Bre's academic journey took a unique turn as they returned to academia during the COVID-19 pandemic, finding a home in Trent University's Psychology research lab led by their former undergraduate supervisor Dr. Karen Blair, an esteemed researcher and director of the Trent Social Relations, Attitudes, and Diversity Lab, as well as the chair of the Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity Issues (SOGII) Section of the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA).
A paper co-authored by Bre and based on their master’s research investigates the psychological well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals during the pandemic. Their findings highlighted that LGBTQ+ people experienced more psychological distress and less social support than non-LGBTQ+ people, and that transgender and non-binary people experienced more distress than other LGBTQ+ people.
Their findings highlighted heightened psychological distress and reduced social support for this specific group compared to other LGBTQ+ individuals, cisgender individuals, and heterosexual counterparts. Bre explains, "Our participants expressed feeling disconnected from the LGBTQ+ community and individuals who affirm their identity, which may have added to their distress."
While examining the impact of stigma on mental health outcomes, Bre's research shed light on the significance of understanding minority stressors in LGBTQ+ psychology. However, this exploration also sparked their interest in integrating positive psychology into the field. Reflecting on the complex history between LGBTQ+ individuals and the field of psychology, Bre acknowledges, "Being LGBTQ+ was once pathologized as a mental disorder. It's crucial to challenge these outdated beliefs and focus on the societal discrimination and harassment that contribute to mental health disparities."
Challenging a ‘deficit’ view of LGBTQ+ research
According to Professor Blair, Bre's research focuses on important questions about how LGBTQ+ community connections, social support, and resilience contribute to the well-being of sexual and gender minorities.
“Much of the research in this area still takes a ‘deficit’ view – meaning that for decades researchers have had to justify their interest in LGBTQ+ research by appealing to narratives about suffering and risk prevention. Unfortunately, this has painted a gloomier picture of what it means to be a sexual or gender minority than is often the actual reality,” said Prof. Blair. “Bre is working to integrate positive psychology perspectives on topics such as resilience and stress-related growth into the existing body of research exploring LGBTQ+ well-being.”
Prof. Blair praises Bre for their commendable commitment to ensuring the relevance of their research to rural 2SLGBTQ+ youth across Canada. Bre's passion for inclusivity and their desire to understand the unique experiences of this demographic are reflected in their decision to incorporate community-based research methods into their dissertation. By taking this approach, Bre aims to make their research more meaningful, as it will genuinely capture the voices and perspectives of the individuals they aim to support and empower.
Sharing research with broader psychology community
As Bre prepares to present their undergraduate research at the 2023 Preaching to the Choir Conference in partnership with the Annual Convention of the Canadian Psychological Association, they eagerly anticipate sharing their findings and raising awareness around mental health in the LGBTQ+ community.
Driven by a desire to reshape societal perspectives, Bre underscores the importance of research in challenging cultural narratives.
"Focusing on 'queer joy' is a vital aspect of the conversation. We need to recognize and celebrate the positive aspects of LGBTQ+ experiences."
Bre believes that by highlighting resilience, strength, and joy within the community, research can create a more inclusive and affirming society.