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Gender Conformity Stressful not Sexual Orientation

Update Date: Aug 09, 2012 12:35 PM EDT

Discovering one’s own gender identity or sexual orientation can be most difficult phase in a teenager’s life. In most cases of homosexuality, an adolescent may take years to accept him/her self before seeking the acceptance of friends and family.

A new research says that teenagers not fitting into the behavioral norms of their gender are happy when compared to their gender-conforming peers. The findings of the study suggest that more than the sexual orientation, it could be the inability to conform to gender stereotypes that may be keeping them unhappy and at an increased mental health risk. Although, being a feminine boy or a masculine girl is often linked to sexual orientation, there has been no study or evidence confirming it.

"We need to rethink how sexual orientation relates to health. Too much emphasis has been put on a non-heterosexual orientation itself being detrimental," said Gerulf Rieger, lead author and Cornell postdoctoral associate, who conducted the study with Ritch C. Savin-Williams, professor of human development and director of the Sex and Gender Lab at Cornell's College of Human Ecology, in the news release.

For the study, the researchers quizzed 475 rural high school students about their sexual orientation, preference for male-typical or female-typical activities, and psychological well-being.

The findings revealed that the non-heterosexual youth in the study were more likely to violate gender norms for behavior, feelings, activities and interests, but there were some heterosexual youths as well who did the same. There was no link found between being a feminine boy and a masculine girl with their well-being, although, it did have a small effect on the mental health.

"Perhaps some adolescents are harassed not so much because they are gay," said Savin-Williams, "but because they violate 'acceptable' ways of acting. If so, sexism may be a more pervasive problem among youth than homophobia."

The study was published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

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