Under the Rainbow, what it’s like to study LGBT+ issues- an Interview with Ritch C. Savin-Williams

Happy pride month to those who are out and those who are not. Either way, it’s okay. Coming out is different for everyone, especially since there are always different reactions. When telling people that are close to you (like parents) it can be difficult, and the anticipation, worse. Savin-Williams understands the challenges queer people face and has written books on such topics. “Mom, Dad, I’m gay”, “Becoming who I am” and “The New Gay Teen” show different difficulties that LGBT+youth face, from coming out to beating stereotypes. This week, I interviewed him about his work.


What’s it’s like studying LGBT+ issues?

It is my passion, in part it is personal and it part it is scientific as we know so little about the developmental milestones of sexual-minority youth.

What inspires you to write about such topics?

We need knowledge, not stereotypes and there are many of the latter when it comes to sexual-minority youth. I am a developmental psychologist and there are few of us investigating the lives of sexual-minority youth.

What were and are the biggest barriers that you’ve faced in your career?

Regarding sexual-minority youth, it is trying not only to counter stereotypes (e.g., suicidal, depressed, anxious, substance abuse, etc.) but, more importantly, to describe their lives.

Have you noticed a change in how the public has reacted to your works?

I believe there is a new openness to considering the “ordinariness” of sexual-minority youth—some are troubled, some are awesome, and most are typical adolescents.

What do you hope to accomplish or change with your works?

To insert knowledge into our views of sexual-minority youth and to rid our culture of the need to know the sexuality of youth before we accept them.

As America’s government becomes more conservative, what effect do you think it will have on the LGBT+ youth?

I am hopeful that acceptance of sexual and gender diversity is so entrenched in our culture that it will withstand politics.

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  1. I think this interview left more questions than answers for me. What does Savin-Williams define as sexual minority youth? Are these just LGBT+ persons, those who are intersectional and queer identified? Both?
    What is being done to describe the lives of the youth? What is being done to counter these stereotypes? Is there anything in his research that can be discussed that is showing progress or regression regarding attitudes towards LGBT+ youth? I’m sure it would be interesting to see how the current presidential administration will affect views towards this demographic and are there plans to study that?
    I just feel that there was a lot missing here and that there could have been more depth brought to this especially because no detail was given for how sexual minority youth has been treated or viewed, how that is changing or hasn’t changed, it just seems like it is all based on optimism for the future but speaks nothing to the experience of the youth in the present.

  2. This was interesting to read, but I feel like the interview said more about Savin-Williams than about the actual study of LGBT+ youth. It would be great to see more articles and interviews discussing different ways people study queer youth, with backgrounds in different disciplines and such. The interview doesn’t go very in-depth regarding this field of research, and seems slightly overly-optimistic, considering the current political situation of not only USA but of the entire world.

  3. As soon as I read the headline, I was really curious, about what Savin-Williams had to say about the lgbtq+ community and the studies about them.
    But sadly this interview seemed very superficial and I am leaving with more questions than I came with. There seem to be a variety of terms, that are not defined. as Diadra Smith already mentioned, what does he mean with sexual minority youth? I know from experience and my own papers I wrote on this topic, that it is not an easily defined term, but especially then it is of utmost importance to give at least one definition to provide an overall understanding, something I sorely miss here.
    And because I fear that I am only repeating what Diadra Smith already said very well, I will advise you to read hers for all my further points.

  4. I’ve found that this interview was being very general on the views Savin-Williams presented. Now while this could be attributed to Savin-Williams providing general answers or the interviewer asking general questions it leaves the reader wanting more. What threats do kids often encounter if they come out to their parents? Does it differ between social classes, cultures, and race? What kind of resources are available to the LGBT+ youth? Overall, I think that the interviewer should ask more hard-hitting questions.

  5. I was very interested in reading what the study of LGBT+ youth is like, but sadly like, many others already commented, is this interview more about Savin-Williams then the actual study.
    Savin-Williams seems very optimistic for the future but it is not really clear where this optimism comes from and how he thinks that the LGBT+ youth will “withstand politics”, especially with the current political situation in many different countries all around the world.

  6. The interview focuses more on Savin-Williams’ career instead of giving information about what exactly is Savin-Williams advocating for in terms of youths who are struggling or coming to terms with their sexuality, and how the LGBTQ+ community is affected by society.
    Instead of focusing on what difficulties he faced in regards to his career, the questions should be directed towards how Savin-Williams has helped or plans to help the LGBTQ+ youth, expand on the stereotypes and difficulties the youths face in society, and how exactly has the perspective of the LGBTQ+ community changed over time.
    The interview barely gives any insight to what Savin-Williams is advocating for. The questions are good, but they are not the right questions to ask. Additionally, take cues from what Savin-Williams is saying and build up on what he is talking about/has mentioned. It could lead to a more in depth discussion, which would be of greater interest to the community.

