Skip to main content

The Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Health (SOGI Health) Research Group

Supporting the Development and Health of LGBTQ Young People

Pride flag

The Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Health (SOGI Health) Research Group is affiliated with the Department of Family Science and the University of Maryland Prevention Research Center. The research group convenes faculty, students, and community partners in an effort to better understand and support the positive development and health of LGBTQ young people.

Department: Family Science
Room Number: 1142W
Director: Jessica Fish 

Office Phone Number: (301) 405-4008
Email: jnfish@umd.edu 
 

Hands holding a pride heart

People: Jessica Fish (PI), Mia Smith-Bynum (co-I), Natasha Williams, Zack Berman

Funding: Lesbian Health Fund (GLMA); The Maryland Catalyst Fund (UMD)

This project explores the potential protective effects of positive parental messaging regarding LGBTQ+ identities and whether these practices buffer the negative effects of LGBTQ-related discrimination on mental health and substance use.

MDH

People: Jessica Fish (PI), Bradley Boekeloo (co-I), Cynthia Baur (co-I) 

The Implementing Tobacco Control Strategies to Achieve Health Equity: Engaging LGBTQ Communities in Maryland project aims to reduce tobacco-related health disparities in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) communities in Prince George’s and Montgomery County by developing comprehensive strategies in collaboration with groups that are inclusive of and reach LGBTQ communities. The UMD team will work in partnership with local community organizations, health departments, and state tobacco and control officials to develop, disseminate, and evaluate LGBTQ-inclusive tobacco prevention and control efforts in PG and Montgomery County. 

COVID-19

People: Long Doan (PI); Liana Sayer (co-I); Jessica Fish (co-I)
Funding: National Science Foundation (SES-2029963); University of Maryland Vice President for Research 

The Assessing the Social Consequences of COVID-19 (ASCC) study examines the impacts of COVID-19 and social distancing efforts on behavior, time spent with others, use of technology, and mental and physical wellbeing, with a particular interest in how these effects vary by gender, sexuality, family structure, race/ethnicity, and immigrant status.

Publications:  

  • Fish, J. N., +Salerno, J., +Williams, N. D., Rinderknecht, G., +Drotning, K. J., Sayer, L., & Long, D. (2021). Sexual minority disparities in health and wellbeing as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic differ by sexual identity. LGBT Health,8(4), 263-272. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/full/10.1089/lgbt.2020.0489. PMCID: PMC8213002. 
  • +Salerno, J. P., Doan, L., Sayer, L., +Drotning, K., +Rinderknecht, G., & #Fish, J. N. (in press). Changes in mental health and well-being are associated with living arrangements with parents during COVID-19 among sexual minority young persons in the US. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. https://doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000520
  • +Drotning, K., Doan, L., Sayer, L. C., Fish, J. N., & ·Rinderknecht, G. (in press). Not all homes are safe: Family violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Family Violence. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-022-00372-y 
flags

People: Jessica Fish (PI) 

Funding: MPRC Seed Grant 

This project seeks to identify how LGBTQ-focused state-level policies are associated with systematic differences in health (e.g., substance use, mental health) and related experiences (e.g., victimization). Studies also seek to identify how trends in health-related outcomes may differ depending on various policy characteristics. 

Chalks of different colors

People: Jessica Fish (M-PI), Ryan Watson (University of Connecticut)

Funding: NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse (1R03DA046827)

This study examines how sexual and gender minority youth experiences of distal and proximal minority stressors are associated with substance use (i.e., alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and polysubstance use) and the potential protective influence of family and teacher support. 

