Ahhh, Sweet Sweet Love.
Have you ever thought what it would be like to not be accepted for who you are? Have you had someone give you funny looks as you kiss your loved one? Sometimes, people wonder if that is because people were never taught any differently, or because they have hatred in their heart. I am here to tell you it can be for numerous reasons and not just the two above.
Welcome to the world of Stigma, Hatred, and Violence. Specifically, we will be exploring these topics surrounding the LGBTQ+ community. We know that everyone faces some form of hatred at some point, but as our focus this month is on the LGBTQ+ community, we want to raise awareness!
In order to understand our topic, it would be important to understand what all of these are. Stigmas are a negative thought or feeling associated with certain circumstances, groups, or persons. Let me give you a few related to LGBT+ community:
Oh you’re bisexual? So you’ll sleep with anyone, huh?
Oh you’re not loyal because now you can cheat with both males and females?
You are just jealous you weren’t born a boy like your brother.
A guy must have screwed you over. That’s why you like girls now, huh?
Oh honey, you just haven’t met a real man.
Violence & Hatred
Violence can be verbal or actions. There have been laws created to protect against gay hate crimes which were created twenty years ago from a very harmful accident against an individual in Wyoming. Hate crimes are crimes motivated to target a certain social group or race. Hate crimes can be one individual against another or through mob mentality.
Micro aggressions come in three forms: micro assaults, micro insults, and micro invalidations. These are typically applied to racial aggressions, but can be applied as aggressions against LGBTQ community.
These are outright and direct ways of showing that an individual is not supportive or accepting of the community. This could be shown as hate crimes, signs in front yards, buttons mocking the LGBTQ+ flag, burning group flags, and many more. This can be very harmful for the community to see or experience. People consciously know what they are doing when they decide to commit micro assaults.
Micro insults can be verbal, nonverbal, and environmental communications that involve being rude in a subtle way. An example of this would be like the comments above. The individual who is bisexual and friends say, “It must be so hard to keep a boyfriend. He’s probably worried you’re cheating with one of us” and laugh it off. Although the friends might have not meant to offend the girl, this is very offensive. Many times, individuals make comments with the intent of being funny, quirky, or who knows what. These typically can cause offense to the individual involved. Depending on the situation and the level of comfort with the individual, the person harmed might say something. Otherwise, they might not bother.
This would be the belittling or leaving out of a certain group. Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ communities are left out daily. Over time, we have begun to see them included in television shows, posters, and ads. However, it is important to remember at one point they did not have the right to marry. Some do not get the healthcare they need. All of these instances remind them that they are not equal to our “norm”. I will say we are making progress, but progress has a long way to go!
What does this mean?
The point of exploring all of this is not to bring anyone down. The point is to raise awareness and acknowledge that the community has to go through things that others do not. Even lumping Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and others into one group is limiting them. People have different genders and sexualities. Some people, like Raven Symone (y’all know, That’s So Raven?), prefer to be known as a human. She does not want anyone to know her personal business because that’s what it is. It’s personal. On the flip side of that, some people like Amiyah Scott, prefer to speak out for people going through the same situation as her. Everyone has their own path. Some people might not get offended by micro aggressions! Some have reached a point like our other blog mentioned where they do not feel the opinions of others matter. This is a hard place to reach when someone is reminded daily.
It means that the stress and anxiety these individuals might feel every day can be such a hard thing to live with. Even though I am lumping them into one category for the sake of this topic, they are not all one. They are all individuals who experience being apart of the LGBTQ+ community in different ways. Just the same as all heterosexual individuals do not experience things the same. Every family, friend group, and individual are different; which means that their experiences will not be the same. Typically speaking though, LGBTQ+ receive a lot of hatred, violence, and stigmatism against them. High school & growing up are hard enough. Why should anyone have to be put down for who they want to be?
Picture with me for a minute…
Recently, Molly and I attended a training conference on the LGBTQ+ community. We were asked to close our eyes and imagine that we were heterosexual and our mother, brother, sister, friends, teachers, and everyone else were homosexual. We wanted to go to prom with the boy (in my case) I liked. However, this would not be accepted by my family. They would not be as proud of me as they were of my brother when he brought home his boyfriend. The story goes on to include all the ways that I would be an outcast and unlike everyone else.
Instinctually, I was hurt. I felt small. I felt like it was not fair and what was wrong with me wanting to take someone I like to prom? This was just a brief moment in the life of a person who was gay and still “in the closet”. I cannot imagine what a lifetime like this would feel like.
Can you pause and imagine it, too? How much of an identity crisis would this create for you if everyone said you were wrong?
