Intersections Fellow Highlights: Brian Droubay
Brian Droubay is an assistant professor of social work.
How has intersectionality shaped you as a researcher?
Intersectionality is central to my current line of research, which, broadly, centers on the nexus of religion and human sexuality. My current work focuses on how the World Health Organization's (WHO) new compulsive sexual behaviour disorder (CSBD) diagnosis might impact sexual minority populations residing in religious, conservative communities. Any diagnosis that categorizes and pathologizes sexual behavior must be considered in light of historical abuses perpetuated against LGBQ+ individuals by the medical and mental health communities, who famously pathologized homosexuality in earlier editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.
Individual perceptions of personal sexual behaviors, including whether they subjectively feel "out of control" or dysregulated, are heavily impacted by cultural context and personal values. When people morally disapprove of their sexual behaviors, they are more likely to pathologize them. Given this, it seems likely that sexual minority individuals who hold negative perceptions about their sexual orientation (i.e., internalized homophobia) might be more likely to perceive their sexual behaviors are dysregulated and endorse the new CSBD diagnostic criteria. Hence, this new WHO diagnosis could potentially over-pathologize and stigmatize sexual minority individuals, particularly those residing in religious communities where homophobic attitudes (and, subsequently, internalized homophobia) are more common. This intersection of religious and sexual minority identities is key to understanding this potential avenue of marginalization.
And indeed, my findings suggest that internalized homophobia likely acts as a predictor of LGBQ+ individuals feeling their sexual behaviors are dysregulated. This is concerning in that uncritical diagnosis and treatment by mental health providers might act as a covert avenue of reparative therapy, which is damaging. Religious sexual minority individuals are at a particular risk of this. This line of research is particularly relevant to Utah in that it (1) regularly scores as one of the most religious states, (2) is one of the least affirming states for sexual minority individuals, and (3) has a large cadre of treating professionals who purport to specialize in sex addiction.
I am grateful to The Center for Intersectional Gender Studies and Research for supporting this research. I had the opportunity to present some of my findings in Washington D.C. at the Society for Social Work and Research annual conference in January. And this fellowship is supporting my writing of a manuscript that centers on these issues.
Links to intersectional research: https://sswr.confex.com/sswr/2022/webprogram/Paper45238.html