Publications: 

  • Mereish, E. H., ·Parra, L. A., Watson, R. J., & Fish, J. N. (2022). Subtle minority stress and depressive symptoms among sexual and gender minority adolescents of color: Mediating role of self-esteem and sense of mastery. Prevention Science, 23, 142-153. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-021-01294-9 
  • Poteat, V. P., Fish, J. N., & Watson, R. J. (2021). Gender-sexuality alliances as a moderator for the association between victimization, depressive symptoms, and drinking behavior among LGBTQ+ youth. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 229(B), 109-140. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.109140. PMCID: PMC8665138 
  • Poteat, V. P., Watson, R. J., & Fish, J. N. (2021). Teacher support moderates associations among sexual identity outness, victimization, and academic performance among LGBQ+ youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 50, 1634-1648. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-021-01455-7. PMCID: PMC8350887 
  • Watson, R. J., Fish, J. N., Poteat, V. P., Wheldon, C. W., +Cunningham, C. A., Puhl, R., & Eaton, L. A. (2021). Teacher support, victimization, and alcohol use among sexual and gender minority youth: considering ethnoracial identity. Prevention Science. 22, 590-601. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-021-01216-9. PMCID: PMC8195836 
  • Watson, R. J., Fish, J. N., Denary, W., +Caba, A., +Cunningham, C., & Eaton, L. A. (2021). LGBTQ state policies: A lever for reducing SGM youth substance use and bullying. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 221,108659. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-021-01216-9. PMCID: PMC8026721 
  • Watson, R. J., Fish, J. N., +McKay, T., +Allen, S., Eaton, L., & Puhl, R. M. (2020). Substance use among a national sample of LGBTQ adolescents: Intersections of sex assigned at birth and gender identity. LGBT Health, 7(1), 37-46. https://doi.org/10.1089/lgbt.2019.0066. PMCID: PMC6983732. 
  • Watson, R. J., Fish, J. N., Poteat, V. P., & +Rathus, T. (2019). Sexual and gender minority youth alcohol use: Within-group differences in associations with internalized stigma and victimization. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 48(12), 2403–2417. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-01130-y. PMCID: PMC6872943. 
  • Wheldon, C. W., Watson, R. J., Fish, J. N., & Garamel, K. (2019). Cigarette smoking among youth at the intersection of sexuality orientation and gender identity. LGBT Health, 6(5), 235-241. https://doi.org/10.1089/lgbt.2019.0005. PMCID: PMC6909748.
rainbow

People: Bradley Boekeloo (PI), Jessica Fish (co-I), Elizabeth Aparicio (co-I), Richard Shin (co-I), Mia Smith-Bynum (co-I), Rodman Turpin (co-I) 

The core research project is a randomized control trial focused on refining, evaluating, and disseminating selected resources for assessing and improving the experiences of LGBT people engaged in mental health care services. Want to know more, check out the University of Maryland Prevention Research Center.  

Jessica Fish, faculty member of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland
Jessica Fish (she/her/hers)

Assistant Professor, Family Science
Core Research Scientist, University of Maryland Prevention Research Center

Dr. Jessica Fish is a human development and family science scholar whose research focuses on the health and well-being of sexual and gender minority (i.e., lesbian/gay, bisexual, and transgender) people and their families. Broadly, Dr. Fish studies the socio-cultural and interpersonal factors that shape the development and health of sexual and gender minority youth and adults. Her overarching goal is to identify modifiable factors that contribute to sexual and gender minority health disparities in order to inform developmentally-sensitive policies, programs, and prevention strategies that promote the health of sexual and gender minority people across the life course.

Graduate Students

Natasha Williams, Graduate Research Assistant of School of Public Health from the University of Maryland
Natasha Williams, MS, LMFT (she/her/hers)

Natasha Williams is a Chicago-based doctoral candidate in Family Science whose research focuses on the mental health of LGBTQ+ people. Specifically, she explores the mental health experiences of Black queer folx as well as factors that influence access to affirming mental health care. Natasha holds a license to practice marriage and family therapy and works part-time doing program evaluation for progressive, mission-driven organizations. She has been the TA or instructor of record for courses in statistics; family inequality; human sexuality; and behavior disorders. She holds an M.S. from Purdue University Northwest and a B.S. from Florida State University. In her free time, Natasha enjoys spending time outdoors, experimenting with global cuisines, reading fiction, and watching football. 

