Exclusion is something we have all experienced at one point or another. The severity of such exclusion, as well as the time in your life you experienced it, all have varying mental and emotional effects on your psyche. For people within the LGBTQ+ community, the effects of exclusion are typically felt at an early age and have long-lasting repercussions throughout their lifetime.
Humans are social beings with a built-in desire to fit in. When we are excluded socially, we experience painful feelings which leads to eventual low self-worth. We reflect on who we are as a person and feel inadequate. “Why else would our peers exclude us?” Our brain tries to rationalize. The mind believes the problem lies within ourselves. After repeated exclusion, we begin to develop a negative image of ourselves along with a feeling of inferiority.
Our society is centered around the promotion of a white cis heteronormative life, resulting in the saturation of minimal diversity within media, the pressure to find a heterosexual partner while still being conventionally ‘attractive’ to your assigned gender’s standards, and, eventually, settling down to start your own nuclear family. This alone can cause much exclusion amongst children who don’t quite fit that narrative. This leads them to feel like there is something wrong with them. The lack of queer icons causes an LGBTQ+ viewer to feel alone in their experiences along with the lack of acceptance from the society around them.
Differing from the ‘norm’ can be hard in the developing stages, especially when it is out of your control. This causes many members of the LGBTQ+ community to battle through mental illness such as depression and anxiety. It can also lead to extreme cases such as self-harm and/or suicide. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual children are 3x more likely to attempt suicide than those that are straight. It becomes 8x more likely if the children are from unsupportive families. For trans and nonbinary youth they are 2x more likely to attempt suicide than their lesbian, gay, and bisexual peers.
All of this stems back to the teachings of exclusion within our society and the continuance of such bigoted behavior toward our youths. Adults of the LGBTQ+ community are also at higher risk of suicide, exclusion not always confined to childhood. All of these experiences have a lasting impact on our mental well-being, no matter the age. The need for LGBTQ+ people to have a safe place of solidarity is extremely important, especially amongst the youth. Many believe they are experiencing all of this on their own when, in reality, many share the same feelings or have similar circumstances.
Pride has always been a place for such people to come together and feel the strength in unity denied to them by a world with outdated views/practices. Social change is being spurred by their voices, causing safe spaces to appear in schools through the use of equality clubs that better educate the reality of the varying and beautiful differences of the human experience. Committees that protect LGBTQ+ students work incessantly to fight for their human rights and acquire the respect necessary for a healthy learning experience.
Organizations such as the Trevor Project, Free Mom Hugs, and numerous LGBT Centers are helping the community and providing them with support and acceptance. The inclusivity alone helps lead to a more positive outlook on yourself. Acceptance for oneself is a difficult thing to master. Being surrounded by a supportive group of people can make the process easier, helping strip away the programming from society and reveal a unique and amazing human being.
With Pride being canceled this year many in the community feel displaced, this either being the only place they felt truly accepted, loved, and free from judgment or their first Pride altogether. LGBTQ+ kids who are quarantining with unsupportive families are suffering emotionally and mentally, turning to suicide for an answer. Right now, there is a widespread feeling of entrapment and restriction. The freedom to be unapologetically you at a Pride parade has now been stifled for much of the anticipating community, having mental and emotional consequences.
Self-love and self-acceptance are the core steps toward healing. We must discard the hateful teachings instilled within our youth along with the banishment of hurtful experiences. Internalized homophobia and internalized transphobia is something many members of the community struggle with throughout their lives, barring themselves from embracing their authenticity. It is easier said than done to overcome such obstacles. I understand this, having first-hand experience navigating life and the LGBTQ+ community.
Chosen family is a beautiful way to overcome the bumps in one’s mental and emotional state as a queer person. A support group is an ideal starting point for the healing process where like-minded individuals come together and care for one another, respecting their unique or similar experiences. Accepting yourself leaves you in a fragile state of being, causing your mind to be more susceptible to hate. Practice self-care and instill precautions such as limiting comments online. I know I stayed quiet on the internet for some time, discussing my queer life with only those close to me. After curating confidence for many years, I decided to become vocal online since I knew I would be able to handle the unavoidable ignorance. Know your limits, boundaries, and self-worth.
There are a plethora of online communities on platforms such as Instagram, Reddit, Facebook, Discord, and TikTok. It may be scary to traverse them at the start but through trial and error, you will learn that you are not alone in your experience and may even make lifelong friends. There are plenty of people ready to provide support and help care for the deep hurts caused by exclusion. This Pride Month’s inability to have large gatherings does not mean Pride is canceled. There are plenty of virtual Pride events appearing and being hosted by queer content creators along with online communities waiting with open arms.
I am a sophomore, soon-to-be English major, at the University of Mary Washington who is also looking into potential minors such as Journalism and Digital Studies. I hope to travel the world and write for news outlets or informative magazines such as National Geographic. My pansexuality has given me a much broader understanding of the world and helped me meet people and explore new ideas as an LGBTQ+ activist. I still have much to learn but am eager to grow and show what I am capable of.