppel, 2014;Montagni, Donisi, et al., 2016;Montagni, Parizot, et al., 2016;Toscos et al., 2018), or no differences in the overall attitudes toward online counseling between different genders (Ballesteros & Hilliard, 2016). Sexual/gender minority adolescents and young adults show positive attitudes and experiences regarding web-based resources and support (McInroy et al., 2019;Ybarra et al., 2015). For example, McInroy et al. (2019) found that LGBTQ + youth aged 14-29 partook in online LGBTQ + communities more than real-world communities, which allowed them to feel supported and safe and be more active. ...
... Even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that the reported rates of IPV for sexual minority people are equal to or higher than heterosexual people (Walters et al., 2013), LGBT IPV survivors face many barriers to help seeking, such as a lack of understanding of the problem of LGBT IPV, societal stigma, and inequities in the system (Calton et al., 2015). However, research has shown that LGBT adolescents and young adults are particularly active online, finding communities and social support networks that encourage them to be themselves and explore their sexual orientation and gender identities, and they are also more likely than their heterosexual counterparts to use the computer and the internet for their health information and care (Craig et al., 2015;Dahlhamer et al., 2019;GLSEN, CiPHR & CCRC, 2013;McInroy et al., 2019). This may explain why the LGBT young adults in our study were open to OC in comparison to F2F counseling. ...
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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is prevalent and has devastating consequences for college students. Online counseling (OC) may be a way to decrease barriers to help. This study seeks to determine openness to OC compared to face-to-face counseling (F2F) by examining: (1) How openness to OC varies depending on college students’ personal and IPV characteristics and (2) How these characteristics vary compared to college non-IPV survivors. Two linear regressions were conducted using a sample from a cross sectional survey. First with the entire sample of college students (N = 1,518) to examine characteristics of those more open to OC and second with only those that identified as experiencing IPV (n = 1,211). The results demonstrated that IPV survivors are less open to OC than to F2F counseling (b = -.23, p < .01). For the model with all college students, those who were significantly more open to OC were female (b = -.39, p < .001), identified as LGBT (b = .23, p < .05), or Asian/Pacific Islander (API) (b = .26, p < .05), and had a physical health issue (b = -.19, p < .05). For the model that only analyzed IPV survivors, the same characteristics were shown to be significantly related to openness to OC. More research is needed to explore why IPV survivors are less open to OC compared to F2F counseling. Exploring why characteristics of female, LGBT, and physical health issues lead to openness to OC could help understand what barriers need to be addressed for wider use.
... This may be due to a perception of anonymity and the ability to located others with shared experiences (Yeshua-Katz, 2015). Bates et al. (2020) and McInroy et al. (2019) have highlighted the critical importance of social media platforms for gender and sexual minority youth (Bates et al., 2020;McInroy et al., 2019). Social media can provide connection to others with shared experiences of discrimination as well as the ability to access vital information that may not be accessible outside of online spears due to societal heteronormativity, homophobia and transphobia ( Schmitz et al., 2020;Yeshua-Katz, 2019 ). ...
... This may be due to a perception of anonymity and the ability to located others with shared experiences (Yeshua-Katz, 2015). Bates et al. (2020) and McInroy et al. (2019) have highlighted the critical importance of social media platforms for gender and sexual minority youth (Bates et al., 2020;McInroy et al., 2019). Social media can provide connection to others with shared experiences of discrimination as well as the ability to access vital information that may not be accessible outside of online spears due to societal heteronormativity, homophobia and transphobia ( Schmitz et al., 2020;Yeshua-Katz, 2019 ). ...
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In March 2020, with the global number of COVID-19 cases on the rise, many people were advised to stay at home and leave only for necessities. Across the globe, people were on lockdown. Very little is known about how this period of quarantine due to the pandemic has impacted the lives of gender and sexual minority youth. Between February and June of 2020, TikTok—a short- video sharing platform—was the most downloaded social media app. The purpose of this study was to use a digital ethnographic approach on TikTok to explore the experiences of gender and sexual minority youth during COVID-19. Thematic analysis of the data collected resulted in an overarching theme of TikTok as a supportive community. Additionally, four sub themes were examined including support with family relationships, identity formation, community and belonging and sharing knowledge and information. This study demonstrates the need for further research into gender and sexual minority youth social media cultures and highlights the resilience and resourcefulness of gender and sexual minority youth when faced with unprecedented circumstances.
