A photo of a pride event with people walking under a giant LGBT+ flag to represent the topic of the article - The Heart Breaking History Of LGBTIQ+ And Mental Health

The Heart Breaking History Of LGBTIQ+ And Mental Health

As someone who’s a cis straight male, I wasn’t sure if I should write about the LGBTIQ+ community and mental health for pride month, because I’m not part of the community. However, I’ve decided, rightly or wrongly, to talk about this topic, largely because of my mum’s abhorrent views on LGBTIQ+ people (and other marginalised groups). I want to do my bit to avoid more people becoming like her and having those kinds of views. Thus, here’s my attempt at talking about a topic I have no personal experience of.

 

 

Our Shameful LGBTIQ+ History

 

There was a time when people thought that homosexuality was a disease or a phase the young would grow out of, but if they didn’t grow out of it, homosexuality was seen as a product of stunted growth (Drescher, 2015).

 

Although some mark 1973 as the date that homosexuality stopped being classified as a mental health condition, changing to a “sexual orientation disturbance” in DSM II (Carr and Spandler, 2019), a rose by any other name moment if you ask me, 1987 is the date it was completely removed from the DSM.

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) only removed homosexuality from its International Statistical Classification of Diseases (ICD) classification in 1992 (Psychology Today). That meant that while I was at primary school enduring racist abuse, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) had been putting off declassifying homosexuality as a mental health issue in all its forms. I then made it to high school before the WHO had decided to follow suit. It’s sad to know that during my lifetime, this was still up for debate.

 

Furthermore, the WHO still classified transgender as a mental health condition right up until 2019 (Time and BBC). The problem with this very recent change with regards to being transgender is that the now outdated clarification is still being used by many countries. For example, in Japan, if you want to transition you have to have a diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” and get sterilised if they want to be legally recognised (Time).

 

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Then there’s the fact that homosexuality was a crime. It wasn’t until 1967 that homosexuality was decriminalised here in England and Wales, 1980 for Scotland, and 1982 for Northern Ireland (UK Parliament). Same-sex marriage came into law many years later in 2014 for England and Wales (Gov.UK). Scotland also legalised same-sex marriage in 2014 (Wikipedia), with Northern Ireland coming in in 2020 (Wikipedia).

 

One of the defining moments in LGBTIQ+ history that sparked revolutionary thoughts the world over was the Stonewall Riots in New York in 1969. It’s hard to believe that there used to be a law that required people to wear at least three items of gender-appropriate clothing, but there was such a law. As a result of this law, some of the patrons of the Stonewall Inn were arrested for not dressing as the state deemed they should (Britannica). However, this turned a corner for the community by arresting these people, they weren’t going to take it anymore, enough was enough, and the rest is history, as they say.

 

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Stonewall Riots, then click here.

 

For the longest time, being LGBTIQ+ was either a criminal office, a mental health disorder, or both. In 69 UN countries, it is still a criminal office to engage in consensual same-sex activities (ILGA World). It’s been a long hard road getting equality and justice for the LGBTIQ+ community, but unfortunately, the journey isn’t complete, there’s still a long way to go.

 

The picture is split in two with the top image being of a group of people protesting for LGBTIQ+ rights and the bottom image being of a protest for LGBTIQ+ rights focusing on a placard that says "Queer & Proud". The two images are separated by the article title - The Heart Breaking History Of LGBTIQ+ And Mental Health

 

My LGBTIQ+ Shame

 

Although I’m not using this as an excuse, but to provide context, I grew up when casual homophobia was a thing. When you made jokes about your friends, it was a gay joke. If something was weird or you didn’t like it, that was gay. Even though I never had a problem with people from the LGBTIQ+ community, even kissing a few guys in my time and meeting my first three girlfriends while I was wearing a full-length skirt, I still engaged in that casual homophobia, to my enteral shame. You’d think I’d know better from having to join in with causal racism to stop being the butt of the joke, to being part of the joke, in the hopes I’d be accepted, even though it killed me inside to do so.

