Understanding the LGBTQ Community
Whether you are an educator, a social worker or a foster parent, it is important to understand the LGBTQ community. This article defines some common terms and promotes the use of accurate, authentic and inclusive language so that you can support LGBTQ youth and help them thrive.
Discrimination against LGBTQ individuals has a negative impact on their psychological and economic well-being, and can increase their susceptibility to HIV. It also can exacerbate racial, ethnic, and other socioeconomic disparities in health.
The term “sexual orientation” refers to an enduring pattern of romantic or sexual attraction, often expressed as an interest in people of the opposite sex. It differs from other aspects of sexuality, including biological sex, gender identity (the psychological sense of being male or female) and social gender role (adherence to cultural norms for feminine and masculine behavior).
A person may choose to identify as straight, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or asexual. Some people prefer to use other terms as well, such as queer or SGRM.
In many countries, the term queer is used to describe a non-normative gender identity or sexual orientation. It has a history of offensive use as a slur, but is now being reclaimed by the community as an umbrella term for the entire LGBT population.
For some, coming out can be a process of self-discovery and acceptance. It can include a range of emotions and feelings, from anxiety to excitement. Cultivating self-compassion is important for a successful and positive experience of disclosure.
Gender identity is a deep, internal sense of one’s gender that may be the same as or different from the sex assigned at birth. Individuals can choose a gender identity that is masculine, feminine, nonbinary or a blend of both.
This identity can be expressed in many ways, including mannerisms, clothing, names and pronoun choices. It also involves the socially defined roles, behaviors and attributes expected of people based on their sex.
High school students who identify as gay or lesbian are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers. In addition, there is a link between family rejection and transgender people’s risk for suicide attempts.
Gender identity and expression can be challenging, but it’s important to talk about it with people who understand. This can be an important part of healing, self-acceptance and gaining acceptance in the community. If you’re struggling, speak to a trusted friend or counselor.
Family and friends
Family is not just blood or marriage – it’s also a collection of people who have been in your life for a long time and care about you. It’s the person you turn to when you are sick, who you talk to about your worries or who will help you with a project at school.
For many lgbt people, their families and friends are the most important part of their support network. And a new study suggests that the larger the number of LGBT people in a person’s social circle, the better their health.
However, LGBT youth may be at risk for adverse mental health outcomes when they report high levels of rejection from their families. These experiences of rejection are linked to higher suicide attempts, depression, and substance use. This is especially true for those who do not receive support from their families early in adolescence.
People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (lgbt) often share a sense of community with other members of the LGBTQ population. They may belong to gay villages, LGBT rights organizations, LGBT employee groups at companies, LGBT student groups in schools and universities, and other community-affirming religious groups.
Nevertheless, this shared community is not without its own challenges. As a result, many individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQ population struggle with mental health concerns.
These individuals are more likely to experience rejection, violence, suicide and homelessness than their heterosexual peers. They also have a higher risk of experiencing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).