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A sexual minority is a group whose sexual identity, orientation or practices differ from the majority of the surrounding society. It can also refer to transgender, genderqueer (including third gender) or intersex individuals. The term is primarily used to refer to LGB individuals, particularly gay people.
The term was coined most likely in the late 1960s under the influence of Lars Ullerstam's ground breaking book "The Erotic Minorities: A Swedish View" which came strongly in favor of tolerance and empathy to uncommon varieties of sexuality, such as paedophilia and "sex criminals". The term was used as analogous to ethnic minority.
Scientists such as Ritch Savin-Williams support using the term in order to accurately describe adolescent youths who may not identify as any common culturally-defined sexual identity label (lesbian, gay, bisexual, et cetera) but who still have attractions towards those of the same anatomical sex as themselves.
Associated health issues
Some studies have tried to examine social issues that lead to possible health and psychological issues, especially in youth. It has been found that sexual minorities face increased stress exposure due to stigmas. This stigma-related stress creates elevated coping regulation and social and cognitive processes leading to risk for psychopathology.
Based on studies of adolescents, it is concluded that sexual minorities are similar to heterosexual adolescents in developmental needs and concerns. However, research has suggested that sexual minority youth (more specifically GLBT youth) are more susceptible to psychological and health issues than heterosexual youth. One study looked at victimization, substance abuse, and mental health of homeless GLBT youth. While this study was done in an unusual environment it still shows differences faced between sexual minorities and others. GLBT youth showed much higher levels of victimization, including sexual victimization, since becoming homeless. As far as substance abuse, these youth falling under the category of sexual minority had used illegal substances more frequently for all except marijuana. These differences were most significant in crack and methamphetamines. These homeless GLBT youth also reported higher levels of depressive symptoms. The found differences were thought to be from these youth facing discrimination on top of other issues youth face in homelessness.
When gay, lesbian, and bisexual adults reported being discriminated against, forty-two percent credited it to their sexual orientation. This discrimination was positively associated with both harmful effects on quality of life and indicators of psychiatric morbidity. In fact, sexual minority respondents were significantly more likely to have at least one of five psychiatric disorders examined in the research than heterosexual persons. The research on discrimination has built upon prior evidence that discrimination can lead to negative psychological changes. These negative changes are evident in the resulting health issues found in the surveyed adults.
In the media
Sexual minorities are generally portrayed in the mass media as being ignored, trivialized, or condemned in terms of their representation. The term symbolic annihilation accounts for their lack of characterization due to not fitting into the white, heterosexual, vanilla type lifestyle. Still, some individuals have made their way into the media through television and music. TV shows such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show and ABC’s Modern Family star individuals who are open about their non-heterosexual lifestyles. In music, people like Sam Smith and Sia create songs that express their emotions and sexuality with a number of followers. While sexual minorities do have a place in the media, it is often critiqued that they are still limited in their representations. In shows, if a character is gay, they are often a very shallow character that is only present for comic relief or as a plot twist. Compared to a heteronormative counterpart, the sexual minority is often a mere side-kick. However, since the integration of actors, musicians, and characters of sexual minorities, the idea of non-normativity has become more normalized in society.
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Some LGBT people object to using the term sexual minorities in relation to them, and prefer the term LGBT. Reasons for these objections may vary. For example, some LGBT people feel that the term sexual minority needlessly reminds them about discrimination and about being a minority. They want to be not a distinct minority but an integral and respectable part of the society. Some other LGBT people dislike the term for being too inclusive, including swingers, polyamorists, BDSM people and other perceived "sexual strangers". These LGBT people want to make a larger distance between these sexual practices and bisexuality/homosexuality/transgender.
Some transgender people dislike the term sexual minority for yet another reason. They argue that the phenomenon of transsexuality or transgender has nothing to do with sex, sexual practices or sexual orientation, but it relates to the gender, gender dysphoria and gender-variant behavior or feelings. Thus, they feel it is incorrect to classify them as "sexual minority", when, in fact, they are gender-variant minority.
Some conservative groups oppose the use of the term sexual minority for completely different reasons. They think or feel that the term inherently implies some degree of legalisation or protection for those engaged in such sexual practices, much like ethnic minorities are protected from being discriminated or persecuted in modern democratic countries.
Some people dislike the term because it includes minority, when the fact is that not all these categories are really about minorities but actually about minorised groups.
Others referred to as "sexual minorities" include fetishists and practitioners in of BDSM. The term may also include asexuals and people who may be strictly heterosexual and whose choice of actual sex acts may be vanilla, but whose choice of partner or partners is atypical, such as swingers (although this is debated), polyamorists or people in other nonmonogamous relationships, people who strongly prefer sex partners of a disparate age or people who engage in mixed race relationships.
Usually, the term sexual minority is applied only to groups who practice consensual sex: for example, it would be unusual to refer to rapists as a sexual minority, but the term would generally include someone whose sexuality gave a major, fetishized role to consensual playing out of a rape fantasy. Also, someone who very occasionally incorporates of consensual kink or same-sex activity into a largely vanilla, heterosexual sex life would not usually be described as a sexual minority.
Lars Ullerstam was a medical doctor and psychiatrist in Stockholm, capital of Sweden. Ullerstam argued that what most of his contemporaries viewed as paraphilias were in fact part of the normal spectrum of sexuality, (including homosexuality, necrophilia and paedophilia), and avocated for state brothels to be introduced in Sweden.
- See also: Variants of the term "LGBT".
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SUMMARY. This chapter explores the cultural, religious, and sociological underpinnings of homophobia and intolerance toward homosexuals.
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- Rust, Paula C. "The politics of sexual identity: Sexual attraction and behavior among lesbian and bisexual women." Social Problems 39, no. 4 (1992) p.8 "Sexual minorities are not merely people who engage in "deviant" sexual behavior -- for example, fetishists of various types -- or even those that adopt "deviant" (sexual) identities (e.g. "swingers")."
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The rights of youth must be protected as well as the rights of Atheists and Sexual minorities. As a Homophile who is also a Hebephile. I engage is [sic] recreational sex exclusively with teenagers.
- Gränsen för det otillåtna, Åsa Bergenheim, Uppsala universitet (Swedish)
- I boken beskriver han att många av hans vänner o kollegor hade familjesex, något naturligt för honom. Han var även yrkesverksam i Stockholm. Apoteket borde hålla händerna på täcket, Per Gudmundsom i SvD 22 maj 2008 (Swedish)