... and interests (e.g., Fandom, gaming discord servers) that can facilitate safety and support (McInroy et al., 2019). Although there is mounting evidence of the benefits of online engagement for TGD youth broadly, a number of topics remain underexplored. ...
There is a paucity of research exploring sources of resilience among transgender and gender diverse (TGD) young people with multiple marginalized identities. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) offer unique opportunities for authentic self-expression, which is not always possible offline. The primary aims of this study were to understand unique sources of resilience among TGD youth in their online and offline lives. Using photo elicitation and grounded theory methods , we conducted online in-depth interviews with TGD young people (N = 29) between the ages of 14-25 across the United States identifying with at least one of the following social statuses: (a) person of color, (b) immigrant, or (c) living in a rural area. Four themes were identified from the data, with both online and offline artistic expression being viewed as a: (1) form of authentic self-expression; (2) coping mechanism; (3) way to connect to others; and (4) pathway toward agency. Findings advance understanding about the use of artistic expression as an underexamined source of resilience among TGD youth with multiple marginalized identities. Within clinical settings, options for TGD youth to participate in various forms of expressive art may improve engagement and enhance youths' abilities to authentically express their thoughts, feelings, and experiences to promote healing and growth.
... However, emerging research suggests that social media provides opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth to fulfill social needs unique to their gender and sexual identities (Craig et al., 2021). For example, social media facilitates access to online LGBTQ+ communities enabling youth to share their experiences, access role models and seek social support (McInroy et al., 2019). Investigation into gender and sexual orientation could provide nuanced insights toward understanding how adolescents' social media use impacts relatedness. ...
The pervasiveness of social media in adolescents’ lives has important implications for their relationships. Considering today’s adolescents have grown up with social media, research capturing their unique perspectives of how social media impacts their relationships is needed to increase understanding and help guide behaviors that nurture social-connectedness. Utilizing multiple qualitative methods, this study explores adolescents’ perspectives of how their social media use impacts their relationships. The sample comprised 36, Year 9 students aged 15 years from four metropolitan schools in Melbourne, Australia. All participants completed a rich picture mapping activity and focus group discussions. To gain deeper understandings, a sub-sample of 11 adolescents participated in subsequent one-on-one interviews. Reflexive thematic analysis generated two overarching themes (1) developing and strengthening relationships and (2) diminishing relationships. Sub-themes included; making new friends, maintaining relationships, deepening connections, enhancing belonging, rifts and strains, and anti-social behavior. Findings revealed nuanced insights into “how” and “why” adolescents believe social media impacts relationships. Adolescents explained that social media transforms interactions through amplifying and intensifying relational experiences resulting in both beneficial and detrimental outcomes for their relationships. Cultivating the positive aspects of adolescents’ social media use whilst mitigating the negative is important toward supporting relatedness and fostering wellbeing.
... These structural factors are embedded in the sociopolitical landscape and often interact with individual experiences of racism and sexual minority-based stigma to increase HIV risk (Arrington-Sanders et al., 2020;Bourgois et al., 2017;Gamarel et al., 2018;Hatzenbuehler, 2017;Parker et al., 2017). In parallel, a lack of tailored, LGBTQ+ -focused, or welcoming general health and support services can perpetuate sexuality-based stigma, creating additional barriers that can discourage AGBMSM from accessing important in-person services and resources (Fisher et al., 2018;McInroy et al., 2019;Pantelic et al., 2019). Thus, reduced access to appropriate services and support represents an important structural vulnerability that may intensify the cognitive and behavioral risk factors that, in turn, contribute to this population's disproportionate HIV burden (Arreola et al., 2015;Hill et al., 2020;Watson et al., 2020), increased STI risk (Poteat et al., 2019), and poor mental health outcomes that are endemic among AGBMSM (Eisenberg et al., 2019Turpin et al., 2020). ...
