Saluting Sexuality

How does “outness” affect lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) service members’ mental health? In Armed Forces and Society, Wyatt Evans and colleagues explore how one’s level of outness—and satisfaction with it—determine depression and anxiety symptoms in today’s American military.

Recruiting from the Military Times and on military installations, the authors administered online surveys to 236 current service members. Service members were asked to respond to questions regarding depression and anxiety, taken from the Generalized Anxiety Disorder 7 and Patient Health Questionnaire. Respondents’ level of “outness” was measured with an adapted Outness Inventory, a rating of one’s openness about sexual orientation. Respondents were also asked how satisfied they were with their outness, finding that higher levels of outness were associated with better mental health outcomes.

Given that military personnel and sexual minorities both have an increased risk of poor mental health outcomes, Evans and colleagues provide valuable insights for a group whose intersectional experiences may be overlooked. Regarding the mental health of LGB military members, outness and satisfaction are positively associated with decreasing depression and anxiety. In the post-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell era of the U.S. military, then, there’s good news: fears of poor mental health outcomes among openly queer service members is not supported.