All people struggle, to some degree, with feelings of inadequacy. When left unchecked, these feelings can develop into a toxic belief system that tells us we’re defective, inherently bad, or just not good enough. Oftentimes, these beliefs start in childhood. This can be especially true for members of socially marginalized groups, such as women, people of color, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ community. Years of hurtful messages, bullying, rejection, discrimination, and threats of harm result in higher rates of mental health challenges in LGBTQ kids, teens, and adults. This post will focus on the basic human rights that all members of the LGBTQ community deserve. These basic human rights are essential to protecting LGBTQ mental health.
LGBTQ Mental Health Risk Factors
It’s time to remember your infinite worth as a human being.
Many members of the LGBTQ community grow up in households in which they’re ridiculed, rejected, or even abused for some aspect of their appearance, personality, or life choices.
Even for those with happy upbringings, feelings of low self-worth can bloom and run rampant as we grow older and are exposed to more negative experiences such as:
- Toxic relationships
- Damaging media narratives
- Fewer educational, professional, and housing opportunities
When we accept toxic messaging as normal, we often wind up accepting unfair treatment, disrespect, and even threats to our emotional and physical wellbeing. As a result, we’re at higher risk for ongoing mental health issues.
LGBTQ Mental Health Statistics
Members of the LGBTQ community experience mental health issues at a significantly higher rate than cisgender individuals. This is seen throughout the lifespan, from kids through the elderly.
Recent research shows us shocking statistics on the state of LGBTQ mental health:
- 40% of young LGBTQ people have considered suicide in the last year. That number increases to over 50% for trans and nonbinary youths.
- 48% of LGBTQ youths reported engaging in self-harm in the past 12 months, including over 60% of transgender and nonbinary youths.
- 68% of LGBTQ youths reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks, including more than 3 in 4 transgender and nonbinary youths.
- Older LGBTQ adults report significantly higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to their heterosexual peers.
- 53 percent of older LGBT people feel isolated. They are more often estranged from family and have fewer friends. They are also are twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to live alone.
- 46% of LGBTQ youths reported that they wanted mental health treatment. However, they couldn’t get services within the last 12 months. Two main reasons include lack of health insurance and unsupportive family members.
- The majority of healthcare providers are not properly trained to properly help and support the diverse needs of LGBTQ patients. Repeated negative experiences with doctors and discrimination by health care settings can lead to avoidance of medical care — including mental health care.
The Need for LGBTQIA+ Affirmative Therapy
These statistics further highlight the need for more funding for appropriate mental health programs and resources as well as LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapy to protect people at every age. In LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapy, there is an acknowledgment and acceptance of a person’s sexual orientation and identity.
The therapist provides a safe and welcoming space in which LGBTQ individuals can:
- Develop a better sense of self.
- Build authenticity.
- Learn to advocate for themselves.
LGBTQ Rights: The On-Going Fight
As a society, we’ve taken great strides toward legal and institutional equality for members of the LGBTQIA community. However, many people who identify as homosexual, bisexual, trans, or queer still live with an internalized sense of otherness or shame.
Even for those who are “out” and proud, it’s not uncommon for LGBTQ folk to feel pressure to conform, twist, or hide their identities, mannerisms, or partners in at least some social situations. After years of having to hide and pretend in order to fit, mental health struggles can increase and take a toll on our health and quality of life.
Many people navigate situations and circumstances every day that make them question themselves and their choice to live freely and authentically. These significant and harmful obstacles include a hostile work environment, judgmental familial atmosphere, discrimination in public and private organizations, and lack of consistent legal rights across states.
If any of this sounds familiar:
- You tend to bottle your feelings up in certain company.
- You make yourself small in social settings where you suspect your sexuality might be scrutinized.
- You feel unsafe being yourself.
It’s time to remember your infinite worth as a human being.
LGBTQ Mental Health Protective Factors
To build and benefit from protective factors, we need to counteract the negative messaging around us with explicitly supportive, nurturing, and affirming messaging. This needs to start in childhood and continue throughout people’s lives. Otherwise, feelings of inadequacy may easily take over our minds and emotions. Then, they begin to feel normal. When this happens, positive mental health outcomes are even less likely.
To combat the normalization of low self-worth, we must remind ourselves of our Bill of Rights. Simply put, the LGBTQ Bill of Rights is a personalized list of affirmations curated to assert your birth-given right to certain truths.
Below, find the LGBTQ Bill of Rights to help you remember your worth and assert yourself with healthy boundaries.
The LGBTQ Bill of Rights
As a member of the LGBTQ community, I’m allowed to:
love who I love
exist outside of socially accepted standards of gender identification
exist outside of socially accepted standards of sexual orientation
challenge laws, authorities, and institutions that threaten my right to be myself
be unapologetic in my choices
feel safe and at ease in any environment
excuse myself from any environment or situation that makes me feel unsafe, threatened, or disrespected
keep my sexual preferences as public or private as I like
love and live loudly and without apology
be exploring who I am
be sure about who I am
explore the spectrum of sexuality and self-expression
dress in whatever clothing feels comfortable and pleasing to me
enjoy the benefits of monogamy, marriage, and long-term partnership like anyone else
expect acknowledgment and respect from my family
expect acknowledgment and respect from my partner’s family
end relationships that have not evolved to embrace my authentic self
mend relationships that are important to me
be a parent and raise healthy, well-rounded children
choose my preferred gender pronouns
be more than my sexual or gender identification
Protect Your Right to Live Your Life On Your Terms
It’s my sincerest hope that you’ll keep this expression of an LGBTQ Bill of Rights close to your heart. Feel free to add to it whichever truths move your spirit.
Remember, while we must respect our own rights, we also must respect the rights of others to be their authentic selves. As long as we’re not harming another individual, we each have the right to think, speak, and do in a way that genuinely reflects our purest nature.