 

Zack Berman, graduate student of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland
Zack Berman (he/him/his)

Zachary Berman is a second-year Couple and Family Therapy Masters student from Gaithersburg, Maryland. He earned a B.A. in Psychology and Criminology with a minor in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland in 2013. As an undergraduate, Zack worked as an intern investigator for the Washington, D.C. Public Defender Service, a research assistant in the Stereotyping Prejudice and Intergroup Relations Laboratory (SPIRL), and a senior staff writer for UMD’s student-run newspaper The Diamondback. After graduation, Zack worked for five years as a rehabilitation counselor for Cornerstone Montgomery, Inc. He was eventually promoted to Site Administrator of the Foundations Day Program, where he worked daily with clients suffering from a broad range of severe mental illnesses. He also taught the agency’s “Secondary Trauma and Self-Care” training to new employees. Zack’s research and clinical interests include sexuality, meta-communication, adolescence, and the influence of the criminal justice system on families. Outside of work and school, Zack is a musician and an author. He regularly performs in venues around the D.C. area and recently had his first novelette published in Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. In June of 2018, Zack helped to raise around $6000 for Planned Parenthood by performing as one of the core musicians in a special benefit show. Unfortunately, his dog Misty will not be attending school this year.

 

Kaitlin Grant McGirr
Kaitlin Grant McGirr (she/they)

Kaitlin is a first-year student on the Couple and Family Therapy Master’s program at UMD from Austin, Texas. As an undergraduate, she worked as a Research Assistant at the Supporting Teachers And Ready Students (STARS) Lab. She also had the opportunity to work on and present a systematic review student poster about recent family therapy techniques for families with sexual minority youth. She now works as a Graduate Research Assistant for the SOGI Health Lab. Her research interests broadly include LGBTQIA+ issues, social class disparities, gender identity, multi-ethnic families, and non-traditional family structures. Some of her hobbies outside of school include collecting vinyl records, visiting art exhibits, trying local food and coffee places, exploring the outdoors, and spending time with her cat. 

 

Jacob Huber
Jacob Kosi-Huber (he/him/his) 

Jacob is a Family Science doctoral student. His research focus includes the intersections of queerness and disability, preventing and healing from interpersonal violence, and suicide prevention and mental healthcare with transgender populations. He graduated with his Master’s in Social Work from the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) in July 2021. He connected with the SOGI Health Lab in 2020 through the UM Scholars Program: a collaborative research-focused partnership between UMCP and UMB. He is involved with the LGBTQ youth Community Centers and Mental Health Programs Project. Jacob received his Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in 2018. Between his BA and MSW, he worked as a Legal Advocate at HopeWorks of Howard County, serving survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking. He spends his free time reading (and writing) science fiction, crocheting, and spoiling his kittens.  

 

Sara
Sara Laszaic (she/her) 

 Sara is a graduate student in the School of Social Work at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, with a concentration in clinical behavioral health. She connected with the SOGI Health Lab in June 2021 through the UM Scholars Program: a collaborative research-focused partnership between UMCP and UMB.  Sara is currently working on the LGBTQ youth disclosure project. She is also a research assistant at the UMB School of Social Work where she is contributing to the Trauma Adapted-Family Connections neglect prevention intervention. Sara is an Army veteran and former police officer who plans on specializing in adult trauma within the first responder and veteran populations. 

 

 

Undergraduate Students

Jillian Parisi, alumna of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland
Jillian Parisi (she/her/hers)

Jillian is a senior study

ing Public Health Science with a minor in General Business who has worked on various projects in the lab since January 2019. In addition, she is enrolled in the accelerated BS/MPH program where she is studying to earn an MPH in Health Care Management. In her free time, Jillian works as a Ceramics Studio Technician at Studio A in STAMP and as a teaching assistant for a Public Health Biology course. Jillian’s interests lie in the intersection of health, business, and law and she hopes to continue to learn about and research inequities in health services access and quality for LGBTQ+ individuals. 