No matter who you are or how close (or not) you are with your family, they come into play in your life. Having a good support system when you’re going through depression, anxiety, or any existential crisis can be such a comforting feeling. For some, this might not be the case. With the LGBTQ+ community, having people you can talk to is really important. The suicide rates amongst LGBTQ community are higher than anyone else. Teens who are apart of this community suffer the most. Making sure your counselor is a good fit for you can really switch up the game. When people feel they do not have a safe space to talk about what they are experiencing, they feel a variety of emotions. A few of these would be: neglect, judgment, hatred, sadness, loss, and alone.
When people have support systems in place they might feel: loss, love, happy, sad, alone, hatred, and joy. Did you expect the sadness, loss, and alone to go away? Unfortunately, it does not. It might not even happen, though! It’s important as a family member to remember that you can be supportive and your loved one is still going to experience this change or coming to terms with who they are in whichever way occurs for them. You cannot control it. You can only support them and show them out pours of love. Generally speaking, we all want someone to share our ups and downs with, so having that for anyone is important. Talking with a loved one can bring up a lot of feelings, so making sure we know healthy ways of doing so is important. Many people, like Ellen DeGeneres, say that having loved ones who supported them whether, that be family or friends, makes a big difference. Whenever someone is going through a life-changing event, support makes a difference. The same goes for “coming out”, their first date as a lesbian, or their first shot of testosterone boosters.
I’m not LGBTQ+. What’s this have to do with me?
Like I said in the beginning, sometimes we say things that might sound mean and we don’t know we are even being insensitive! This is where educating ourselves comes into play. We hope this gives you a little time to self reflect and think about how we say things. Are we hurting anyone with our words? What comes up in use when we say x, y, & z? Who is this benefitting, if anyone at all? You do not have to be apart of the LGBTQ+ community in order to support them. This would be known as an Ally. A straight (or heterosexual) person who supports equal civil rights, gender equality, social movements is an ally. They also might speak up against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in order to create a supportive atmosphere with no micro aggressions.
You might be thinking, what in the world are biphobia, transphobia, and homophobia? These are fears of surrounding yourself or being involved with in anyway members of the given community. A misconception is that phobias have to be people who are not apart of the community. This is false. There are homosexual individuals who are homophobic. This can be for a variety of reasons, so we cannot assume. The important part is that phobias are not limited to heterosexual or cisgender allies.
How do we address these?
Addressing phobias or micro aggressions when your loved one is hurting you can be difficult. Depending on what phase you are in, this can look different for everyone. Some are not “out” yet, so their approach might be more fact-based presenting information they have gathered. If someone is more comfortable in their identity or sexuality, they might be more direct. The important part is to be safe and remember that just like the change was possibly difficult for you, it might be difficult for family and friends to adjust. People learn and grow at different rates, so patience is important. We aren’t saying it is totally up to you. Your friends might have a hard time adjusting. This process of “coming out” can results in losing friends and gaining new ones. We know it is not easy and our team is here to help.
Another aspect would be when you are an ally. As I said before, you do not have to be a member in order to support equal rights. Sticking up for a community does not have to be hateful or harmful to other groups. One large aspect is that everyone is entitled to their own opinion; this can be an opinion one might not agree with. Remaining calm and providing education to the individual might help them in exploring becoming an ally; at the very least not being a victim of stigma, hatred, or violence towards LGBTQ+.
What’s the point?
I like to think our goal here is to be kind to others while being kind to ourselves. Part of being kind to yourself means loving who you are and coming to terms with that. People can fall victim to stigmas, hatred, and violence about themselves or others. This process can create a lot of the mixed emotions mentioned above. If you are not where you would like to be, or you realize that you might be a little bit of the person mentioned in this blog, feel free to contact us.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Machaela Rausch- Client Liaison
Machaela is currently in her second year of the Master of Science in Clinical Counseling program at Central Methodist University (CMU). She is the client liaison for The Counseling Hub where she assists with getting individuals set up with a counselor. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Sociology and a minor in Multicultural Studies from the University of Missouri.
Machaela is currently receiving experience in the Counseling Center at MACC’s Columbia Campus, providing counseling services for students around the topics of identitiy crisis, school-related stressors, depression issues, coping with anxiety, and body image issues. Machaela has attended conferences regarding LGBTQ+ community and currently works for a non profit organization where she provides Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Implementing to individuals with developmental delays. Machaela has worked here for three years. Machaela is an active member of the American Counseling Association (ACA).
Machaela enjoys working with diverse populations and aims to always be open to new learning experiences. Machaela seeks to be a comforting and kind individual for the first contact with The Counseling Hub. Machaela understands the process of getting into therapy can be difficult and aims to provide people with a smooth process.