I love being queer. But unfortunately, society doesn’t make it easy for us. Here are some of the unique ways our mental health can suffer.
I am a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community as a bisexual nonbinary person. We are a strong community that faces many challenges in our society, one of which is experiencing mental health issues.
According to 2015 survey data, lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are more likely to experience mental illness than heterosexual adults. For trans people, that likelihood goes up even more. In 2019, estimates suggest that 58% of trans people were diagnosed with at least one mental health condition compared with just 13% of cisgender people.
The reason? Because we live in a homophobic and transphobic society, that oppression directly impacts LGBTQ+ people’s mental health.
I LOVE being queer and wouldn’t trade it for anything. But I would like to change how our society perceives and treats people in the LGBTQ+ community.
I hope this article sheds some light on the relationship between depression and being queer. That being said, the queer community is exceptionally diverse, and I can’t speak for everyone. This is my story.
According to research conducted by The Trevor Project in 2022, LGBTQ+ youth are between 25%–47% less likely to attempt suicide when their family supports their sexual and gender identity.
Homophobia and transphobia are massive problems in schools and workplaces across the country. This includes people refusing to use an LGBTQ+ individual’s self-identified pronouns, verbal harassment, blocked access to opportunities, and physical abuse.
The messages from politicians and the media in our country are deeply impactful, and it is common to see homophobia and transphobia in conversations online or on TV.
In late January 2023, Donald Trump released a campaign video filled with hateful rhetoric targeted toward the trans community. He threatened to have the Department of Justice enforce a ban on gender-affirming medical care for trans youth and to punish schools that stand up for trans kids.
In other anti-trans news, self-proclaimed TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) and author of the “Harry Potter” series, JK Rowling, has been active on Twitter sharing transphobic messages with her 14 million followers over the past few years.
These hate-fueled messages coming from incredibly powerful people have a significant impact on how others see the LGBTQ+ community and how safe queer people feel existing in this society.
LGBTQ+ People of Color face even more hardship than their white counterparts.
In a 2011 report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a heartbreaking 41% of transgender and gender nonconforming respondents shared that they have attempted suicide. Of those, 45% of Black respondents reported suicide attempts and 54% of multiracial respondents did.
According to the same report, and likely due to both racism and transphobia, transgender and gender nonconforming people had an extremely high unemployment rate — over three times the rate of the general population, and 41% experienced homelessness in their lifetime.
As a white queer person, I can only comment on my own experiences of discrimination and how that’s impacted my mental health over the years.
In my personal life, I am rarely discriminated against. But I still struggle to get some family members to understand why I want to use they/them pronouns.
And in high school, people would make biphobic remarks about my sexuality, like insinuating that all bisexual people are sexually promiscuous.
These microaggressions are hurtful, don’t get me wrong. And they’re part of a more significant problem in a society that oppresses queer people. But what affects my mental health most is knowing and hearing constant reminders that the world is not a safe place for me or the community I love.
When I watched Trump’s recent anti-trans campaign video, it triggered so much hopelessness in me. I was reminded that this man was once the president of the United States and could be elected again.
I thought about all the kids in public schools in Florida who aren’t allowed to discuss queer issues in the classroom. I thought about the trans kids across the country who are already bullied and trying so hard to find doctors willing to support them in their transition.
I was reminded of how quickly a politician with a hateful agenda could snatch away the progress the LGBTQ+ community has made over the past few decades in a single moment. That’s a future that feels very bleak to me.
When I learned about JK Rowling’s disgusting transphobic Tweets, it felt like a part of me died.
I’ve been a massive “Harry Potter” fan since I can remember. Those stories are a huge part of my childhood and have shaped my beliefs and values. And the person who wrote those stories seems to be working to tear down the already limited rights of the trans community.
Critics applaud “Harry Potter” as an anti-fascist story that centers love over hate. But learning that JK has a lot of hate in her heart made me question many of the themes in the series I love.
I used to reread the “Harry Potter” books at least once a year for comfort. I don’t get to do that anymore, and it hurts.
One thing about my depression is that it’s very existential. I know my depression is hitting me pretty hard when I start thinking about the world at large and how unsafe it is. This only leads me down the path to thoughts like, “what is the point of existing in a world like this?”
Existing in the world as an LGBTQ+ person is challenging because we constantly fear a genuine threat of rejection, harassment, violence, and abuse simply because of who we love and how we identify. This hate profoundly impacts how we see ourselves and our place in the world, no matter how hard we try to accept ourselves.
Transphobia and homophobia are insidious forces in our society that directly hurt queer people’s mental health.
In my case, I get incredibly depressed when I think about how dangerous the world is for LGBTQ+ people in 2023. But I continue to fight for my recovery, not only to feel better but to show other queer people that we can be and deserve to be happy.
If there were no homophobia or transphobia, I truly believe I’d be much less depressed than I am. But this is the world we live in, and I know I can still recover in spite of all the hate out there. I have to try.
Medically reviewed on March 22, 2023
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