 

Brennan Winer, student of University of Maryland
Brennan Winer (he/him/his)

Brennan is a senior Public Health Science and Government and Politics (International Relations) major studying ethical and policy protections for LGBT+ clients, students, supervisors, and educators in fields related to mental health. In addition, he is starting work on a project with the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association that will streamline comparative studies of LGBT+ mental health by conjoining US state and international indices for LGBT+ quality of life. He has been with the SOGI lab for just under a year and is passionate about participating in work that improves the health of his community. Eventually, he hopes to study epidemiology or global health policy at LSHTM (fingers crossed!).

 

Eila A.
Eila Louise Abamonga (she/her/hers) 

Eila is a sophomore pursuing a dual degree in Public Health Science and Government and Politics with a concentration in International Relations at the University of Maryland, aiding in research at the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Lab. She is interested in global health and international policy implementation regarding marginalized groups (i.e., communities of color, LGBTQ+ communities, etc.). Eila is primarily focused on incorporating intersectionality within health policy to best represent different marginalized groups from a social justice lens. 

 

 

 

Carter
Carter (any pronouns) 

Carter is a Junior undergraduate student at the University of Maryland. They are a dual degree in Public Health Science and Family Science and recently received their honors citation upon completing the two-year program with ILS. They have been a research assistant on a project to code forty life interviews of incarcerated fathers, and they volunteer with OneTentHealth to conduct free HIV testing for vulnerable wards of DC. In their free time, they enjoy cooking foods from their diverse background and spending time with their small, black cat, Fig. 

 

 

 

Affiliate Members

Meg
Meg Bishop (they/them)

Meg Bishop is a fifth year doctoral candidate in the Human Development and Family Sciences Department at the University of Texas at Austin. Meg’s research leverages life course and intersectional approaches to examine the relations between sexual identity development timing, minority stress, and health among sexual and gender minority people. Meg aims to produce rigorous research that informs programs and policies for eliminating disparities experienced by LGBTQ+ populations. 

 

navjot
Navjot Kaur (she/her)  

Navjot is a third-year medical student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine. After graduating from the University in Maryland with a Bachelor’s degree in Physiology & Neurobiology, she obtained her Masters in Physiology from Georgetown University. She currently is working on the Generations Alcohol project with researchers at the University of Texas, which seeks to investigate links between alcohol use and sexual minority status. Her interests include minority health, healthcare disparities, and substance use. 

 

Student Research Opportunities

I welcome the opportunity to work with graduate and undergraduate students interested in the intersection between sexual orientation, gender identity, and health. Volunteer and credit-based research assistantship positions are available in my research lab. I will be on leave Fall 2022 and will not be taking new undergraduate student researcher assistances until Jan 2023.  

If you are a prospective graduate student interested in working with me, please contact me at jnfish@umd.edu. 

Fish, J. N., +Williams, N. D., McInroy, L. B., Paceley, M. S., ‡Edsall, R. N., ‡Devadas, J., †Birnel Henderson, S., & †Levine, D. S. (2022).  Q Chat Space: Assessing feasibility and acceptability of an internet-based community support program for LGBTQ youth. Prevention Science, 23, 130-141. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11121-021-01291-y. PMCID: PMC8420963 

Fish, J. N., Turpin, R., +Williams, N. D., & Boekeloo, B. O. (2021). Sexual identity differences in health care access and satisfaction: Findings from nationally representative data. American Journal of Epidemiology.190(7), 1281-1293. https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwab012. PMID: 33475134 

Fish, J. N., +Bishop. M. D., Russell, S. T. (2021). Developmental differences in sexual orientation and gender identity-related substance use disparities: Findings from population-based data. Journal of Adolescent Health, 68 (6), 1162-1169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.10.023. PMCID: PMC8154626 

