How LGBT Youth Face Challenging Emotional Terrain

Insight into the daily challenges facing lesbian, gay, bixexual and transgender college students.

Learning to be yourself and dealing with other people’s perception of you can be hard for anyone. This process can be especially stressful or tough for students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). In fact, they can face unique issues when it comes to mental health. The discrimination LGBT students may face or the pressure they feel from their family or community, can put them at greater risk for emotional health struggles like depression, anxiety, substance abuse and even suicide.

If you or someone you know is struggling with issues related to sexuality or pressures of not being accepted by family, friends or community, it’s important to speak up. By developing strong coping skills, creating a positive social network, and seeking help if needed, LGBT students can protect their emotional health during college and beyond.

Overcoming Stigma

LGBT individuals who are dealing with mental health conditions like depression may have to contend with even more stigma because of discrimination or misunderstandings related to their sexual orientation. Having to deal with the additional stigma can worsen mental health conditions. Here are some tips for overcoming stigma:

Surround yourself with supportive people. Check to see if your campus has groups for LGBT students. It’s a great way to find people who can relate to what you’re going through.

Seek help. If you’re experiencing sadness, anxiety or stress that is interfering with your ability to get things done and live a fulfilling life, make an appointment with a mental health counselor on campus. It’s the first step toward feeling better.

Remember it has nothing to do with you. Society creates and perpetuates stigma about many groups. Remember that others’ reactions to your sexual identity or orientation are not your fault, and say nothing about the person you are.

Join an advocacy group. To further fight stigma, it might help you to participate in a mental health or LGBT advocacy group on campus.

Helping Your Friend

If you have a friend who’s told you about their sexual orientation and/or emotional health struggles, there are various ways you can support them. Here are some suggestions.

Listen and empathize. You might experience a variety of emotions — like confusion, surprise and sadness —when finding out about a friend’s sexual orientation or emotional health issues. This is to be expected. They are normal responses. When talking to them, don’t interrupt and remain open to what they’re saying. Avoid judging them, and try to put yourself in their shoes.

Get educated. Learn more about mental illness and the concerns that LGBTindividuals might have. This helps you better understand what your friend is going through and know how to help them.

Challenge the stigma. Try not to make derogatory comments about LGBTindividuals. Even jokes just further stereotypes and stigma. And speak up when others make comments or jokes.

Curated by Erbe
Original Article

How to Have Empathy and Speak Up for Myself

I was seething but there was nobody to direct my anger because he hadn’t done anything intentionally harmful.

In one night, I experienced a perfect storm of disrespect at a comedy show that I was booked to perform on.

I came out as a transgender woman a year ago, and since then, I’ve received lots of support, but I’ve also heard many people mistakenly refer to me as “he” instead of “she.”  I understand that it’s hard for people to readjust since transgender issues are relatively new to the mainstream, and I’m sympathetic that most of my friends have had to refer to me using male pronouns for most of my life.

With all that in mind, I entered the comedy show knowing that mistakes would be made; I just didn’t know how pervasive it would be.

As soon as I entered the venue, the host called me “bro” three times within a minute.  I went to correct him and he apologized, but a few minutes later, he made the mistake at least six more times in ten minutes.

Eventually, he said, “Can I ask you some questions?”

Even though I was annoyed, I was excited that he was at least trying to learn and be educated, so I was eager to help.  “Sure,” I said.

He began telling me about “a man” he saw at a different comedy show who was wearing a skirt and boots, and this man would try to smile at others to put them at ease.

The host continued, “And I thought about how hard it must’ve been for him, because I’m sure that he knows deep-down that everybody is looking at him knowing that he’s actually a dude.”

I was too heartbroken to respond — especially since what he said was so well-intentioned — because I knew that it was how most people actually saw me.  They saw me as a man in a dress.  The host was just articulating in an honest manner, and his words are what I imagine most other people — even most of my friends — actually think about me.

My girlfriend spoke up, “Are you sure he was a man?  This person might’ve been a transgender woman.”

“Oh,” the host continued.  “I don’t know the difference I guess.”

He got up and left.

I was seething but there was nobody to direct my anger because he hadn’t done anything intentionally harmful.  A couple of minutes later, another comedian entered the room and looked me up and down.  “So, you trying to be a girl or something?  Or what’s the deal here?”

I took a deep inhale because I didn’t want to snap at her.

