When I hold my girlfriend’s hand, it makes me feel loved. It also makes me feel different. It makes me feel like I am making a political statement. It makes me wonder will anyone call me out? Every time I start a new job I wonder: when do I tell my colleagues about us? Every time I meet a new friend or start a new class, I wonder what the balance is; do I say? I don’t want to hide, but I don’t want to overshare.
I am always questioning: how do I give my sexuality the significance it needs as part of my identity without making matter too much? How do I, as one person, balance that, when I live in a society where my sexuality is made more significant then it should be? Or in a society where I feel I need to stand up and fight for my rights as part of the LGBTIQ+ community?
The truth is, it is hard to find balance in that when outside of you that balance is often out of sorts.
So, my mental health and my sexuality are intertwined even if I don’t want to admit it as a proud member of the LGBTIQ+ community. It is undeniable though; I think of all the thoughts and concerns that creep in about how others may view me because of it, or the things it might stop me from having. I think of all the many experiences of rejection and shame that surround coming. Beyond this, there is an undeniable pressure that comes from knowing that you are not the default, and knowing that you have something to explain, and to ‘come out’ about. It can’t help then but influence our mental health.
Therefore, Pride is a time to recognise that those experiences and feelings are still there even if we are making progress. So, we must still fight for more, we must recognise how far we have come, but recognise for our own mental wellbeing that we deserve nothing less than feeling secure and safe and comfortable with showing our love to the world.
Yet, I am just one person, I am queer, and I want to improve the lives of people like me who feel different, but I also want to live as me. I want to have balance. That’s essential for good mental health, so I try to celebrate who I am person, as a whole person and recognise that I can own my life, my identity and my story.
So, make some promises to yourself when you try to find that balance about where being queer fits in with your story. For me, I remind myself: I won’t berate myself for not coming out soon enough to people or blurting it too soon just to get it over with. I will be honest if people ask about my partner, and says yes she is a girl; not so much for other people, although it might remind them the LGBTIQ+ community is all around us, but, for me, because to keep it a secret can often be to mix it up with feelings of shame.
I will admit to myself and to others if I feel comfortable, the ways in which my sexuality has affected me, the ways in which it can add to my worries, the negative experiences from others it can sprout. I don’t want to have to hide that, because the more our experiences are shared the more we cannot be ignored or forgotten.
We need to remind others and ourselves that we deserve more, that more steps are needed so each person who is part of the LGBTIQ+ community can find their own balance and find where being queer fits in with them as a whole person: that is what we need for better mental health in the queer community.
If you’re part of the LGBTIQ+ community and need support, we can help here.