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Introduction Studies using geospatial data to understand LGBTQ+-friendly sexual health and wellness resource availability have often focused on services catered to adults. While HIV rates have increased in adolescents in recent years, few studies have explored disparities in resource access for adolescent gay and bisexual men (AGBMSM). Methods We used geospatial data of resources (collected and verified 2017–2018) from the iReach app to understand disparities in resource access for AGBMSM within and between 4 high HIV prevalence corridors in the US. Results AGBMSM in non-metro areas had access to fewer resources and some rural counties had no LGBTQ+ -friendly resources. Corridors comprising states with legacies of punitive laws targeting sexual and gender minorities demonstrate stark geographic disparities across the US. Conclusions Policy-makers must understand the granularity of disparities within regions. Online resources may be able to surmount LGBTQ+ resource deserts. However, physical access to LGBTQ+ -friendly services must be improved as a fundamental strategy for reducing HIV among AGBMSM.
... These findings are consistent with previous research with queer and trans communities which highlighted a dearth in online resources and criticized existing resources for their poorer quality. [17][18][19] In developing the WebPortal, it will be critical to integrate the array of resources rated as important by representatives as well as those suggested by representatives to improve the response to trans survivors from varied social locations (e.g., BIPOC, Two Spirit, and pediatric/ adolescent populations). Furthermore, as identified by representatives in this study, resources included in the WebPortal should help raise critical awareness around, and thereby begin addressing, the structural and systemic barriers that often impinge on trans survivors' ability to access appropriate care and support (e.g., institutional transphobia). ...
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Transgender persons experience high rates of sexual assault and often encounter providers who lack the knowledge to deliver appropriate postassault care and supports. To build capacity within health care and social service organizations supporting trans survivors of sexual assault across Ontario, Canada, we undertook a study to inform the development of a WebPortal intended to provide freely accessible resources relevant to the provision of trans-affirming care. In this survey, 70 representatives from community and health care organizations indicated their overall dissatisfaction with the information currently available on the care and support of trans survivors and identified a need for improved access to a range of resources.
... Past research has suggested that the Internet and social media have significant value for LGBTQIA+ individuals-they provide safe and accessible spaces to explore and express their gender and sexual identities, help them to access affirming psychosocial support and establish connections, and are platforms for them to find resources and acquire information about gender, sexuality, and mental health. [2][3][4] Social media, e-health (web-based), and telehealth (phone-based) platforms as modalities for interventions are a relatively new area of study in the field of health care. Some of their benefits include their accessibility across geographical barriers, ease of use and convenience, reduction of patient wait-time and costs incurred; LGBTQIA+ individuals may also perceive these to be safer than offline public health platforms because of the discrimination and stigma that they often face while accessing health care in offline spaces. ...
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E-health and telehealth are rapidly evolving areas of intervention that may show high potential for use with LGBTQIA+ individuals. Research on the therapeutic utility of these with respect to mental health is limited, particularly in India. SAAHAS (Sexuality, Acceptance, Awareness, Health, and Support) is a queer-affirmative, cognitive behavior therapy-based group therapy model of intervention for LGBTQIA+ individuals. We describe here our facilitator experience with expanding the offline group therapy model to online platforms using Google Meet, with an analysis of attendance and modalities of engagement and a description of our therapy notes and themes of discussion. We describe facilitator experience of continued therapeutic support through WhatsApp by analyzing the chats and thematic coding of the same. We also describe here our attempt at using social media for community mental health outreach through dissemination of mental health messages on Instagram and Facebook; data was analyzed using engagement metrics. Observations of the utility and limitations of these video conferencing and social media platforms and suggestions for effective use are provided.
