The Hard Truth These Stories Reveal About Mental Health in the LGBTQIA+ Community
Names of the individuals mentioned in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.
I could tell you that LGBTQIA+ teens are four times as likely as heterosexual peers to attempt suicide or that they are 120% more likely to find themselves homeless. Statistics are powerful, but more powerful are real, lived experiences. The following people exist or existed in my life. We talked, were in the same room, lived some moment in time together. This is my perspective on a very small sliver of each of their stories. Perhaps one day they will feel safe enough to tell their own stories.
John became Jill.
Before John’s transition, he was very depressed. John stayed at home most of the time, so much that his car grew mold on it from lack of use. After a time, John came out as Jill. Jill was a different person. Jill got into a steady relationship and got out of the house often. Jill was happier than John. That’s all that mattered and all I really needed to understand.
Jill hid her true self because she knew she wouldn’t be accepted in her small town. In hiding her true self, she hid from the world; she hid in a dark place that wasn’t healthy. When she came out, she literally came out of her house and entered society where she wasn’t before. She still wasn’t accepted very well in that small town, but did move to a place where she was more accepted and is currently living a better life.
Jill likely has depression that is unrelated to her identity, but her feelings about society’s view of her identity created another layer of depression she had to push through to live a happier, healthier life.
Jack is scared.
Jack was told by their parents they are not allowed to be friends with certain individuals because these other individuals might be gay. This child currently has a true fear of being abandoned. Jack’s parents also don’t believe in mental health care. Jack probably has undiagnosed and untreated depression and anxiety.
Jack currently lives a double life. There are secrets and lies. There is outward control by their parents and internal chaos in their soul.
Suzy is badmouthed by her nurses.
Suzy is a transsexual. She was a patient in a hospital for a medical issue that had nothing to do with her gender. Her nurses loudly discussed her gender in a demeaning manner at the nurse’s station. These comments could have decreased her trust in health care, thus inhibiting physical and mental care.
I don’t know Suzy’s story after that day. I don’t know if she overheard or felt the judgment from her caregivers. If she did, she may have left before treatment was complete or not completed her follow-up treatment.
Sam is sent to a counselor that won’t call him Sam.
Sam got some very mixed messages during his transition from female to male. His parents allowed him to have enough hormones to deepen his voice, but then stopped the treatment. His parents also sent him to a counselor to improve his mental well-being. This counselor, however, would only call him by his birth name and gender. Rather than focusing on Sam’s health condition, the focus became Sam’s identity and the counselor’s denial of it. Sam stopped going.
Sam is figuring out life in the best way he can. When he becomes an adult, maybe he can get the help he needs.
Thoughts to consider.
What if non-LGBTQIA+ people thought about the mental health ramifications of the interactions they have with LGBTQIA+ individuals? If Jill felt safer coming out in her preferred gender, would she have had a higher quality of life sooner? What does Jack’s future hold as they navigate into adulthood? Did Suzy ever heal from what she was hospitalized for? Did she leave the hospital with new invisible wounds from the people she had once trusted to care for her? Would Sam have learned effective coping skills for his depression if the counselor would have called him by his chosen name and pronoun?
Religion has to be brought up because religion is the primary cause of discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community. As a Christian, I am admittedly on my own journey fitting LGBTQIA+ inclusion into my belief system. Bible verses and sermons are often repeated telling this community they are living the worst life of sin and are going to hell. I know these verses and have heard these sermons. However, something has always felt off to me in excluding a people group for their “sins” while other sinners can confess, pray, go to church and go to heaven according to scripture.
To me, God is love and encourages love above all. Jesus sat with the prostitutes, tax collectors and other “low lifes of society” rather than the high priests. I think it’s OK to talk about and work through our feelings and faith in regards to the LGBTQIA+ community, but in doing so, we should also do this in a loving and respectful way, a way that would reflect Jesus.
A healthcare provider needs to check their bias at the door. There is no room for any type of discrimination in healthcare. A human is a human and we work to serve and heal them all. They are paying us to provide care while being in their most vulnerable state. Therefore, we should respect their gender choices, sexual preferences and preferred pronouns so they feel safe with us and trust the care received.
My request is for readers to consider these stories and consider how future stories can be improved through mindful interactions with the LGBTQIA+ community. Mindful meaning an individual’s mental health and well-being are taken into account during the interaction.
Getty image by beavera