Trauma, Mental Health, and Health Care Experiences of Lesbian and Bisexual Women in Rwanda

Tonda L. Hughes, Ellen D.B. Riggle, Patricia Moreland, Rebecca White, Darius Gishoma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lesbian and bisexual women (LBW), regardless of where they live in the world, are at increased risk for traumatic experiences and negative mental health sequelae. LBW in Rwanda are an underresearched, at-risk population group that likely experiences substantial trauma associated with their sexual identity (and in some cases their nontraditional gender presentation). We interviewed 20 Rwandan LBW about their stressful and traumatic experiences, perceptions of their mental health, and their experiences with health care providers. Thematic analyses revealed multiple traumatic and stress ful experiences related to harassment, violence, and abuse, including rape and other forms of sexual violence; marriage to a male partner (forced or chosen); rejection or abandonment by family and friends; and being forced to break up or end a relationship with a female partner. Participants reported feelings of stress, sadness, hopelessness, and depression; suicidal thoughts; and social isolation. While a few participants reported positive experiences with health care providers, many reported concealing their sexual identity from health care providers or experiencing discrimination—factors that limited receipt of needed care. These results suggest a need for expanded systemic support for lesbian and bisexual women, and the broader sexual and gender minority community in Rwanda.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34-43
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 American Psychological Association


  • Africa
  • lesbian and bisexual women
  • minority stress
  • Rwanda
  • trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Psychology (all)


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