As a lesbian who lives life outside of the closet, I have experienced my fair share of shame regarding my sexual orientation and gender expression. The LGBTQIA+ mental health community does not only experience shame based upon their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. These individuals also have to navigate shame feelings stemming from trauma experienced in their pasts.
LGBT Mental Health Care
After living a year of pandemic life, we are beginning to resume some normalcy just in time for June, Pride Month. Many states have lifted mask mandates while more than half the country has been vaccinated. Entering the month of June, Pride Month in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community, after a year of social distancing could put a strain on our mental health. I know I have been experiencing anxiety surrounding the idea of gathering with my LGBTQIA+ community after so long apart. Here are a few ways I have been coping with this new way of life while planning to celebrate pride.
It may seem strange to talk about taking care of our mental health during Pride Month. Pride is a time of joy, fun, and liberation as we celebrate our collective history and identities as queer people. Pride is definitely something I look forward to every year (and I am not above going overboard with rainbow glitter and motifs), but it can also be an emotionally charged time as we confront the ongoing discrimination and systemic oppression that continue to impact our community and daily lives.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community faces mental health challenges specific to their gender and sexuality. Transgender and non-binary individuals (TGNB) often experience mental health challenges such as increased acts of rejection or violence and microaggressions by mental health providers and the general public. These disparities could lead to TGNB individuals suffering from mental health concerns such as anxiety. Learning about those challenges faced by our TGNB specific community may help us check our biases at the door and provide allyship to these individuals.
Sleeping with purpose has worked wonders regarding my nightmares associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I struggled for years to obtain restful sleep due to nightmares and flashbacks related to my PTSD. I learned that being present before sleep at night allowed my mind to rest emptily and instead of it being full of thoughts. Here are some ways that helped me, and hopefully will help you, in being active and present in my sleep or sleeping with purpose.
The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community faces barriers when searching for inclusive mental health care. These barriers can include uneducated providers, discrimination within a community practice setting, and financial hardships that limit provider options. Acknowledging that these barriers exist for the LGBTQIA+ mental health community is the first step in eradicating them.
I have been hospitalized twice due to my erratic mental health. My gender expression of gender non-conforming (outward expression different from societal gender norms) was not taken seriously during these hospitalizations. I was subjected to uninformed mental health professionals and demeaning mistakes due to the lack of knowledge or respect for my gender non-conforming presentation. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community deals with barriers to gender-affirming care regarding mental health and hospitalization often. These are just a couple of ways I was subjected to insensitive mental health care regarding my gender expression.
Gender identity in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community is important when speaking about mental health. Society has made a habit of assigning gender based on assumptions relating to outward appearance and tone of voice. Mental health concerns can be tied together with gender identity, and it is important to respect an individual's chosen identity without our own biases getting in the way.
Pronoun usage in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community is important when dealing with mental health concerns. Using proper pronouns when speaking to others about their mental health can provide a safe and comfortable space for them to release their emotions.
When offering help to those we know with mental health concerns, we must remember language is important. Our lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community especially requires attention to language when speaking with them regarding mental health concerns. Providing space for our LGBTQIA+ community is essential in productive mental health care. We can help provide space using LGBTQIA+-inclusive language as well as being mindful of what we ask others.