LGBTQ+ Pride Month
June is pride month, so we are shining the light on our LGBTQ+ friends’ everyday struggles and how we can become allies and walk alongside this fantastic community.
An ally is someone who may or may not be part of but supports the LGBTQ+ community and advocates for equal rights both personally and publicly. Are you someone who wants to be an ally but isn’t sure how? Keep reading!
Contributing Factors to Mental Health Struggles in LGBTQ+ Community:
Discrimination at School- Nearly 75% of LGBTQ+ students report having experienced discrimination or harassment at school. What’s even more alarming is that 35% of those students experienced physical assault, and 12% of students were victims of sexual violence.
Workplace Discrimination- LGBTQ+ workers are often denied advancement opportunities and equal pay due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Nearly 20% of LGBTQ+ Americans have experienced discrimination in the hiring process. Consequently an LGBTQ+ person is twice as likely to be unemployed as opposed to members of the general population.
Health Disparities- There are a number of health disparities between the LGBTQ+ Community and the General Population, including access to quality care, a higher risk of suffering from certain conditions, and a tendency to have worse outcomes. In the mental health field alone, LGBTQ+ people are at a higher risk of suicide or suicidal thoughts, anxiety, depression, and struggles with substance abuse. Transgender people often struggle to find doctors who fully understand the unique needs of transgender patients, which further limits their access to quality care.
Rejection- Many LGBTQ+ people have families or loved ones that do not accept or support who they are. Rejection from family and loved ones has vast consequences for LGBTQ+ youth and adults. Those who experience familial rejection are at much higher risk of adverse health outcomes and severe mental health struggles. Young adults in the LGBTQ+ community whose families were unaccepting were 8x more likely to have suicidal thoughts, 5x more likely to feel depressed, and 3x more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
Microaggressions- Microaggressions are instances of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group. Over the past year, we have learned a lot about the numerous microaggressions that people of color in America face concerning race. However, the LGBTQ+ community experiences a large number of microaggressions too. One example of such is the assumption that a person fits within the heteronormative and gender binary culture and that they should behave within the guidelines of that culture regardless of how they identify themselves. Another example is assuming that all community members are the same, i.e., assuming that all gay men are effeminate and all gay women are masculine. These types of stereotypes and microaggressions greatly impact our friends in the LGBTQ+ community and add to the already large list of difficulties they face every day.
How You Can Help
Listen- Listen to what your LGBTQ+ friends and family members say. Ask them questions about how you can best support them. Each person knows what they need, how they are feeling, and what they want from the people in their lives. Your job as an ally is to listen to what those things are without judgment. Make an effort to ensure that your LGBTQ+ loved ones know that you are always available to listen whenever they need it.
Be a role model- Create opportunities for your straight/cisgender (a person who identifies as their birth sex) and your LGBTQ+ friends and family to socialize together. Always go out of your way to model kindness, inclusion, and acceptance.
Advocate- Reach out to your Federal, State, and Local political leaders to champion equality for all people regardless of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Many great organizations are fighting for the cultural and legal changes needed to bring about acceptance and equality for the LGBTQ+ community, including The Trevor Project, GLAAD, and the Human Rights Campaign. Check them out to learn more about legislation that impacts the LGBTQ+ community.
Be Respectful- Make a habit of asking for personal pronouns when you meet someone new instead of assuming their gender. If you misgender someone, apologize without making it about you. That means, don’t talk about how terrible you feel or how hard you’re trying to get it right; this often makes the other person feel even more uncomfortable. Once you know how a person identifies, make sure that you use their correct pronouns in the future.
Don’t Disclose- Coming out as Gay or Transgender is a profoundly personal experience. It is up to each individual to decide when and to whom they want to come out. You may be tempted to tell others about your loved one’s sexual orientation/gender identity to protect them from being misgendered or offended, but you should refrain. Disclosing an LGBTQ+ person’s gender identity or sexual orientation can cause great discomfort if they are not ready to come out to others.
Encourage Authenticity- Encourage your friends and family members to be themselves! Remember to try to see, accept, and appreciate the ways that we all differ from one another. The beauty of being human is that each one of us is unique! The best way to help your LGBTQ+ loved ones feel safe to be their authentic self is to avoid judgment and celebrate the things that make them who they are; this is the greatest act of kindness!
Stay Informed- Make an effort to stay informed about LGBTQ+ issues. Look for books, podcasts, and social media channels that spotlight these issues and provide valuable information to expand your knowledge and understanding of the LGBTQ+ community and their needs. Ask your LGBTQ+ friends and family members to refer you to their favorite resources so you can focus on the things that matter the most to them. Doing so will help them feel supported and understood.
Check out these great websites for more resources on how you can be a great ally! At Georgetown Counseling and Wellness, we care about the mental health and well-being of our LBGTQ+ community and our therapists are trained to work with all genders and issues related to the LBGTQ+ community. Call us at 512-400-4247 for a free 10-minute consultation or to schedule an appointment.
The Trevor Project https://www.thetrevorproject.org/
The Human Rights Campaign https://www.hrc.org/