“Robin’s a transgender woman,” my girlfriend answered.

The comedian responded, “Oh, cool.  That’s in season, huh?” she joked.

Later when she was onstage, she made a joke about a woman with a mustache, turned to me, and said, “But not in a tranny way.”

I tried to be patient, and I even smiled at her when she made her joke because I didn’t want her feeling bad.  But in reality, I felt really angry and unbelievably depressed.  On the ride home, I was crying and screaming in the car, and I had a panic attack.

“I look so stupid,” I said out loud.  “I can’t believe I’m putting on makeup and dresses.  What’s wrong with me?  At least they were honest.  I know that’s what everybody thinks of me.  I’m just a man in a dress!”

Luckily, I had therapy the next morning and I told my therapist about this whole incident.  As she began expressing her anger over what had transpired, I got very defensive and started pleading with her that nobody had done anything wrong.  “It was the society that we were all brought up in,” I said.  “They tried their best and I had no basis for getting upset.”

She slowly asked me, “Do you want to know what I think is part of the reason why you’re so upset?”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you give everybody an out.  You give everybody else an excuse as to why they can mistreat you, so you have nowhere to direct your anger.”

I sat back and thought about it and I realized that she was right.  In my attempt to be completely empathetic, I offered way too much sympathy as well.

But there was something I couldn’t reconcile.  “They tried their best though.  How can I get mad at them?”

My therapist shook her head.  “No, they didn’t.  They could’ve made more of an effort.  They could’ve been respectful.  You can be empathetic, you can be compassionate, but you’re also allowed to be angry when others mistreat you.”

This was a concept that I had never thought of before.

My therapist helped me realize that it’s okay to ask for what you want, and it’s not unreasonable to request that others respect you.  It was an empowering message that I needed to hear because I had been putting myself down for the comfort of others.

She also told me that it’s okay to be empathetic without being sympathetic.  I can see things from other people’s positions without excusing their behavior.  The example she used was if someone changes their name and someone repeatedly mispronounces it, the person who mispronounces the name shows a lack of effort on their part.

When she used that example, the floodgates opened and I began letting loose and screaming about the host and the comedian from the show, wishing they would’ve tried harder.  I realized that making the same mistakes ten times in one night showed that they just didn’t care very much.  I realized that while it’s not their job to care, it’s also not my job to placate them when I feel disrespected.

The balance for me is still very challenging.  Asserting my needs is hard enough, but I’m also afraid that if I begin speaking up for myself, I’ll start blaming others for my anger instead of owning up to my feelings.

The way I’ve reconciled this is by absolving myself from being concerned with how others feel.  I trust myself enough to not hurt others intentionally, and if I do, I’ll apologize.  But I’ve stopped presuming that any type of correction or speaking up for myself is a burden on another person.  I can ask for what I want without constantly worrying about what this does to other people’s feelings because I’m also entitled to respect.  This doesn’t mean I have to be harsh; I can speak the truth while also being tactful.

I think that being empathetic without necessarily being sympathetic is a great compromise, especially when you feel anger and resentment rising up.  If you’re constantly catering to other people’s needs without thinking about your own needs, your level of internalized anger will increase significantly.  Conversely, if you’re vilifying others and labeling them as a “bad person” without any empathy whatsoever, you’ll become overly resentful of others.

Asserting yourself while being empathetic to others is a very freeing feeling.  When you direct your anger at the right people without perceiving them as a “bad person,” you’ll get the anger out of your system before it simmers and gets out of control, and you’ll feel a sense of self-respect.

No matter how much you understand another person’s positions, you should speak up for yourself anyway because your voice deserves to be heard.

Are You Using the Right Gender Identity Words to Describe Yourself and Others?

Happy LGBTQ Pride Month!

According to a recent survey, 20 percent of Millennials identify as LGBTQ. LoveTV is proud to celebrate love and conscious connection for all genders, orientations and partnership configurations!

How to talk about identity and sexual preferences without making things awkward.

Male hands painted in LGBT flag making heart on white background

Hold on…what does gender have to do with love? For those of us who identify as pansexual, the answer is “not a whole lot!” But for the unaware, under-educated and/or totally confused among us, gender can be a tricky subject to discuss on first dates, family gatherings or intimate conversations. To avoid any future awkwardness, how about a quick vocabulary lesson?

Whether you’re looking to learn the basics or reaffirm what you know about yourself or your loved ones, welcome to the conversation. Let’s talk!