 

To this day, I still let the occasional “that’s gay” comment slip out because I used to say that a lot during the 80s and 90s. I always verbally chastise myself when it slips out, however, because I don’t want to say those kinds of things anymore. I’m way better than I used to be, but it’s still an ongoing process to do better and to be better. It’s never too late to change. One things for sure, I’ll always strive to be better and do better for the LGBTIQ+ community and for all marginalised people.

 

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LGBTIQ+ And Mental Health

 

First off, being LGBTIQ+ doesn’t cause mental health problems, but the struggles they may have to go through because they’re LGBTIQ+ might cause them to develop mental health issues. Much like for me, I’m black and I’ve had mental health problems almost my entire life, but they weren’t caused by me being black, they were caused by other people having an issue with me being black. Then they made my life miserable because of their issue with my skin colour. These kinds of people are people like my mum, who hold outdated and illogical views that they used to deny human rights to others.

 

Whereas for me it was racism, for people who are LGBTIQ+ it’s commonly known as homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, although there might be other discrimination classifications, I’m might just not be aware of them.

 

A survey conducted in a partnership between Stonewall and YouGov (Bachmann and Gooch, 2018) into the LGBT community involving over 5000 participants found some interesting statistics in regards to mental health, which were:

 

  • 52% of LGBT people said they’ve experienced depression in the last year.
  • 13% (one in eight) of LGBT people aged 18-24 stated they’d attempted to take their own lives in the last year.
  • 46% of trans people have thought about taking their own life in the last year
  • 31% of LGB people who aren’t trans said they thought about taking their own life in the last year.
  • 41% of non-binary people said they’d self-harmed in the last year.
  • 5% (one in twenty) of LGBT people have been pressured to access services to question or change their sexual orientation.

 

To read their study in full, click here.

 

This is supported by Rethink Mental Health who stated that gay and bisexual men are four times more likely to try to take their own life than the rest of the population. Rethink Mental Health also stated that LGBTIQ+ people are one and half times more likely to develop depression and anxiety compared to the rest of the population.

 

Furthermore, a systematic review and meta-analysis study performed by Williams, Jones, Arcelus, Townsend, Lazaridou, and Michail (2021) sort to investigate the prevalence of victimisation and mental health difficulties of LGBTQ+ youths (12-25). This study comprised of 142,510 LGBTQ+ participants from studies across the world. Evidence from the study showed a high prevalence of victimisation (36%) and mental health difficulties (39%) among the LGBTQ+ participants. This review shows that among young LGBTQ+ people, these experiences were respectively 3.74 times and 2.67 times higher than their heterosexual cisgender counterparts. Furthermore, the link between victimisation and self-harm and/or suicide also appears to be more common among young LGBTQ+ people than their heterosexual cisgender peers. As I said before, we still have a long way to go to reach equality.

 

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Families are meant to be a place of safety for us, but for people from the LGBTIQ+ community, that isn’t always the case. Sometimes the victimisation can start at home. For some LGBTIQ+ members, families can be a source of stress due to the pressure to please their parents, resulting in them hiding who they are to please them. A family that has good communication and acceptance, however, is how you avoid such situations, without it, the family can become a destructive force to wellbeing of the person from the LGBTIQ+ community (Gabb, McDermott, Eastham, and Hanbury, 2020).

 

For LGBTIQ+ members who are also from an ethnic minority group, they can experience additional discrimination. A study by Schmitz, Robinson, Tabler, Welch, and Rafaqut (2020) composed of 41 in-depth interviews of LGBTIQ+ Latino/a young adults found that they experienced structural racism as well as gender policing and anti-LGBTIQ+ religious messages. This study highlights the double whammy of discrimination that ethnic minority LGBTIQ+ members can endure, putting more strain on their mental wellbeing.

