If you were to ask me how I came out as a member of LGBTQ+, I would tell you the enthralling tale of how my mom found out I was queer in the middle of a Joann Fabric and Craft Store. There was no large celebration, nothing planned. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even intend to come out that day. We were simply walking down the aisles when I mentioned that I had a date. She followed this confession with the typical parental investigation – what is his name, does he go to school, etc. Of course, she was kind of shocked when I gave her a female name.
Contrary to what you might think, my mom handled it graciously and supported me from the get-go. When I came out as genderqueer, it was a tad more thought-out. Though it appeared to be more difficult, my mother still continued to love me. There was no crying, at least none that I saw. No shouting at the top of her lungs, no threats of eternal damnation, nothing physical. However, this has not been the case for all my family. Some of my family members have since ostracized me and ignored me for several years so far. Being queer and trans is not an easy feat.
I know what you’re thinking: how does this relate to suicide prevention? Let me explain. In their 2019 national survey on LGBTQ youth, the Trevor Project found that about 39% of LGBTQ+ youth have considered suicide at some point within the last year. What’s more, of those that participated in the survey, 54% of trans and non-binary youth stated that they considered suicide.
It was also reported that nearly 71% have felt hopeless for two or more consecutive weeks within the past year. These statistics continue to grow as we examine LGBTQ+ adults. About one in three adults, according to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), experience a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Whereas the likelihood is lesser for those not in the community, specifically one in five. The HRC continues to state that, according to the US Transgender Survey, about 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide at some time in their life.
Everyone’s mental health matters, there’s no doubt about it. However, the particular issues that LGBTQ+ people face, especially those with intersecting identities, are unique. One of my fears, both when I started coming out in 2013 up to now, is being rejected for who I am. Being told that I am not worthy of my family’s love due to a part of myself that I cannot change. I remember being scared of not having anyone to spend the holidays with or to visit during college breaks. For some, these thoughts are their reality. Our youth is forced out onto the streets while the family who just kicked them out sleep soundly in their warm beds. Trans folks are harassed with invasive questions such as “what’s in your pants.”
Leelah Alcorn, Blake Brockington, Tyler Clementi. These are a few faces amongst a sea of people who have taken their lives. And only the ones that we are aware of. Their deaths could have been prevented.
As a matter of fact, a large factor that plays a role in the survival of LGBTQ+ folks is the acceptance and support from their loved ones. Having family, whether they are chosen or biological, is crucial. Humans are social creatures; when we are malnourished if we don’t receive the love and support that we all crave.
So, how can you support LGBTQ+ folks, especially those close to you?
Respect pronouns and name changes. It’s important to understand that while change is difficult, misgendering and deadnaming can be detrimental. Like any healthy relationship, communication is an essential and powerful aspect. Hence, listen to their hardships and prosperity like you would anyone else. Validate their experiences and let them know that you are there when they need support. Take the time to educate yourself on what life is like for an LGBTQ+ person and learn how to become an ally for your loved one(s). Most importantly, let them know that they are loved. When we are deadnamed or assaulted or murdered, it is hard to remember that we are loved. Remind them that they are loved and I promise you that it will make a difference.
This information should not be necessary. Yet, here I am typing it because too many LGBTQ+ lives have been lost to suicide. So, make sure to support your loved ones because you could literally be the difference in whether they live or not.