June is Pride Month, and even though I’m very late to the game here I wanted to take the time to acknowledge the mental health struggles that affect the LGBTQ+ community. This has been stewing in my mind the last few weeks, and if I make one post this month I think this should be it.
Huge disclaimer: I’m not writing this from a place of first-hand understanding. All I can speak on is what I observe, and what others share about their experiences. I identify as a straight demisexual, I feel pretty unqualified to write about this. I don’t have much in the way of advice in this post because I feel like that’s not really my place.
This is an issue that actually hits a bit close to home for me though. I’ve lost someone very close to me to mental illness, and while I can’t say for sure about the cause I can only believe their sexuality, and more specifically society’s intolerance towards that sexuality, was at the very least a contributing factor. I’m being intentionally vague here to maintain some level of privacy, and because it’s a bit of a difficult topic for me, even after all these years.
That experience really shaped my attitude. It made me a little more sensitive, perhaps I could say more passionate, towards the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, not just in the area of mental health, but also in the intolerance and hate that most definitely contributes, at the very least, to what I would call a mental health crisis.
How could what can only be identified as bigotry not cause detriment to one’s mental state? For those of us fortunate enough to not endure this hate, just imagine living life in a society where you face persecution simply because of who you love, or having to hide the person you truly feel like because you fear what might happen if you don’t. Imagine living with that over your head, and tell me that you wouldn’t find that at the very least mentally exhausting.
I’m ashamed to admit this wasn’t something I always was cognizant of. In my younger days, especially in middle school and some of high school, I used the word “gay” as an insult. I don’t think I ever used that f-word, but I might as well have. As I matured I realized that wasn’t ok, but I still didn’t truly grasp the issue. Unfortunately it took losing the person I mentioned early to truly begin my journey of understanding.
Even still, I had (and still have) room to grow. I had a really hard time with gender identity until I started questioning my own. While I determined that my own issues with gender identity came down to simply rejecting toxic masculinity, it opened my eyes to what trans, nonbinary, and others at various points on the gender spectrum have to go through.
I tend to avoid getting political on this blog for obvious reasons, but unfortunately this isn’t a topic that can be addressed without being “too political” in some people’s eyes. As someone who has gone from being frankly pretty intolerant to being more open-minded and accepting (perhaps you could say “woke”), it’s very hard for me to have any patience towards those who insist on politicizing the existence of a group of human beings. The painful irony of calling those in the LGBTQ+ community “sensitive snowflakes” while being offended at the very idea of something like gay marriage is not lost on me, because I lived that attitude.
I’m not looking for a pat on the back, or a “thank you for being such a kind and tolerant person.” I’m not perfect, none of us are, and I don’t think being tolerant of who someone is is that much of an achievement, it’s the bare minimum. I simply am trying to say that if someone like me, someone who’s admittedly the most stubborn person I know, can grow and change for the better then nobody has an excuse.
So what does does all this have to do with mental health? Everything! I talk a lot on this blog about how to cope with mental illness, and work past it. But I also believe that truly improving one’s mental health involves addressing the root of the issue. For some people those issues stem from a personal challenge they’re facing, or some sort of past trauma they’re coping with. But, for those who face bigotry and intolerance, the root of those mental health struggles are societal.
As a society we need to stop being (to co-opt the derogatory term) such snowflakes about two people getting married, or someone not identifying with their “biological gender”, or whatever others do with their lives that offends us.