Identity, discrimination & distress

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An official study provides an insight into the LGBTI community

By Grant J Everett

A massive report called “A Closer Look at Private Lives 2” was the biggest-ever survey of the LGBTI community ever conducted in Australia, with nearly 4,000 people taking part. The survey found that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community in Australia face more combined stigma and discrimination than any other group. It was also reported that around half of all people in this category will experience some form of abuse as a direct result of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In particular, while people with gender dysphoria (who identify as transgender, in other words) are now more likely to be accepted by the mainstream community than ever before, this particular colour of the rainbow will still encounter more discrimination and violence than other members on the spectrum. There were a lot of other alarming statistics about the LGBTI community, such as how members experience higher levels of psychological distress and drug use than the mainstream.

On the outer

Our capacity to discriminate begins early. Like we all witnessed in school, it’s an unfortunate fact that being different in any noticeable way can paint a target on your forehead. Kids fear and reject what they see as alien, and whatever they are unable to easily understand from their own limited perspective is often interpreted as unnatural, unacceptable and wrong. The “more” different you are, the higher the chances that you’ll be singled out. This inability to comprehend why or how somebody else can live or behave in the manner they do can be enough to provoke insults or even violence. And sure, while schoolchildren will eventually grow up and mature into adults, all that means is that they’ll employ more subtle bullying tactics.

Gender what?

Gender dysphoria means somebody has the constant, overwhelming belief that their physical body and true gender don’t match, and this is a state that usually begins in very early childhood. In fact, most people with gender dysphoria have felt this way literally as long as they can remember. This used to be called “gender identity disorder” a while back, but having a mismatch between the physical body and the internal sense of gender isn’t seen as a mental health issue anymore. The anxiety and depression that often result from the stress of living with gender dysphoria, however, ARE mental health issues, and may require support. Also, people with gender dysphoria who have made the surgical transition from one physical gender to the other will still be susceptible to high levels of psychological pain. Gender reassignment isn’t a magic solution that instantly makes life perfect.

Hope

The findings of A Closer Look at Private Lives 2 weren’t all bad, of course! The report found that people who identify as LGBTI have lower levels of distress if they are able to take part in community events where they felt they could be themselves, no matter whether the events were LGBTI or mainstream. Also, the higher rates of psychological distress we mentioned will generally decrease with age. After all, sometimes the worst discrimination and stigma comes from within, and it can take a lot of time for us to accept who we really are.

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Snippets

Gender dysphoria was once called transsexualism, but this term is outdated and some even consider it offensive. Transgender is the correct term nowadays.

Note that gender dysphoria is not homosexuality. Your internal sense of your gender is not the same as your sexual orientation.

Members of the LGBTI community are more than four times as likely to use methamphetamine than the heterosexual community, and their use of other illicit drugs is also higher.

The condition of a person’s wallet can play a small part in their mental health issues. Simply having a job, for instance, is linked to a higher level of resilience to many mental health issues. This doesn’t mean billionaires are immune, of course!

Are you a part of the LGBTI community? Need some support? These guys will always listen.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

beyond blue: 1300 224 636

“If Harry Potter taught us anything it’s that no one should live in a closet.”

-JK Rowling, author of a little book called Harry…something

Sources:
www.dailylife.com.au/health-and-fitness/dl-wellbeing/stigma-means-poor-mental-health-and-high-drug-use-for-lgbt-australians-20150401-1mcrrf.html
www.webmd.com/mental-health/gender-dysphoria

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