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Background: Sexual and gender minority youth (SGMY, aged 14-29 years) face increased risks to their well-being, including rejection by family, exclusion from society, depression, substance use, elevated suicidality, and harassment, when compared with their cisgender, heterosexual peers. These perils and a lack of targeted programs for SGMY exacerbate their risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) interventions support clients by generating alternative ways of interpreting their problems and beliefs about themselves. CBT, tailored to the experiences of SGMY, may help SGMY improve their mood and coping skills by teaching them how to identify, challenge, and change maladaptive thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors. Based on the promising results of a pilot study, a CBT-informed group intervention, AFFIRM, is being tested in a pragmatic trial to assess its implementation potential. Objective: The aim of this study is to scale-up implementation and delivery of AFFIRM, an 8-session manualized group coping skills intervention focused on reducing sexual risk behaviors and psychosocial distress among SGMY. Our secondary aim is to decrease sexual risk taking, poor mental health, and internalized homophobia and to increase levels of sexual self-efficacy and proactive coping among SGMY. Methods: SGMY are recruited via flyers at community agencies and organizations, as well as through Web-based advertising. Potential participants are assessed for suitability for the group intervention via Web-based screening and are allocated in a 2:1 fashion to the AFFIRM intervention or a wait-listed control in a stepped wedge wait-list crossover design. The intervention groups are hosted by collaborating community agency sites (CCASs; eg, community health centers and family health teams) across Ontario, Canada. Participants are assessed at prewait (if applicable), preintervention, postintervention, 6-month follow-up, and 12-month follow-up for sexual health self-efficacy and capacity, mental health indicators, internalized homophobia, stress appraisal, proactive and active coping, and hope. Web-based data collection occurs either independently or at CCASs using tablets. Participants in crisis are assessed using an established distress protocol. Results: Data collection is ongoing; the target sample is 300 participants. It is anticipated that data analyses will use effect size estimates, paired sample t tests, and repeated measures linear mixed modeling in SPSS to test for differences pre- and postintervention. Descriptive analyses will summarize data and profile all variables, including internal consistency estimates. Distributional assumptions and univariate and multivariate normality of variables will be assessed. Conclusions: AFFIRM is a potentially scalable intervention. Many existing community programs provide safe spaces for SGMY but do not provide skills-based training to deal with the increasingly complex lives of youth. This pragmatic trial could make a significant contribution to the field of intervention research by simultaneously moving AFFIRM into practice and evaluating its impact. International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/13462.
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Background: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth and other young people diverse in terms of their sexuality and gender (LGBT+) are at an elevated risk of mental health problems, such as depression. Factors such as isolation and stigma mean that accessing mental health services can be particularly challenging for LGBT+ young people, and previous studies have highlighted that many prefer to access psychological support online. Research from New Zealand has demonstrated promising effectiveness and acceptability for an LGBT+ focused serious game-based computerized cognitive behavioral therapy program, Rainbow SPARX (Smart, Positive, Active, Realistic, X-factor thoughts). However, there has been limited other research conducted in the area of e-therapy for LGBT+ people. Objectives: We aimed to explore how and why LGBT+ young people use the internet to support their mental health. We also sought to explore LGBT+ young people’s and professionals’ views about e-therapies, drawing upon the example of Rainbow SPARX. Methods: Three focus groups and five semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 LGBT+ young people (aged 15 to 22 years old) and six professionals (four health and social care practitioners and two National Health Service commissioners) in England and Wales. A general inductive approach was used to analyze data. Results: LGBT+ youth participants considered that use of the internet was ubiquitous and that it was valuable for support and information. However, they also thought that internet use could be problematic, and they highlighted certain internet safety and personal security considerations. They drew on a range of gaming experiences and expectations to inform their feedback about Rainbow SPARX. Their responses focused on the need for this e-therapy program to be updated and refined. LGBT+ young people experienced challenges related to stigma and mistreatment, and they suggested that strategies addressing their common challenges should be included in e-therapy content. Professional study participants also emphasized the need to update and refine Rainbow SPARX. Moreover, professionals highlighted some of the issues associated with e-therapies needing to demonstrate effectiveness, and the challenges associated with health service commissioning processes. Conclusions: LGBT+ young people use the internet to obtain support and access information, including information related to their mental health. They are interested in LGBT+ specific e-therapies, however these must be in a contemporary format, engaging, and adequately acknowledge the experiences of LGBT+ young people.
