Managing conflicting identities : initial evidence against integration producing well-being in ethnic minority queer individuals

The prevailing U.S. cultural narrative suggests that integration of dual ethnic minority and queer identities should result in greater psychological well-being (PWB). Queer theorists, however, propose that this population might benefit from compartmentalization of one of their conflicting identities, depending on social context. To provide an initial answer to which of these approaches might be more accurate, the present study examined the importance of ethnic and sexual identities and how harmonious these identities are perceived to be on PWB. Specifically, multiple regression analyses predicted PWB using (a) the Affirmation and Belonging subscale of the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM), (b) the Importance of Sexual Identity, using the Collective Self-Esteem Scale (CSES), (c) Identity Harmony, (d) MEIM x Identity Harmony interaction, (e) CSES x Identity Harmony interaction, (f) MEIM x CSES and (g) respondents’ sexual identities (as lesbians or gay men). Participants low in MEIM and CSES, but high on Identity Harmony showed greater PWB; those high in MEIM and CSES, but low on Identity Harmony also showed greater PWB. These patterns are inconsistent with an identity integration account of well-being, and more consistent with a compartmentalization account. Implications of these results for identity management are discussed.