End The Stigma LGBT(QIA)

It is a shame to say, but Homophobia and transphobia are prevalent in Irish society and can lead to stress and Mental Ill health for the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual Community). I am campaigning for an end to this discrimination and recognition of the extra struggles our friends in this community face. It is not uncommon for LGBTQIA to know from a young age that they do not fit into the same profile as the “majority” of the people. This can be a worrying time and place stress on their mental health. Regretfully LGBTQIA people still can experience a degree of prejudice and harassment and this can lead to poor mental health and well-being. LGBTQIA people of all ages can still experience difficulties such as ‘coming out’or such as fear of rejection.

Just a quick caveat to the introduction, there has been progress in Irish society in recent years and in a lot of Western Europe, Workplaces and schools and in particular, universities can be welcoming places and frequently there is a welcoming ethos and reality.

To end the stigma properly, we need to identify the stressors and add-ons that our friends in the LGBTQIA community face.

Bullying

A large amount of people experience bullying. Any of us can be bullied in all manner of scenarios from work to school to sports, but LGBT people can in particular experience homophobic/transphobic bullying. Being a victim of bullying will very often lead to feeling upset, humiliated, and vulnerable or under attack.

Bullying and harassment are not too dissimilar and cause physical torture, mental torture and often sadness, isolation and a feeling of anger. All of these affect your mental health. We have moved from bullying in-person when I went to school in the 1990’s to a lot of cyberbullying (where the terror is increased as cyber-bullying can be faceless and relentless and around the clock)

My advice to you is if you experience bullying or harassment, talk to someone about it, whether a teacher, sports colleague, work colleague, family member, friend or even your doctor.

Domestic Violence is not far removed from Bullying or Harassment where one person tries to assert power over their partner in an intimate relationship. It can be physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse or even financial abuse. Anybody can be affected and it’s not just traditional heterosexual relationships. We need to align our thinking regarding violence in relationships for those in the LGBTQIA community; it is not uncommon for a man in a male-male relationship to suffer domestic violence or a lady in a female – female relationship to experience Domestic Violence.

No one troubled in a relationship should hesitate to contact the appropriate services.

Have a look at the list of services and telephone numbers I provide below. You do not need to struggle or “go it alone” just because you are in the LGBTQIA group. Let’s end the stigma on getting help if you are affected in a LGBTQIA relationship and are under attack.

Coming out

For the majority of the LGBTQIA community, what is traditionally known as “coming out” is a huge part of their life and a vital step in acceptance and self-identity. It is common for LGBTQIA people to be afraid that family and friends might reject them when they find out they are LGBTQIA. This can be very stressful. For the majority of people, they will meet love and acceptance. Unfortunately, there is an underbelly in society that can be disapproving and can turn the “coming out” process into something “hellish”. Some friends will reject friends; some family members will reject family members. LGBTQIA members also experience hostile attitudes and behavior in work and in social clubs and when attempting to access services in the workplace. We need to end the basic stigma that “coming out” marks you different or makes you stand out or should have you treated in any way different. Again, keep an eye on the list of services and numbers below, for if any difficulties are experienced in coming out as gay or transgender or intersex.

Relationship problems

Relationships are hard for all of us. They may resemble a melting pot of pressure. At times members of the LGBTQIA community are forced (for want of a better word) into “traditional” relationships. Lives can be lived in heterosexual marriages where the husband or wife is gay. Should the person have the strength to come out and be open regarding sexuality, there is the added stress on your Mental Health. Developing same-sex relationships (for example) can be challenging as it is part of forming your identity and who you are attracted to and who you love. When you begin a relationship with a new partner, it is important to not feel any different to a member of the heterosexual community whether you met on the Tinder App or in a bar.

Relationship break-up can also have a powerful impact on your mental health. Friends who have entered their first relationship in the LGBTQIA community often find the first relationship particularly difficult or a long term relationship difficult. They can feel added scrutiny from members of the Heterosexual community, so it’s important to look out for our friends here. Again , have a look at the services and numbers I have below and pls don’t stigmatise.

Lack of support from family or friends

Some LGBTQIA people can experience a lack of support from family and friends. This may happen when someone first comes out, when they get into a relationship or start a family. We need to work on this. Issues can manifest in any number of ways and can be hurtful, and even detrimental to LGBTQIA mental health. Information and support is available for LGBTQIA and their family from a wide variety of organisations like below.

Families must stop stigmatising family members.Its too common. Those who should be closest may become the furthest.

Losing a loved one

Bereavement can have a serious impact on your health. When someone dies, you enter the process of grieving. There is no right or wrong way to grieve.Normal feelings include being stunned at the loss, sadness or depression, longing for the person who has died, anger towards yourself or others, regret over a last encounter or regret that something was left unsaid. All of this can be part of the grieving process.

When an LGBTQIA person loses their partner they may not get the same reaction or support that a heterosexual person gets when they lose their spouse or partner. People may fail to appreciate what your partner meant to you and the love you had for each other.

Experiences like this can make grieving all the more difficult. GLEN and the Irish Hospice Foundation give useful information for gay and lesbian people who have lost their partner,health questions or concerns you might have.

Here are some services and numbers. These are for Ireland, but if you are in another part of the world, just search the world wide web web.

Samaritans 24 hours service – 116 123, www.dublinsamaritans.ie

Childline 24 hours service – 1800 66 66 66, www.childline.ie

Aware (Depression) 1890 303 302, www.aware.ie

Pieta House (Self-Harm/Suicide Support) 01-6010000, www.pieta.ie

Bodywhys (Eating Disorders) 1890 200 444, www.bodywhys.ie

Grow (Mental Health Support Groups) 1890 474 474, www.grow.ie

Alcoholics Anonymous www.alcoholicsanonymous.ie

Drugs/HIV Helpline 1800 459 459 www.hse.ie/drugshivhelpline

Rape Crisis Network Ireland 24 hour helpline 1800 77 88 88

AOC