  7. I feel that the boldened statement at the beginning of your article was somewhat unnecessary and seemed overly reassuring. The writing of it was somewhat messy, and I feel that keeping it less biased and more straight-to-the-point would have been a wiser move. However, I enjoyed the more biographical style of this nature, as it was more of an interview of Dr. Savin-Williams himself than it was of his field of study, which is something not many articles on this site feature. In my opinion, you should ask more in-depth questions in the future to get longer, more intimate responses! The simplicity of the article was great, though, and I look forward to more from both you and Dr. Savin-Williams!

  8. The topic of the interview was interesting, but like others have said, it seemed to be more about Savin-Williams than the issues. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, having insight into what someone who works with these issues deals with provides insight into the issues themselves and a different point of view. Plus, the title of the article suggests that it’s about what it’s like to study LGBT issues, not the issues themselves. It would’ve been great to have more detail about the actual issues just for a little bit of background. Also, Savin-Williams really didn’t expand much on these questions which I don’t think is necessarily your fault, in general follow up questions may help the person being interviewed be able to expand a little bit more though. Good start and interesting topic, it just needs some more detail and expansion of the ideas so people can better understand what goes into studying LGBT issues and the kind of prejudice comes with it.

  9. This article was good to interduce us with the work and character of Savin-Williams, but
    unfortunately, it gave us so little informations about the studies. I am glad to see that there are some things changing in this world, and that there are at least a little bit less stereotypes. Maybe, for the next article, there could be some study that the mr Savin-Williams did, and there could be maybe some stories about different experience people from the LGBT+ population have.

  10. What a timely and necessary article for this month! Happy pride to you all! I’m very interested in Mr. Savin-William’s work and it’s most likely having such a large impact on the LGBTQ+ community. It’s so important to have allies to push forward change. I did however find this interview very short. I’d love to know more about his work and the impact it’s having. What particular issues is he focusing on to bring about change, is he focusing on a particular segment of the LGBTQ+ (race or gender), because all have different and equally important issues. Also maybe a conclusion for this article is necessary and could have brought some of these questions to light and provided us with an answer. Nonetheless this was crucial and extremely appropriate, so thank you!

  11. I feel this article can serve as a great introduction to the topic of LGBT youth. I would love to read some follow up articles about Mr. Savin-William’s work and this topic, where we can delve into more detail.

    I’d like to know if Mr. Savin-William mostly works with gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, and other non-heterosexual youths, or does he also work with transgender and other nonbinary youths? Does he specialize? To me, those are two related, but different areas of work.

  12. I enjoyed reading about someone who is helping the LGBT+ community. I truly do admire those who do this kind of beneficial work! Your questions were easy to follow and his answers were straightforward, which is great.

    The interview was a nice introduction to the work of Mr. Savin William, but I feel like it lacked information on his research. I’d love to know how he conducts research (e.g. surveys, interviews, etc.). Also, how does he plan to share this information with and with whom? One additional question could’ve been: “What have you discovered so far?” In the end, I was unsure what LGBT+ issue he is specifically researching.

  13. I love the subject of this interview. Given the title, the nature of your questions were to expected/ suitable; the focus is on the reseacher not the research.

    I think it would have been great to have included links to other interviews or online publications to accompany the interview, as further research.

    It would have also been great if Savin-Williams were to have suggested a starting point(book suggestions, organizations, forums etc.)
    for those looking to learn further and/or be allies.

    Spelling suggestions:
    First question, it’s > [it]
    Response to first question, it > [in] “in part it is personal and [in] part…”

    Great interview!

    1. Great feedback! I didnt get to write it in my comment but definitely adding in that extra information would have improved the article!

  14. As someone who has a lot of close family members and friends in the LGBTQIA community, I feel that this is such an important topic. People fear what they don’t know and this article is so informative about the fact that many people dont understand what is truly going on; especially from a scientific stand point. In my future as I continue to study psychology, I hope to encounter more of these kinds of research or even start researching myself. Great article!

  15. Great interview, I feel as though the interview could’ve been longer but other than that the reasons behind every answers seems thoughtful and sounds like they’re coming from good intentions. On another note I like your aim on riding the habit that culture has of knowing a persons sexuality before accepting them because in all aspects its not fair. Its exactly like underestimating someone for something you already have in mind of them. No one truly knows anyone just from one aspect of them. The intention of getting rid of this mindset speaks change, a good change.

  16. When reading the title of the interview and the name of the interviewee, I got really intrigued as I am a fan of Savin-Williams’ work, but unfortunately, the content didn’t got me as excited.

    I agree with some people here that the interview is rather superficial and you could’ve given us so much more than with just a few mundane questions with little to no open-end answers. Not to mention, you barely mention anything about Savin-Williams’ work- as you claimed in your intro-rather focus on the interviewee.
    I really hope you can do a better job next time.


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