 

If you’re a member of the LGBTIQ+ community and would be willing to share your story of being made to feel unwanted and the effect that had on your mental wellbeing, then I’d love to share your story on my site. You can contact me through any of my social media accounts or visit my Contact page. Also, feel free to check out the stories I have on my site already by clicking here.

 

As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of being part of the LGBTIQ+ community or run-ins with casual homophobia in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget to bookmark my site and if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.

 

Lastly, if you’d like to support my blog, you can make a donation of any size below. Until next time, Unwanted Life readers.

 

 

 

References

 

Bachmann, C. L. & Gooch, B. (2018). LGBT in Britain: Health Report. Retrieved from https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_health.pdf.

Carr, S., & Spandler, H. (2019). Hidden from history? A brief modern history of the psychiatric “treatment” of lesbian and bisexual women in England. The lancet. Psychiatry6(4), 289–290. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/S2215-0366(19)30059-8, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-03661930059-8/fulltext, and https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30765328.

Drescher J. (2015). Out of DSM: Depathologizing Homosexuality. Behavioral sciences (Basel, Switzerland)5(4), 565–575. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.3390/bs5040565.

Gabb, J., McDermott, E., Eastham, R., & Hanbury, A. (2020). Paradoxical family practices: LGBTQ+ young people, mental health and wellbeing. Journal of Sociology56(4), 535-553. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/1440783319888286 and https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1440783319888286.

Schmitz, R. M., Robinson, B. A., Tabler, J., Welch, B., & Rafaqut, S. (2020). LGBTQ+ Latino/a young people’s interpretations of stigma and mental health: An intersectional minority stress perspective. Society and Mental Health10(2), 163-179. Retrieved from https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/2156869319847248 and https://doi.org/10.1177/2156869319847248.

Williams, A. J., Jones, C., Arcelus, J., Townsend, E., Lazaridou, A., & Michail, M. (2021). A systematic review and meta-analysis of victimisation and mental health prevalence among LGBTQ+ young people with experiences of self-harm and suicide. PloS one16(1), e0245268. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0245268 and https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0245268.

Support

 

Mind Out UK

Imaan UK

LGBT Foundation UK

Pink Therapy UK

Stonewall UK

Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline UK

Albert Kennedy Trust UK

Gendered Intelligence UK

The Center US

The Trevor Project US

Pflag Canada Canada

LGBT Youthline Canada

60 thoughts on “The Heart Breaking History Of LGBTIQ+ And Mental Health

  1. Some of the dates in this blow my mind, there’s still such a long way to go when it comes to equality and dealing with bigots (or twats that’s a more fitting word). I’ve spent most of the week reporting on a series of homophobic attacks in Liverpool and talking to people about the fear and the anxiety they have over not feeling safe when walking the streets because of who they are.

  2. The details in this post really blow my mind. We need to do so much more with the rights of LGBTQ+ people. I have many wonderful gay friends and it breaks my heart to think of times when they were abused etc.
    Rosie

  3. This is a great article. We have made progress. Growing up in the 1980s some of my best friends were gay, but we didn’t know until they came out when we were in our 20’s. When I tell my young adult daughters that, they say “what’s the big deal?” which tells me we have made progress. Back then it was a big deal. I think today society as a whole is much more accepting but, as with most things, there is a percentage of people who will hate and discriminate. I hope to see a day when that doesn’t happen and we can accept all people as they are without trying to change them.

    • I too long for the day where people don’t need to come out anymore because it’s seen as being no different to being heterosexual. It’d also be nice if the traditional gender roles disappeared for good

  4. This is simply disappointing, to think that they have been through so much just because they have a different sexual preference. This isn’t a disease that it has to be treated or something that will go away. It is totally beyond that and the fact that most people didn’t understand this in the past but even now, I still think people are not as accepting as they should be or “aware” of the LGBTIQ+ community.

  5. I grew up in the 80s and 90s and had a very similar experience being surrounded by casual homophobia. I honestly didn’t even know it was that until I went away to college. It was very eye opening. Understanding our past and own failings is the only way to become a better person. To learn from the mistakes of our past and grow.

