Thursday, December 20, 2007

Survey Says... Christmas Causes Lesbian Stress

Does the holiday season make you feel stressed? Do the dark days of December bring you down? Then you're probably a lesbian.

Well, maybe not. What this recent survey actually reports is that more women who identify as lesbian say they are stressed during the holiday season than do women who identify as straight:
...four out of five (80%) of lesbian adults say they tend to feel more stressed around the holidays while 64% of the heterosexual women surveyed said they tend to feel more stressed. Additionally, while half (51%) of lesbians said they tend to feel depressed around the holidays, only 36% of heterosexual women said they did.
Alright, pollsters, you've caught my eye. The majority of women, straight or gay, feel stressed around the holidays, but that lesbian community seems to have it worse (shocker). But what might be causing the additional stress for lesbians? Well, there could be a lot of reasons:
Estrangement from family, marginalization within and isolation from society, separation from children (sometimes due to custody battles), and inadequate access to culturally sensitive health care practitioners are all factors that can adversely affect mood during a season so identified with ‘family’ activities and 'belonging,'" said Dr. Linda Spooner, Chair of The Mautner Project’s Board of Directors and a practicing physician in Washington, D.C.
Ah, so it isn't the lesbian gene that makes some women feel more glum around the holidays - it is that our society treats lesbians like crap - which is particularly evident during the Yuletide season's celebration of happy, happy togetherness. This is an important distinction to note, young "lesbian feminists hate Christmas" trolls.

Unfortunately, the survey did not look very deeply into what the participants themselves felt the source of their additional anxiety might be. In fact, the methodology was surprisingly simple:
The survey of 2,625 U.S. adults aged 18 or older was conducted online between November 7 and 13, 2007... 2,251 [participants] indicated they are heterosexual and 326 self-identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, with 111 self-identifying as lesbian.
All of the women were asked to rank their agreement levels (from strongly agree to strongly disagree) with the following statements: "I tend to feel more stressed around the holidays" and "I tend to feel depressed around the holidays." That's it. We could almost conduct the same type of survey right here in the comments section.

Some Strollerderby readers worry that this poll's findings will provide "one more reason for people to believe lesbians should not be parents," presumably because nobody wants their mommies to be sniffling into their eggnog. Yet, the survey was actually commissioned by the Mautner Project, whose aim it is to improve "...the health of lesbians, bisexual, and transgender women who partner with women, and their families, through advocacy, education, research, and direct service." The Mautner Project goes on to say, "We envision a healthcare system that is guided by social justice and responsive to the needs of all people." Yeah, sounds nice.

So, as it turns out, I totally support the mission of the institution that commissioned the poll, yet I still think they overlooked the most interesting point. So, here is my question to you guys: Do you feel more stress and/or depressed around the holidays? If so, why?


Casmall said...

Well done.
Its awful that they never report error in these pop science articles. Would it kill they to say something like 80% plus or minus 3%.
In political polls of this size they commonly report error of around 3%, so I suspect its about the same.

Mächtige Maus said...

Why yes...the holidays *are* a wee bit stressful for this lesbian.

(1) I'm generally not fond of mass chaos.

(2) I'm generally not fond of loud mayhem.

(3) Some members in my family are not the most accepting people in the world.

I can overlook 1 and 2 for a short period of time. #3 is a pervading stress that certainly tends to be cranked up a notch over the holidays.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Well, the holidays can a wee bit stressful for this straight woman too.

(1) I dislike mass chaos/ loud mayhem as well, so I get stressed if I actually have to go to a mall during the 'shopping season.'

(2)There are certain members of the extended family with whom I frankly have no idea how to interact. Awkward social situations are stress inducing for me.

(3)Lots of travel/ being a house guest means not much ability to set my own hours, eat what I want, or be unsociable if I choose.

(4)Feasting is stressful for the stomach - does that count?

(5)This is the time of year when I'm expected to answer questions about what I plan to do with my life. Really, people, when I figure that out, I'll make a general announcement. Until then, you can assume that I'm still just winging it.

I do think that being married is making this year easier though, because no one is belittling my relationship or asking us to be apart during the holidays. It is amazing that when we were dating, even after having been together for years, the attitude was 'well, you don't have to be together all the time, do you?' but now that we're married there has been a shift to 'Of course you don't want to be away from your husband during the holidays!'

Geez, that's a great argument for gay marriage right there - guilt-trip free vacation time together.