Gender Identity 101

Whether you’re exploring for yourself or someone else, the first step in understanding gender topics is familiarizing oneself with the appropriate language. Below are a few common terms to expand your gender vocabulary, with links to further exploration. Feel free to ask questions or share this with others.

Common Terms:

Sex: Regarded by many as the legal and/or medical category one’s genitals fall under. A baby born with a penis is considered legally male. A baby born with a vagina is medically categorized as female. A baby born with genitals not entirely ‘either-or’ is considered intersex. (Fun fact: intersex babies are nearly as common as redheads.)

Gender: Regarded by many as a cultural or social construct, which may or not match one’s legal “sex.” Your gender and sex may match, or they may not. Both may be subject to change.

Gender Identity: This term describes your inner sense of gender. Just as our given names may or may not suit us, our assigned gender may or may not match our identities. But unlike simply changing your name, gender identity is not a choice.

Cisgender: This word is used to describe an individual whose gender identity aligns with the gender assigned at birth. If you’re born with female genitalia, and identify as strictly female, you are considered a cisgender female.

Cisnormative: The assumption that all (or most) people are cisgender. This is a negative term, because regarding cisgender as ‘the norm’ excludes those who are not cisgender. Cisnormative thinking is faulty thinking because it assumes that non-cis people are somehow abnormal.

Nonbinary: Gender is not black or white, male or female, one or the other. To identify as nonbinary means to acknowledge that one falls somewhere on a spectrum, rather than “either-or.” Nonbinary individuals express their identities in diverse ways. This is more of an umbrella term, under which a number of more specific words exist. (See the resource links below for more information.)

Transgender: An individual whose identity does not match the gender assigned to them at birth. (For example, an individual who was born male, but self-identifies as female, is a Transgender woman – whether or not she goes through with surgical reassignment is a personal choice.) In speaking of and to a trans individual, it is important to refer to them according to their preferred gender pronoun, not the one they were born to/grew up with.

Gender Spectrum: Gender is a personal journey. Using the Gender Spectrum in referring to yourself or others is a great way to avoid binary thinking. If “male” is on one end of the spectrum, and “female” is on the other, many people fall somewhere in the middle. You may be closer to one end than the other, but it’s healthy to acknowledge the spectrum for what it is – a sliding scale of individual identity.

Gender Roles: Have you ever watched children play house? If the little girl bakes cookies while the little boy pretends to fix a toy car, they are acting out traditional (and utterly outdated) “roles” assigned to their gender. Reinforcing these stereotypes can be damaging to people of all identities. If the little boy would like to bake cookies while the little girl fixes the car, that’s great! They are simply behaving according to their personal needs and not worrying about ‘playing the part.’ People struggling with their true gender identities may perform assigned gender roles to hide. A more self-accepting individual may wish to disrupt the role they’ve been conditioned to play, if they feel it restricts their identity.

Gender Expression: The way one chooses to present their gender identity. Gender can be expressed in clothing, movement, makeup, speech, creative endeavors and more. Sometimes, gender expression is forced (see: Gender Roles). Other times, gender expression unfolds naturally as the individual grows up and evolves. How you express your gender may be different from your partner, and that’s great!

Gender Attribution: How others perceive one’s gender, from the outside looking in. If strangers perceive me as cisgender, but I identify as nonbinary, then they’re viewing me from a binary (cisnormative) perspective. Gender Attribution can present many problems for transgender individuals, especially before or during transition. Regardless of where one falls on the spectrum, Gender Attribution can be an issue. It’s important for allies (of all genders, cultures and groups) to be open to diversity in others.

Ally: The Queer Dictionary defines an Ally as “a person who is not a member of an oppressed group but who supports civil rights and social movements associated with the group. An ally acknowledges his or her position of relative privilege and uses that position to create change within the larger culture and society.

Allies are important, no matter where on the spectrum you lie. Whether you identify as cisgender, transgender, nonbinary, etc – you can be an ally to others. This list of common terms is only the beginning – let this be your conversation starter!

If you’d like more information on gender identity, LGBTQ rights and more, here are some helpful resources:

The Queer Dictionary
The Trever Project
GLAAD Resources

Do you have a resource to recommend? Please share in the comments, below. Additional comments, thoughts and personal stories are always welcome, too!

Happy Pride Month, beloved readers. Your identity is worth celebrating!