Updated: Feb 4, 2021
and how links to Mental Health issues are harming our and our children's generation.
Hiding in the darkest corner of your shared bedroom, you briskly conceal the remnants of the make-up kit you stole from your older sisters’ bedroom.
You run to the bathroom to scrub your broken face, in the pursuit of not being discovered.
You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and delicately caress the softness of the shiny pink lip gloss you lovingly applied.
Why can’t I wear make-up, you think to yourself.
Why can my sister wear the things I like, but they insist I play Rugby at the weekend.
I hate rugby.
It’s cold, wet and muddy.
And the boys there are mean to me.
Why can’t I just be normal.
Fast forward 3 Years.
The boys at school make fun out of me.
It’s not my fault that I prefer spending my time with the girls.
They are less mean, and they like the same things as me.
They understand me, and I them.
They’re not my ‘girlfriends’. At least I don’t think of them in that way.
Fast forward 4years
I have a girlfriend.
I am normal.
I prefer it this way.
My friends have stopped talking about me now, for which I’m thankful.
But why, oh why do I prefer spending time with her taller, older, albeit handsome brother?
For each time I see him, I get butterflies. How can a boy do this to me? Should I not love my girlfriend? Should I not remain loyal and ‘normal’.
My girlfriends’ brother and I have hidden away together.
Who am I? Is this right? Is this wrong? What am I doing?
How do I talk about what happened that night with anyone?
Who would understand?
From working in the education industry, this story is becoming more and more familiar. Coming out is not easy, and for the most part for individuals it quickly becomes the definition of one’s essence.
In America, on October 11, 1987, around 500,000 people marched on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. This was the second demonstration of this type in the capital and it resulted in the formation of several LGBTQ organizations.
In the late 1980s, the LGBTQ community recognized that they often reacted defensively to anti LGBTQIA+ actions and the community came up with the idea of a national day for celebrating ‘coming out’. The anniversary of the 1987 march was chosen as that national day.
Each year on October 11th, National Coming Out Day continues to promote a safe world for LGBTQ individuals to live truthfully and openly.
There is no single coming out story - nearly every day involves of the ethos of ‘coming out’. Of course, it is most difficult to come out to the people who are most important to you or whose judgement impacts your life in significant ways but ‘being out’ and ‘coming out’ is a continuous process.
Somewhere between 30 and 60 percent of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, or transgender people deal with anxiety and depression at some point in their lives. That rate is 1.5 to 2.5 times higher than that of their straight or gender-conforming counterparts.
It’s a strikingly high number, and it raises a lot of questions. While the entire answer is undoubtedly complex as to why you or your LGBTQ loved ones are more apt to struggle with anxiety or depression, here’s where context is key to understanding it for yourself.
Being highly attuned to context as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender person shapes your internal world, too. It affects how you think and feel about yourself. In response to an outside world full of negative messages about what it means to be attracted to people of the same sex or gender nonconforming, many people come to view themselves as deeply flawed, unlovable, unworthy, and hopeless.
Coping with minority stress does not tell the whole story, though, in the lives of lesbians, gay, bisexuals, or transgender individuals. There’s way more to each person’s life than that: Camaraderie, pride, strength, and sense of belonging are found in community, friendship, and the love of other LGBTQ people and their supportive allies. All of us, whether gay, straight, gender conforming or not — or somewhere in between — are more than a constellation of the difficulties that we’ve had to face.
“As a parent there is no pain worse than to watch our child struggle or be in pain . All I can say always let them know how much they are loved and wanted and the effect it would have on those they love to not be a part of their beautiful future and it may not seem like it but they are in control of that 100% and you will always love and support and be there to pick them up . Love Love Love 💕”
– Andrea, Mother to a 15year old girl.
LGB 16- to 21-year-olds are four times more likely to have felt depressed, harmed themselves and thought about killing themselves, according to a study based on interviews with 4,800 young people from in and around Bristol.
Experts said the numbers were linked to the bullying, stigma and abuse that some young people experience as a result of their sexuality.
The findings are from the first British research into the prevalence of depressive symptoms and self-harm in young people.
Of the 4,828 participants, 625 did not say they were heterosexual, instead describing themselves as homosexual, bisexual, mainly homosexual, mainly heterosexual, unsure or not attracted to either sex. They were all classed as being in a “sexual minority” by the academics from University College London and King’s College London who carried out the research.
Schools could be inadvertently making the problem worse by making “sexual minority” students feel isolated by focusing too much on straight relationships, the study suggests.
