Struggles Experienced by LGBTQ+ Community
In acknowledgement and celebration of Pride Month, let’s discuss the human experience. Every person will, more than likely, experience some sort of hardship or adversity in their life. It is part of the human experience; however, for members of the queer community, there is are a multitude of struggles that are, unfortunately, tied with their human experience.
For starters, accepting who you are and truly loving yourself is difficult for a majority of people. This concept of radical acceptance and positive self-image can take a lifetime to truly achieve. So first and foremost, let’s acknowledge the additional difficulty added to those who could have been perceived as something different or been taught the societal norm of being heterosexual.
For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, coming out and showing who they are is simultaneously an act of self-love and an opportunity for others to reject you.It can be terrifying and freeing.
Addressing Ignorance about Sexuality
A heterosexual person is rarely going to be questioned about why they are heterosexual. Questions such as “are you sure?” and “you’ve never felt this way before, so why are things different now?” do not surface in the discussion of sexuality, if there ever is a discussion about sexuality.
The same cannot always be said for those whose sexuality differs from heterosexual. A family member or friend’s ignorance about certain sexualities can generate questions or statements that put the responsibility of education onto the other person. Most sexual education classes do not address any homosexual questions or information. This leaves everyone to make the personal decision to educate themselves or remain oblivious. While there are actions being taken to make the classroom more inclusive, there has still been a generation lacking in necessary education for their life.
In this scenario, a more appropriate response is to validate the person, listen to what they’re saying, and ensure that the communication is a positive experience.
Questioning someone else’s sexuality can be invalidating and stressful. No one has to justify their sexual preferences to another person. If someone is trusting you with this part of themselves, treat the information as a gift.
The Barrier of Stigma
Overcoming stigma is sometimes an added element of the personal life of a queer person. Imagine choosing to not hold hands or show any element of physical affection while in public- this can be detrimental to both your mental health and, possibly, your relationship.
While society has progressed in its acceptance and welcoming of various sexualities, a stigma still surrounds LGBTQ+ people. The stigma surrounding sexuality can affect a person in so many ways- their work life, their families, how they dress, their diction, their geographical location, and the list goes on. Fear of the repercussions of this stigma can drive a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to be vastly different from what they actually desire.
Beyond social stigma, this also pertains to systemic stigma as well. The criminal justice system has a stigma, which affects how seriously hate crimes against LGBTQ people are taken. In health care there is a gap in how transgender people are treated and understood. Systemic stigma and lack of training impact more daily lives and feed into fear that if they were to call or seek help, it would not be given to them or something worse could happen.
Regardless of how queer folx are treated or the oppression that they experience, they still have a duty to themselves to remain honest. Radically accepting who you are and working towards loving yourself is hard for any person to do, even without the added pressures of social stigma and judgement.
The process of “coming out” is not a one and done. A queer person has to “come out” throughout their lives- every time they choose to showcase their sexuality or openly discuss their dating life, they are revealing part of themselves to others. This is a beautiful, and should be normal, occurrence, but can become a source of stress.
Straight-passing couples or people often have the luxury of deciding if or when they are going to come forward with their sexuality; however, this is not the case for all people. Visibility is important, but can be difficult when met with hostility and judgement by others.
Radical acceptance is why Pride Month is so treasured. There is a devoted month to choosing to be proud of who you are and showcase your true gay-est self. It’s a time where you can physically see who your allies are. Where you’re given the space and publicity to share what is needed to improve the lives and wellbeing of your community.
By no means is this list finite or all-encompassing. It would be extremely presumptuous of me to assume that I could even create that list; however, it is always important to do the best you can and take the personal responsibility to ensure you’re educated past your own life experience.
Happy Pride Month, y’all!