Justin is 20 years old and has never felt like he was really a boy. Growing up he always wanted to play dress up with his sisters and to this day prefers to wear women’s clothing. His family tells him that this is gross and he needs to “Man up!” A few of his friends are supportive of his draw to wear women’s clothing, but he is scared to tell them that he actually wants to be identified as a woman.
Gloria is 43 years old and recently went through a major divorce with a man she’d been married to for 14 years. Gloria has secretly liked women in addition to liking men, but has never felt like she could act on her attraction to women since she was married. Now that she is divorced she is thinking seriously about dating women. She doesn’t know how to go about this though and is afraid her friends and family will reject her.
Lisa and Andrea have been dating for 4 years and recently got engaged. Their families are supportive and they are excited to finally start this new chapter of their lives. Lisa and Andrea both want to go through couples counseling before they get married, and hope to find a therapist that is skilled in working with lesbian couples.
Anna recently came out to her friends that she is a lesbian and is considering coming out to her parents soon. While her friends were supportive, she is fearful that her parents will not understand. Anna doesn’t know how to move forward and is scared that she’ll lose the people she loves the most if she is honest about her sexuality.
LGBTQ and Mental Health
Until the 1980’s, the term “homosexuality” was used by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) to describe same sex attraction as a mental condition. The DSM is the reference for psychiatrists to give diagnoses and better understand mental illnesses. Now, 35 years later we have significant clinical research that proves being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning is not a mental illness, but a normal part of human development.
In fact, The Williams Institute through the School of Law at UCLA estimates that there are at least 8-9 million Americans who identify as LGBTQ. And, now with the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same sex marriage there is a movement toward equality for the LGBTQ population.
However, even with all of the past and present strides in the world, discrimination still exists toward LGBTQ people, and right here in Nashville, TN. It can take a big toll on one’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
How Do We Know That’s True?
Research indicates the following:
- LGBTQ youth are 3-4 times more likely to attempt suicide or have suicidal ideation than those that identify as heterosexual or cisgender (someone whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender)
- People who have faced rejection from their family are 8 times more likely to attempt suicide than someone who is accepted by their family
- 20-30% of the those who identify as LGBTQ abuse substances to help cope with the stress of discrimination compared to only 9% of the general population
- 19% of transgender people are refused medical care because of their gender identity
- 25% of adult gay and bisexual men and 20% of adult lesbian and bisexual women have experienced victimization based on their sexuality
Finding a therapist
When looking for a counselor for mental health concerns, support in the coming-out process, working through injuries at the hands of family members or religious communities, or just to work toward goals in life, it is important that a therapist is inclusive and knowledgeable of the unique pressures or circumstances a LGBTQ person may encounter. At Change, Inc. we are committed to providing a safe and therapeutic space for you to be truly who you. Here are some tips to help support you…
- Make connection a priority. There are many ways to connect with other LGBTQ people and allies. Think about joining a national LGBTQ advocacy group or local organization here in Nashville. If that seems like too large a first step, simply reaching out to a friend or therapist that supports who you truly are is a good beginning.
- Remember, it gets better. Now, not only do we have literally millions of people who have come out across the world and are living happy, healthy lives, but that’s taking place right here in Nashville as well. With the advent of federal legislation that says same sex couples deserve the same rights (as if you didn’t already know that!), it’s time you claim some of that for yourself.
- Know you are enough. It is hard to believe in ourselves when society or even family and friends say that there is something wrong with who we are. Someone else’s bias toward you does not represent your true worth. You are good and enough just as you are.
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