A government-funded survey of mental health problems among teenagers in England, which was published last month, found a third (34.9%) of 14 to 19 year olds who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or with another sexual identity had a mental disorder, compared with 13.2% of those who said they were heterosexual.
“Coming out was a strange one. Quite straight forward in a way but it still had its complications. With my family, it was a simple “bring home your boyfriend” scenario and introduce him as your boyfriend. That was the easy part. I would like to think my family were supportive – however it wasn’t really something we would bring up at the dinner table, and day to day, conversations consisted of changing the word “she” to “he.
School was different. I knew that school was going to be the hardest bridge to cross. Being gay or even slightly different from the ‘norm’ was similar to being treated like you were ‘abnormal’, strange or weird. The feeling knowing that everyone was going to talk about you made things 100% worse but I knew that if I was to survive school, I had to be tactical on how I made people aware that I was in fact a gay.
Unfortunately, someone I confided in about me being a gay, told someone else to which that person told someone else – True snowball effect. Me having a boyfriend circulated round the school before lunch time – 4 hours it took in all.. Not only everyone was talking about me, but someone had taken the most important part of who I was and told everyone. Me coming out was meant to be on my own terms but now I was playing to someone else’s. I had two options, deny or admit.
I’m glad I didn’t deny being gay. My attitude was simply ‘I am and will always be the same person I have been throughout school’ Thankfully, me being the class clown at school and being friendly with most people in my year, my classmates were quite accepting. Of course, a few people tried to victimize me, pick on me, make comments and sometimes it was hard, but I raised above it and just accepted that throughout my life there would always be people who would try to belittle me.
Looking back, it was a hard time of my life, but without my family, friends and my positive attitude, I was able to get through it. I am glad that LGBTQ+ is more recognized in schools, that kids are more accepting and that we are not classed as abnormal people. We still have a long way to go but I am glad we are treated more as equals and not ‘damaged’ people”.
– James, aged 27.
There are many ways that you can help to support your children, family members and others with this.
1. Don’t freak out.
This should be pretty self-explanatory. Your child is telling you something over which she has agonized for a while: How to tell you? When to tell you? What will your reaction be? She is telling you this deeply personal thing about herself because she wants you to know the real her. She wants to share a piece of herself that you might not have known or understood, and it is your job as a parent to accept her for who she is. If you don’t accept your child because of her gender or sexuality, then you never really loved her fully. You only loved the idea of her. It is absolutely fine to take some time to adjust to this new reality, as long as you are doing it in a respectful way that doesn’t cause your child unnecessary anxiety. However, it is not acceptable to berate, abuse, or degrade your child based on what they have shared with you.
2. Don’t pry; your child will tell you as much as he wants, and you should respect that.
Your child is still smart, kind, and loving, still prone to adolescent mood swings and periods of brooding or whatever it was he did before his announcement. In fact, now that he has shared this new information with you, you’ll be discovering more things about your child now that he is comfortable sharing his true self.
3. Don’t try to force your child’s identity out of her; your child will talk to you when she is ready.
It isn’t your place to place a sexual label on your child. Your child’s sexuality is exactly that: your child’s. It is up to him to determine the one that most resonates.
4. Let your child express his gender and sexuality through exploration of hair colour, clothing, and makeup.
f your daughter wants to cut her hair short and wear a suit to the school ball, let her. If your son wants to wear skirts or colour his hair pink, let him. These are all healthy forms of self-expression, and by allowing him to utilize these outlets, you are letting your child know that he is more important to you than his outer shell. Clothes are just clothes; pieces of cloth used to protect us from the weather and cover our genitals. It is up to your child to discover what he is most comfortable wearing. He needs your support as he explores self-identity through self-expression. Hair can be cut or grown out, colours can be washed or dyed out, makeup can be removed, and clothes can (and probably will!) vary vastly from one day to the next. Clothes only become “boy clothes” when they are worn by a boy and “girl clothes” when they are worn by a girl. Style and colour do not mean they “belong” to a certain gender, despite how the Gap or Macy’s might organize their clothing sections.
5. Do not tease your child about her gender or sexuality, and don’t let friends or family do it either.
Few things are as hurtful to a child who identifies as LGBTQ+ as having her parents insult her or her community through petty quips and jokes. You may think you’re being funny, but to your child your jokes can come across as a passive-aggressive way to tell him you don’t really like who he is. If you notice your friends or family members doing this, please take a moment to explain to them that this is not OK and never will be.
This is a picture of my brother. He is gay and proud, and I can't tell you all how proud I am of the man he has become. Keep inspiring us all, and most importantly of all always be you. - Love you.