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Youths identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or another nonheterosexual identity (sexual minority youths) report more violence victimization, substance use, and suicide risk than do heterosexual youths (1). These disparities are generally attributed to minority stress (the process through which stigma directed toward sexual minorities influences health outcomes) (2,3). Sexual minority youths might experience negative outcomes associated with minority stress differently across sexual identities, but to date, no nationally representative study has examined differences in victimization, substance use, and suicide risk within sexual minority youth. Using pooled data from the 2015 and 2017 national Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS), relationships between sexual identity groups and victimization, substance use, and suicide risk were evaluated with sex-stratified logistic regression models. Compared with heterosexual students, bisexual females and all sexual minority males reported more victimization; lesbian and bisexual females reported more use of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana; and all sexual minority youths reported elevated high-risk substance use and suicide risk. Programmatic efforts to reduce and prevent victimization, substance use, and suicide risk among sexual minority youths might benefit from consideration of issues within group differences.
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LGBTQ+ (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) youths’ engagement with information and communication technologies (ICTs) allows them to access social support, develop their identities, and increase their well-being in a context of relative safety. However, a significant knowledge gap remains regarding the patterns of LGBTQ+ youths’ use of ICTs, how ICT usage varies among LGBTQ+ sub-populations, as well as how LGBTQ+ youths’ usage compares to the general youth population. This article investigates the use of ICTs by a geographically diverse, cross-sectional survey sample (n = 6309) of LGBTQ+ youth (ages 14–29) from across the United States and Canada. The sample’s use of mobile and non-mobile digital devices, their time spent engaging online, and their participation on a wide variety of social media and other online platforms were studied. A comparison of participants’ experiences was also undertaken based upon their sociodemographic characteristics—particularly age, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethno-racial identity, community type, and socioeconomic status. Significant implications for contemporary social work practice with diverse LGBTQ+ youth populations and sub-populations by individual service providers and social service organizations are discussed.
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A school-based needs assessment was undertaken with a sample of primarily Hispanic and African American lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) (N = 180) high school students in the United States. Applying grounded theory techniques, researchers conducted focus groups using a semistructured protocol that included a vision question. Five themes illuminating physical and emotional safety needs emerged after the analysis: (1) a safe place to stay, (2) safe schools and communities, (3) more than just pockets of safety, (4) someone to have my back, and (5) someone for my family. Strategies are suggested for school social workers, school counselors, and other school-based counseling professionals to address the needs of LGBT students.
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Objective: Training programs exist that prepare college students, faculty, and staff to identify and support students potentially at risk for suicide. Kognito is an online program that trains users through simulated interactions with virtual humans. This study evaluated Kognito's effectiveness in preparing users to intervene with at-risk students. Participants: Training was completed by 2,727 university students, faculty, and staff from April, 2014 through September, 2015. Methods: Voluntary and mandatory participants at a land-grant university completed Kognito modules designed for higher education, along with pre- and post-assessments. Results: All modules produced significant gains in reported Preparedness, Likelihood, and Self-Efficacy in intervening with troubled students. Despite initial disparities in reported abilities, after training participants reported being similarly capable of assisting at-risk students, including LGBTQ and veteran students. Conclusions: Kognito training appears to be effective, on a large scale, in educating users to act in a facilitative role for at-risk college students.
Although studies have shown links between minority stress and mental health (e.g., Meyer, 2003), there is little research explaining this association. Research has suggested that adequate coping skills might protect youth from the negative impact of stress (Compas et al., 2017). Thus, we aimed to examine: 1) whether associations between minority stress and depressive symptoms occurred through mechanisms of perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness, and 2) whether these associations were dependent on level of problem-solving coping (moderated mediation). Using an online survey of 267 sexual minority youth from the Netherlands (16-22 years; 28.8% male), the results show an indirect relationship of sexual orientation victimization and internalized homophobia with depressive symptoms occurring through perceived burdensomeness; for both males and females. Problem-solving coping skills did not significantly moderate the aforementioned indirect relationships. These results have implications for prevention and intervention work that currently focuses on social isolation rather than perceived burdensomeness.
We investigated the differential diffusion of all of the verified true and false news stories distributed on Twitter from 2006 to 2017. The data comprise ~126,000 stories tweeted by ~3 million people more than 4.5 million times. We classified news as true or false using information from six independent fact-checking organizations that exhibited 95 to 98% agreement on the classifications. Falsehood diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, and the effects were more pronounced for false political news than for false news about terrorism, natural disasters, science, urban legends, or financial information. We found that false news was more novel than true news, which suggests that people were more likely to share novel information. Whereas false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.