Fish, J. N., & Mittal, M. (2021). Mental health care providers are essential to the public health workforce and need support in the wake of COVID-19. Public Health Reports, 136(1), 14-17. https://doi.org/10.1177/0033354920965266

+Layland, E. K., Exten, C., +Mallory, A., +Williams, N. D., & #Fish, J. N. (2020). Suicide attempt rates and associations with discrimination are greatest in early adulthood for sexual minorities across diverse race groups. LGBT Health, 7(8), 439-447. https://doi.org/10.1089/lgbt.2020.0142. PMCID: PMC7757577 

+Williams, N. D., & #Fish, J. N. (2020). The availability of LGBT-specific mental health and substance abuse treatment in the United States: Findings from two national surveys. Health Services Research, 55(6), 932-943. http://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6773.13559. PMCID: PMC7704474 

+Bishop, M. D., Fish, J. N., Hammack, P. L., & Russell, S. T. (2020). Sexual identity development milestones in three generations of sexual minority people: A national probability sample. Developmental Psychology, 56(11), 2177-2193. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/dev0001105. PMCID: PMC8216084 

Fish, J. N., McInroy, L. B., Paceley, M. P. +Williams, N. D., †Henderson, S., †Levine, D. S., & ‡Edsall, R. N. (2020). “I'm kinda stuck at home with unsupportive parents right now”: LGBTQ youths' experiences with COVID-19 and the importance of online support. Journal of Adolescent Health, 67(3), 450-452. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.06.002. PMCID: PMC7309741

Fish, J. N., & Exten, C. E. (2020). Sexual orientation differences in alcohol use disorder across the adult life course. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 59(3), 428-436. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amepre.2020.04.012. PMCID: PMC7483372. 

Fish, J. N., Russell, B. S., Watson, R. J., & Russell, S. T. (2020). Parent-child relationships and sexual minority youth: Implications for adult alcohol abuse. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 49(10), 2034–2046. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-020-01299-7. PMCID: PMC7487049. 

Phillips II, G., +Felt, D., Fish, J. N., +Ruprecht, M. M., Birkett, M., & Poteat, V. P. (2020). A response to Cimpian and Timmer (2020): Limitations and misrepresentation of “mischievous responders” in LGBTQ+ health research. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49, 1409-1414. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01746-3. PMCID: PMC7310577 

Fish, J. N., & Russell, S. T. (2020). Sexual orientation and gender identity change efforts are unethical and harmful. American Journal of Public Health, 110(8), 1113-1114. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2020.305765. PMCID: PMC7349462. 

+Krueger, E. A., Fish, J. N., Hammack, P. L., Lightfoot, M., +Bishop, M., & Russell, S. T. (2020). Comparing national probability and community-based samples of sexual minority adults: Implications and recommendations for sampling and measurement. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 49, 1463-1475. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01724-9. PMCID: PMC7305965. 

Fish, J. N. & +Krueger, E. (2020). Reconsidering approaches to estimating health disparities across multiple measures of sexual orientation. LGBT Health, 7(4), 198-207. https://doi.org/ 10.1089/lgbt.2019.0182. PMCID: PMC7301314. 

Fish, J. N., +Moody, R. Grossman, A. H., & Russell, S. T. (2019). LGBTQ youth-serving community-based organizations: Who participates and what difference does it make? Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 48(12), 2418-2431. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-019-01129-5. PMID: 31606828

Fish, J. N. (2019). Sexual orientation-related disparities in high-intensity binge drinking: Findings from a nationally representative sample. LGBT Health, 6(5), 242-249. https://doi.org/10.1089/lgbt.2018.0244. PMCID: PMC6645197. 

