We all need to feel physically and emotionally safe, to feel connected within relationships. We also need strong allies who are accepting, inclusive, and advocates. Marginalized groups such as individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community and those in relationships that fall outside heteronormativity can feel especially vulnerable to rejection. Assumptions and attitudes about sex, marriage, and reproduction can be difficult to navigate for those who fall outside this view of what is considered “the norm”.
Negative experiences with family and friends who are less than supportive can exacerbate underlying mental health symptoms such as depression and anxiety. It can be difficult to engage in conversation when there are assumptions made regarding one’s identity but especially invalidating when one’s experience of their gender, sexuality, or other aspects of self is not acknowledged or affirmed.
Not feeling fully seen or accepted makes it difficult to be vulnerable to sharing parts of yourself that you may otherwise keep hidden. For some individuals, the choice to not share may be the safer option in families where heteronormative beliefs are the only acceptable option. For example, beliefs that gender is binary (male or female) and sexuality is not fluid exclude many people’s experiences of gender identity and expressions of emotional and physical attraction. It breaks my heart to see family or friends rejected and treated as less than equal. We all are human. We all have the need for basic human rights including freedom from oppression, respect, and dignity found in welcoming, inclusive spaces.
To help others become more accepting, PFLAG has some great resources that offer ways to do so. This includes a willingness to learn, working through barriers, and being active toward change.
Check out resources here: https://pflag.org/resource/resources-to-being-a-lifelong-ally/
Written By: Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC
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