  6. I think it’s really important to share information about LGBTQ community and spread more awareness even if you’re not a part of the community. It’s always important to be supportive and I hope more and more people become more accepting because we truly need more love in this life.

  7. Reading the dates and numbers…it’s so heart-shattering! I’m glad you have proved there is so much we can still do and that there is a tough connection between the community and mental health. A great article, thank you for sharing.

  8. Thank you so much for this – it’s a really helpful and educational read! I think all the details you’ve included show that, although we have made some progress, there’s still lots of room for improvement. It breaks my heart to read about everything the LGBT+ community has went through – no one deserves to be treated like that. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Another excellent post as usual! It’s to all our shame that these laws and classifications ever existed. Hopefully we’re gradually moving to a more openminded and equal society but we have a while to go. I think we’re moving to more inclusivity but it’s not enough to be tacitly inclusive but to actively celebrate and welcome people from all backgrounds.

  10. I think you did a great job of discussing such an important topic despite not having personal experiences with it directly. That can be hard to do, but you’ve approached the topic with such compassion and understanding. I don’t think that a lot of people realize that the queer community is still being faced with atrocities like the idea of conversion therapy (yep, there are still people that believe in that in 2021, figure that out). I can’t figure out for the life of me how we are so far behind in addressing these issues and the need for equality and support.

    • Conversation therapy has been back on the news again where I live. It’s ridiculous that such a backwarda idea still exists, it’s the kind of thing you’d expect to hear about from the Victorian times

  11. You have used your platform to talk about this and I think that is amazing. I am part of that community and it is great to see more people sharing information, resources and experiences. Thank you for sharing this information.

    Lauren

  12. For someone who has not experienced any of this, you did an amazing job of putting this incredibly informative piece together. I was taken aback with the statistics, very disappointing, especially being in the 21st century. Thank you so much for breaking the history down, it really helped me to understand it more 🙂

  13. Those statistics are indeed heartbreaking, as is the evidence of how long people have had to fight for understanding and acceptance. It has been decades and many people are still facing struggle and rejection. However, I think some progress has been made. Perhaps the tragedy lies more in the time it took us to reach where we are today.
    Love that you shine some light on the history of this battle in a meaningful and personal way! Thank you for sharing. <3

    • There’s still a lot of progress to be made when people from the LGBTIQ+ community can still be cast out by their familiea for being a member of that community. I just wish I knew how to do more to help

  14. There’s still SO much to be done esp with the announcement of Hungary’s abhorrent new laws!

  15. Thank you for bringing light to this and your transparency. I also have my own shames regarding attitudes towards the LGBTIQ+ community, particularly from growing up in the church and up through undergrad. Thank God I turned around on that! We’ve done some real damage to people and their mental health by hiding behind our justification of “speaking the truth in love.” NO. Just let people be. There’s room at Christ’s table for everyone. Let’s stop pulling chairs away! I could go on, but I’ve said enough. End of my comment section sermonette. Keep up the good work!

  16. So sad to hear. This is also true and prevalent in the Philippines. Thank you for sharing your POV as well as a glimpse of the statistics on hate crime against LGBTQ+ all over the world. I totally agree: our families should be our safe haven, our sanctity from all the hate in the world, but it’s a different case for the LGBTQ community. They’re disowned and hated for who they are.

    http://www.lifebeginsattwenty.com

  17. As a bisexual woman I want to thank you for writing this piece and for sharing your thoughts and knowledge on the subject at hand. I think it’s very important for people to spread information and to learn about the community whenever they can.

  18. I’m not a member of the LGBT+ community either, but I have many friends who are. Several of them struggle, quietly or openly, with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, due to the way they’ve been treated by their family members or others in the community. I can’t imagine what it’s like to walk in their shoes, but I try to offer as much support as I can.

    Thank you for talking about this. I think posts like this help people feel seen. Knowing that someone else out there can acknowledge and validate their experience can help people realize they’re not alone.

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