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PRIDE MONTH - LGBTIQ+ MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS 2021

Hi I’m Lauren and I am a Decades Reloaded instructor.


In aid of pride month I wanted to share with you my experiences as a lesbian women and discuss the challenges and links between homosexuality and mental health. LGBTIQ+.... Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, transgender, intersex, questioning, Asexual, Non-binary and many more.


As part of the human experience our mental health is always on a continuum. Never fixed or unchanging, constantly evolving and being shaped as a result of our environment, interaction and the social construction we live in. Anyone can experience mental health difficulties and for some this can impact people’s wellbeing and sense of self. For people who identify as LGBTIQ+ they are more likely to experience:

  • Low self esteem

  • Depression

  • Eating disorders

  • Anxiety, including social anxiety

  • The misuse of drugs and alcohol

  • Self-harm

  • Suicidal feelings (Mind)


It is important to recognise that identifying as LGBTIQ+ does not cause mental health difficulties, however people from the LGBTIQ+ community are significantly more likely to experience mental health difficulties.

Possible reasons include: -

  • Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

  • Stigma and discrimination

  • Difficult experiences of coming out

  • Social isolation, exclusion and rejection

* Half of LGBT people (52 per cent) said they’ve experienced depression in the last year.

* One in eight LGBT people (13 per cent) have experienced some form of unequal treatment from healthcare staff because they’re LGBT Taken from LGBT in Britain – Health (2018).

* Only half of lesbian, gay and bi people (46 per cent) and trans people (47 per cent) feel able to be open about their sexual orientation or gender identity to everyone in their family.


Taken from LGBT in Britain – Home and Communities (2018).


*More than a third of LGBT staff (35 per cent) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination. Taken from LGBT in Britain – Work (2018).

*Nearly half (45 per cent) of LGBT pupils - including 64 per cent of trans pupils - are bullied for being LGBT in Britain's schools. This is down from 55 per cent of lesbian, gay and bi pupils who experienced bullying because of their sexual orientation in 2012 and 65 per cent in 2007


Taken from The School Report (2017) and The RaRE Research Report (2015).


* 72 countries criminalise same-sex relationships (and in 45 the law is applied to women as well as men) *

*The death penalty is either ‘allowed’, or evidence of its existence occurs, in 8 countries

In more than half the world, LGBT people may not be protected from discrimination by workplace law

* A quarter of the world’s population believes that being LGBT should be a crime (Taken from Stonewall's International Work and ILGA World 2016).


My journey started 10 years ago! - For me in ten years I have grown in confidence, resilience and now fully embrace my sexuality and identity. The journey hasn’t always been this easy and still today as a lesbian woman face stigma, direct and non direct discrimination. My story began with a very confused, lost and anxious teenager. I struggled to feel connected with my peers, a sense of belonging and couldn’t relate to others around me. I just kept asking “what’s wrong with me?” “Why is nobody like me?” From this early questioning I desperately tried to source celebrities in the media, television characters and books to help me feel represented, to help me find someone like me!. But nothing. Every love story I watched was between a boy and a girl and all my friends began asking me what guys are liked! I felt totally alone, isolated and a massive problem!. The older I got the harder it became to pretend this ‘thing’ wasn’t there and present in my everyday life. The more I tried, the harder it was to suppress and everyday I felt more like an outcast!. Then I fell in love with a girl! It was beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. I struggled to regulate my emotions and keep everything a secret! We told no one. As time went on it was hard to keep our developing relationship a secret, whispers started happening around the school classroom and friends you thought you could trust had told your biggest secret. I would say that I don’t really have a coming out story, people did that for me! .


This was a testing time for my mental health and a real fight or flight response. I felt vulnerable, scared, lonely and felt the weight of people’s emotions and reactions to my newly outed sexuality. Ten years on and most days I feel self assured and comfortable to say - hey I’m a lesbian and my partner is a women. But I would be lying if I said that meeting new people doesn’t cause me anxiety; as sooner or later the awkward topic of partners comes up and then I have the debate of what pronouns should I use? Shall I say me and my partner? Or should I go straight in with her name is....?. Every time you meet someone new it’s like your coming out all over again, having to assess your audience; worrying if they will now see you differently because of your sexuality and asking will they still want to talk to me? Or be my friend?. This process is always still a worry for me and makes me feel very vulnerable, less likely to be authentic and worry that maybe this time someone won’t accept me!. Without knowing it people make a lot of inappropriate and personal comments !


While I’m all for curiosity and education some questions that I have been asked can be highly offensive and very stereotypical! Comments that have been made to me include:

  • it’s ok that you are a lesbian, because you look like a girl

  • You have been very lucky, everyone accepts homosexuality now

  • Whilst holding my girlfriends hand we were verbally shouted abuse in the road

  • It’s so much easier for you, your with a girl

  • You wouldn’t understand your with a girl

  • You would be a real challenge for a man

  • So does this mean you don’t want children?

For me all the above have upset me and had an impact on my mental health. For months after the road incident I was worried to hold my girlfriends hand in public and kept looking around to see if I was bothering anyone with my public display of affection. I even asked myself “was it my fault? Was I being to open about my relationship?”


For me the worst comment I have received came from a health care professional. To say I was lost for words is an understatement when I was asked would I like conversion therapy to fix my problem. The problem being that I was attracted to girls!


Everyday we make small steps towards progression, polices and legislation, social change movements that are creating more equality and representation for the LGBTIQ+ community. However in reality the truth is discrimination is still present and inclusion isn’t universal.


Examples of this include: -

  • At present I still have to research if homosexuality is legal in a desired holiday destination (your be surprised how many countries I can’t go to!)

  • Am I protected in other countries?

  • Is my sexuality seen as a crime?

  • Today we still have few representations in the media, and when there is a same sex relationship it is often overloaded with stereotypes

  • Not feeling equal to heterosexual couples

So here I am now as Decades Reloaded instructor and helping people in the community to dance there way to a better day! Decades Reloaded has been created with wellbeing at the heart, centred around an uplifting playlist which sparks nostalgia, giving you a well deserved brain break from life’s stresses. My class motto is there is no right or wrong! In a decades class it’s your dance floor, your class and your space to be you. For me Decades Reloaded gives me the freedom to be authentic; a place where my sexuality doesn’t matter and a time where we are all connected by the same things! Community, belonging and the love of music.


Exercise has always helped to regulate my emotions and in particular dance has helped me to express my identity, allowing me to break down my walls, break the mould and feel free. So that’s a little bit from me, still learning and evolving as I dance through life's experiences.


Lauren

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