Over the past year or so we’ve had lots of conversations with Young LGBTQ People about their identities, how they view themselves and how they feel others see them. I’m lucky to be in an environment where I can listen and sometimes advise or offer direction in terms of finding information about being LGBTQ. One of the main reasons as to why we started this project was to offer support to Young LGBTQ people who may find it hard to find themselves, who feel afraid or confused about their sexuality or are Coming Out but are not sure how to. It seems more and more common that young LGBTQ people feel that they are disappointing and as a result of this they do not come out.
Very recently a young person (YP) came out to me and called themselves ‘Wrong’. This happened again a few weeks later when I spoke with a different young Gay person who also views themselves as ‘wrong’. In both instances the YP expressed that how they felt was a negative and because they were different, this meant that they were somehow less. Some of this seemed to stem from other peoples reactions to LGBTQ people in their lives. Each of these YP had a family member who may not accept the fact that they are gay or they have heard the use of the word ‘gay’ negatively at home. There is also a possibility that they feel that they are not accepted in school by their peers and that being different from most of the other people in their environment is frightening.
It is more frightening to see how this self loathing and internalised homophobia is affecting their mental health. In my opinion, for what that is worth, being LGBTQ is not the cause of mental health issues in young LGBTQ people. However, the lack of support, visible support in schools or colleges, at home and in the media has a huge effect on how young LGBTQ people perceive themselves. According to the NHS, Young LGBTQ people show higher levels of anxiety, depression and/or suicidal feelings in comparison to heterosexual YP. Regularly I witness young LGBTQ people suffering through difficult social interactions, awkward peer relationships and generally lacking in self-confidence because they are different but don’t have the confidence to be themselves. In schools young LGBTQ people do not want to come out because they feel that their environment is not suitable. I can also see many young LGBTQ people developing eating disorders, self harming and having negative thoughts because they are UNABLE to come out or don’t have the physical support to do so. THIS MUST CHANGE!
With the lack of funding for mental health available it’s really important that we as an LGBTQ community make sure that YP know that there is ‘Nothing Wrong’ with them. We need to speak openly about being LGBTQ, the difficulties about it as well as the positives, so that they can see that life can be great. Having the conversation is so important, letting people know that like everything else, there will be ups and downs. If you have Come Out and are happy out, take the time to speak to someone else about it. Educating people as we go is what will make the difference. Doing that may help a YP feel better about themselves, it may let them know that it will be ok! If we do this we can help those who feel low and lost. Building a strong community can be done but it must start with each and every one of us. I know if this week I tell one person that it’s OK for them to be themselves it will start to make a difference. Together we can change the stigma that some YP are surrounded by and give them the strength to feel comfortable in their own bodies.
Being mentally healthy is about having self confidence, being resilient and generally being happy. Everyone of us has the right to have that, including all LGBTQ people. Young People have lots of challenges to get through every day but being themselves should not be one of them.
#LGBTQ #Stigma #ComingOut #Gay #MentalHealth #Depression #Support #Out #YoungPeople
www.lgbtyouth.org.uk is a useful site for young LGBTQ people.