Navigating the Consciousness of the LGBT+ Community
Doubt, pressure and acceptance, the cuss words of the community; we discuss the LGBT+ collective and their mental health woes.
Being a part of the oppressed means dealing daily with rejection. Dodging discriminatory digs, the swings of fists from the ignorant and searching for sanctuary every time we leave the house. According to NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalised anxiety disorder.
A study published by Stonewall revealed that one in five LGBT+ people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months. Experiencing life on a slow moving train of progress tolls on our mental health as queer people, so what are the effects of rejection and homophobia on mental health? Shouldn’t we be talking about it?
We celebrate Pride, History Month and Queer artists, yet often forget to mourn the cost of what got us here; the victims taken too soon. LGBT+ youth are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide, or engage in self-harm than straight people. This invisible force has touched so many of us, so why then is this subject still so taboo? It’s time to bring our demons into the light, to redress the inequality and break the stigma.
Being gay is a continuous coming out story, we are tasked with producing a cushioned script to explain our ‘perversions’ to the never ending reel of people who enter our lives. This leaves us open too much harsher dissection, being condemned for our orientation, denied of our most beloved and even at risk of bodily harm.
Stonewall disclosed, the number of LGBT+ people who have experienced a hate crime or incident in the last year because of their sexual orientation has risen by 78 percent since 2013. The discourse surrounding this is few and far between, with additional organisations like the Mental Health Foundation being some of the only sources unafraid to publicise these eye-opening statistics. This journey is one often walked alone thanks to the confines this hetero-normative world so readily forces upon us. Your self-worth at risk of being obliterated into a thousand tiny pieces in a blink of an eye if you don’t fit in.
Acceptance is growing across the globe however the discrimination, shame, and stigma still remain. We wanted to shine a light on some of the most prominent struggles that contribute to mental health issues faced by the community.
A micro-aggression is a term used for brief verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether they are intentional or not, that communicate hostile, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group. Dignity is often not afforded to those that are a member of this club, going out in public means we’re misgendered, stereotyped, robbed of privacy with secret photos taken by strangers and a magnifying glass put on our fashion, mannerisms and sense of autonomy. Studies by Kevin L. Nadal and Yinglee Wong have proven a greater increase in reports of depression and psychological distress as a result of these invasions.
Doubt comes from external forces sometimes as a result of micro-aggressions, whether that be debating our existences in mass media or a passer-by in the street asking us why we are dressed like we are. To have somebody question your holistic form, every part of your being — what makes you, you is a somber experience. Realising that people place you in order of worth based upon your identity makes you want to evaporate. Not being represented is one thing, but not having the platform to discuss our own lives encompasses the word hopeless.
‘Mainstream’ channels for the community come in the form of Stonewall or GayTimes, however these are only sold in corner shops and exist predominantly online. What is missing is mainstream media using accurate and diverse representation in TV shows, films and unproblematic narratives. The power of doubt is incredibly damaging, because it seeps into our confidence, our joy and our passion poisoning our perseverance to simply exist. Doubt comes in many shapes and forms and certainly goes hand in hand with depression and anxiety. According to a survey by LGBT+ support charity, Metro, 42% of the 7000 participants had sought help for anxiety or depression. An overwhelming figure to say the least, youth face great difficulties early on in their journey and this without a doubt is imprinted onto their mental health. One thing that there’s no doubt about, doubt is a huge factor that affects our mental health.
THE PRESSURE TO BE SOMEBODY
The community plays host to a number of individuals that have gained large social status. Once obtaining 10,000 followers, your account becomes verified and you are granted access to a list of features that your average user may not even know exist, for example, the ability to post links in stories which will bring greater traffic to your business or blog. They work through social media, but also attend panel talks and write for publications to amplify the voices of the community. Often, they present a celebrity lifestyle through social media channels, but this can be a double edged sword. If you’re in the scene you’ll probably know and be just as angry about the fake representation… no we’re not gonna be your gay best friend and come shopping with you. Not all activists have a platform, and those who do can sometimes use and abuse it. ‘Feminist icon’, Jameela Jamil, has used her platform to speak on behalf of trans people. Here she has stolen the voices of activists and accounts with a smaller following and painted herself as a saviour, being paid to do so, profiting off the pain. This is not activism, this is fame. This hierarchical system that is rooted in the community can leave individuals with a smaller following feeling incomplete and unworthy, hounding their mental health and bringing up feelings of worthlessness and being voiceless. Why is this problematic? It splits the tension between false presenting ‘activists’ showing a pristine lifestyle online and being less visible offline, conflicting with a sense of envy towards those who are able to use their voices from those without the status symbol.
Acceptance is like a diamond, something we all want but probably won’t be afforded to us. The freedom to be yourself at school or in the workplace is one that heteros at large often take for granted, in the community we must take up arms and fight for this right. To not feel accepted at home, the one place you should be free to be you, has a significant impact on how you function in everyday life, resurfacing aspects of doubt and uneasiness in response to your identity. The AKT (Albert Kennedy Trust) revealed 69% of LGBT homeless youth experienced familial rejection, abuse and violence sometimes leading to homelessness. When family fails, we pick our own, connecting with other members of the community who too are dealing with the attack on their existence. A vicious circle spins with a constant rise in stigma for the individual who remains hopeful for the day where they can be themselves in public with no concern.
With all this being said; the answers to conquering LGBT+ mental health and making it much less taboo seem blurry. In the meantime, look out for your LGBT+ brothers and sisters and build them up in a world so intent on their demise.