Recently, my home state proposed a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Although the bill didn't pass, it created greater awareness for how damaging conversion therapy can be to a person's mental health, especially for teenagers. So many young queer people are coerced into therapy that they believe will "cure" them of something that wasn't harming them to begin with. And because people's gender identity or sexual orientation is such an inherent part of who they are, conversion therapy can lead to serious mental health issues and perpetuate gay discrimination.
The more I've been a part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, the more I've realized how complex attraction really is. One of my close friends is asexual, which means that while they're happily married, they don't experience sexual attraction. As an advocate for asexuality, my friend has met opposition in and outside of the gay community because so many people don't understand how this identity exists or falls under the LGBT spectrum.
Since I'm openly transgender, I sometimes get comments that my identity is a mental illness because "gender dysphoria" is in the DSM-5, the official diagnostic tool for psychiatric disorders. To me, this reflects a misunderstanding about what gender dysphoria is and how it's treated. While most trans people experience dysphoria, especially before transitioning, not all trans people do for their whole life. For that reason, it's possible for someone to be transgender but not have gender dysphoria.
Last week I went to my two-year checkup for hormone replacement therapy, a medication I take because I am transgender, to align my body with my gender identity. I visit my doctor every six months to make sure my testosterone levels are in the healthy range for a man and that my mental and physical health are okay, too. The past two years have gone by so fast that it's hard for me to believe I've been on hormone medication for so long. It feels like just yesterday that I decided to seek help for my gender dysphoria, or the distress I felt because my biological sex and gender identity didn't align. Since my appointment, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be transgender and how complex gender really is.
Finding love as a transgender (trans) person is difficult. After recently leaving a long-term relationship, I've found myself back on the dating scene. Finding a romantic partner as a trans man isn't easy. Even the most affirming cisgender (a person whose gender conforms with his or her birth sex) people can have reservations about dating someone who's transgender. I don't blame people who aren't comfortable dating a trans person. Physical attraction is an important part of a healthy relationship and, if someone isn't attracted to my body, I understand that. But I also think it's important to recognize and eradicate transphobia in the dating scene to make finding a partner safe for everybody.
Alcohol abuse while being queer can bring with it specific challenges. Unfortunately, for many people who are part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community, alcohol abuse is a very common and serious problem. Many LGBTQ individuals rely on alcohol to deal with the stigma and mental illnesses they face. Here are some tips on how to get help if you identify as queer and abuse alcohol.
No one likes to be rejected. Unfortunately, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) people experience a lot of rejection and oppression that lead to depression and other mental illnesses. As a pansexual, I have experienced my fair share of biphobia and homophobia in the past. While it certainly isn’t easy or fun to talk about, raising awareness is the only way of abolishing discrimination towards the LGBTQ community and reduce the rejection queer people face and their depressions.
Have you ever tried being something that you’re not? I think it’s safe to say that all of us have gone through this at some point in our lives. It makes us feel as if we are a fake, and that we’re being untrue to ourselves. It may also lead to deep depression and low self-esteem, especially when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ) individuals. Those who identify as LGBTQ have a higher chance of self-harm, substance abuse, and eating disorders, for example, which are all linked to depression.
As a person who identifies as pansexual, I've met my fair share of ignorance and discrimination when it comes to my sexuality. I have rarely seen positive depictions of bisexual people; instead, we are seen as chronic cheaters who have sex with anyone. This is extremely problematic because it directly affects the bisexual/pansexual community. Even within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) community, bisexuals often meet resistance and ridicule. We don't fit in with the straight world, yet we find isolation within the LGBTQ community, too. Where do we truly belong?
It's an unfortunate reality that people within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) community have a harder time accepting and loving themselves. Society's message toward anyone who is not straight or cisgender (a person whose sex matches their gender) is often negative and harshly critical. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are seen as outcasts and freaks. I am pansexual and I have, in my history, felt like one of those freaks.