Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Clinical Psychology

Department or School/College

Department of Psychology

Committee Chair

Bryan N. Cochran

Commitee Members

Yoonhee Jang, Gregory Machek, Rachel Severson, Kirsten Murray


Concealment, Gender Identity, LGBTQ+, Minority Stress, Sexual Identity


University of Montana


Background: Concealment of gender and sexual identity is a reaction to societal stigma against gender and sexual minority (GSM) identities. Despite initially protecting against stigma, concealment has longterm psychological consequences. These consequences are potentially attributable to the psychological damage incurred from a reduced sense of authenticity among those who conceal their gender and sexual identity. Authenticity is compromised by concealment, serving to disrupt a person’s self-concept, as external behavior and an innate sense of self diverge. On top of that, an individual’s mental and emotional states may be impacted by these discrepancies. Additionally, concealment undermines the pursuit of intrinsically-motivated, goal-directed behavior and deprives individuals of a sense of belongingness, both of which are essential to a sense of authenticity. An individual who experiences such intrapersonal, motivational, and interpersonal disruption is bound to experience detriments to their psychological well-being. Concealment and authenticity both comprise important cognitive, affective, and behavioral domains, and this psychological overlap may serve to clarify factors, such as internalized stigma, contributing to health disparities among GSM individuals compared to their cisgender and/or heterosexual counterparts. Utilizing a novel instrument, the current study aimed to explore the relationship between concealment of gender and sexual identity and authenticity. I hypothesized that authenticity would moderate the relationship between concealment and well-being as well as between concealment and self-stigma.

Methods: The analytic sample was comprised of 517 GSM participants (Mage = 24.32, SD = 7.76), all of whom were recruited using nonprobabilistic sampling methods via an online social network. They consented to participate in an online survey, querying social and demographic data, concealment experiences, authenticity pertaining to their GSM identity, internalized stigma, and overall well-being. In exchange, they were eligible to enroll in a drawing for 10 $20 gift cards to an online retailer. The Extent of Concealment measure, which was developed and piloted as a precursor to the current study, was subjected to several validation procedures, namely a confirmatory factor analysis, analyses for convergent and discriminant validity, and an analysis of concurrent validity regarding psychological distress, authenticity, and internalized stigma.

Results: The four-factor model of concealment showed excellent fit for the data, convergent validity with one other measure of concealment, and strong concurrent validity through prediction of the dependent variables. The measure did not discriminate from other measures of proximal stress processes. Authenticity attenuated the relationship between both concealment and psychological distress as well as concealment and self-stigma.

Discussion: This study extends the literature by validating a comprehensive measure of concealment and by exploring whether authenticity is implicated in the pathway between concealment of gender and sexual identity and psychological well-being. It also clarifies that authenticity may be a possible avenue for intervention for individuals who are currently concealing or who have concealed their gender and/or sexual identity in the past.



© Copyright 2021 James Michael Brennan