Sexuality & identity

How can I make sense of what I am feeling?

Communicating with and educating family members

Are you having difficulty talking to your loved ones about your sexuality?

Do you sometimes feel alone or misunderstood?

How can I talk to my loved ones when I don’t understand it myself?

The thought of having open and honest conversations about your sexuality with your loved ones can bring up feelings of sadness, fear, anxiety, and judgement. Helping your loved ones understand an important part of who you are and how it makes you feel can elevate these unpleasant feelings. Although sometimes it is not easy to know what to say or how to bring it up. It is important to know you are not alone.

A recent study has found almost 4 in 100 (3.7%) adolescents have identified as transsexual, gender diverse, or non-binary [2]. In Australia, almost 10%, 1 in 10 men, and 20%, 1 in 5 women, have reported having some history of same-sex attraction or experience [3], with almost 600,000 individuals (3.2% of the Australian adult population) identify as non-heterosexual [4].

Those who identify as lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, queer, gender diverse, and non-binary have significantly higher rates of mental health concerns (such as, suicide and suicidal thoughts, self-harm, depression, anxiety and psychological distress) than the reported rates within the wider community [5].

LBGTIQ+ individuals are often viewed in society as a singular group, so it is important to help people understand there are several distinct, and sometimes overlapping, sexual and gender identities that are faced with their own set of histories, experiences and health needs.

Establishing healthy relationships, creating positive boundaries and having informed conversations can help you feel more at ease when addressing these difficult topics, but learning how to do that can be challenging.

Finding ways to describe your own experiences and how you’re feeling is important to helping your loved ones understand what you are going through and how best to help your needs.

Marginalisation, challenges and discrimination issues

Have you experienced discrimination, harassment or violence because of your sexual identity?

Do you feel like you need to hide your sexual identity at school, community events, or work?

Facing discrimination is not a pleasant experience for anyone. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for LBGTQI+ individuals to experience discrimination, harassment or violence because of their sexual identity, with over half LBGTQI+ individuals reporting they hide their sexual identity in public out of fear [6].

These negative experiences can be stressful and leave us feeling hurt, vulnerable, depressed and/or anxious. Having someone that you trust, to talk through these experiences with, can help you develop a strong sense of self, despite the pressures of society, and strategies to help you improve your self-esteem and confidence to better deal with any challenges you may face.

The absence of discrimination does not always mean there is acceptance or understanding, it is also important to feel supported. Being actively supported in your community can make you feel heard, understood, and less isolated or alone. Seeking help to find the right support, or access to appropriate health services, is an important step in improving your overall mental health.

It can sometimes be hard to know how to stand up for yourself, however gaining the confidence to assertively communicate your personal boundaries and individual needs to others in your school, community or workplace, can reduce your experiences of discrimination, harassment and/or isolation.

Written by: Katrina Chapman