Fish, J. N., Turner, B., Phillips, G., & Russell, S. T. (2019). Cigarette smoking disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual youth. Pediatrics,143(4): e20181671. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2018-1671. PMCID: PMC6565340

 

PRC Project

New Project Aims to Reduce Tobacco Use Among Maryland’s LGBTQ Community

The UMD Prevention Research Center will partner with local community organizations, health departments, and state tobacco and control officials on an intervention to prevent tobacco use among LGBTQ people in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties

 

Trans Flag

Gender-Affirming Policies Support Transgender and Gender Diverse Youth’s Health

“Transgender and gender diverse youth who have access to medical services that affirm their gender, things like access to puberty suppressants or puberty blockers, and who are able to participate in school activities that align with their gender identity, such as sports and bathroom usage, have better overall mental well being and mental health than transgender youth who are not able to access these services and supports,” said Dr. Jessica Fish, deputy director for Research and Evaluation with the UMD Prevention Research Center and co-author of the statement.

UMD Research

University of Maryland New Directions Seed Grants Support New Research

The University of Maryland has announced seven New Directions awards to support research across the College Park campus. The projects span a broad range of disciplines and topics, ranging from the documentation of community heritage to the discovery of atomic catalysts.

 

 

Pride ribbons

UMD study says gender-affirming policies benefit student mental health

Gender-affirming policies can improve students’ mental health, according to a report co-led by Jessica Fish, a University of Maryland assistant professor in the family science department. “The science is quite clear: youth who are able to access gender-affirming treatments, and youth who are able to participate in sports that align with their gender identity … tend to fare better in their mental health and overall well-being,” said Fish, co-lead and deputy director for research and evaluation at the University of Maryland Prevention Research Center.

Hands together in the center

UMD Prevention Research Center hosts lecture on LGBTQ+ safety in schools

The University of Maryland Prevention Research Center hosted a webinar to share the work of the Stories and Numbers Project, a collaboration that promotes the safety and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth in schools.

 

Dr. Fish

Family Science Assistant Professor, Jessica Fish, Publishes Three Papers, and Receives Several Grants and Awards for LGBTQ+ Mental Health Research

Dr. Jessica Fish, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Science, has been busy. In recent months, she has published a slew of articles on LGBTQ+ mental health and substance abuse and has received multiple research grants from institutions like the National Institutes of Health.

 

Sad girl crying on set of stairs

Editorial: Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Change Efforts are Unethical and Harmful

Two experts in LGBTQ and young adult mental health, Dr. Jessica Fish (UMD SPH) and Dr. Stephen T. Russel (UT, Austin) describe the serious harms that LGBTQ youth experience from so-called “conversion therapy” efforts in a new editorial published in the American Journal of Public Health.

 

View of building from outside in a sunny day

Don Milton and Jessica Fish Receive Seed Grants for COVID-19 Research

Don Milton, professor of environmental health, and Jessica Fish, assistant professor of family science, each received seed grants from the UMD Division of Research for COVID-19-related research. 


 

Pride umbrella

UMD Prevention Research Center Appoints New Executive Leaders

To advance its mission to support LGBTQ+ mental health, the University of Maryland Prevention Research Center (UMD-PRC) has appointed Dr. Elizabeth Aparicio, assistant professor of behavioral and community health as the Deputy Director of Clinical Training and Intervention and Dr. Jessica Fish, assistant professor of family science as Deputy Director for Research and Evaluation. 

 

Pride colors

Family Science Assistant Professor, Jessica Fish, Publishes Three Papers, and Receives Several Grants and Awards for LGBTQ+ Mental Health Research

In the past few months, Dr. Jessica Fish, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Science has published a slew of articles on LGBTQ+ mental health and substance abuse and has received multiple research grants from institutions like the National Institutes of Health.

 

Bradley Boekeloo, staff member of the School of Public Health at the University of Maryland

UMD Prevention Research Center to Focus on LGBTQ Mental Health with new $3.75M from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The University of Maryland Prevention Research Center (UMD-PRC) is working to improve mental health and health care for LGBTQ+ people with new funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).