Tag Archive for: lgbtqia+

The Importance of Trans Youth Allies

Allies are so important to adolescent psychosocial identity development and mental health well-being. Adolescence is a key developmental period where youth are exploring and forming identity.

Accelerating LGBTQ Equality + Acceptance

Most Americans believe that LGBTQ people have federal protections in areas such as employment, housing, credit, and accommodations in public spaces; however, LGBTQ people are not equally treated under the law.

Masks + Hidden Identity

The sad fact is that individuals in the LGBTQ+ community often feel as if they are wearing a “mask” every day of the year. Imagine what it would be like to feel that your true identity was hidden–feeling pressure to conform, especially when it often does not feel safe to express your gender identity or sexual orientation. 

6 Homeless LGBTQ Youths Share Their Stories

When photographer Letizia Mariotti began meeting homeless LGBTQ youth in New York City, she felt a duty to help spread their stories.

She began photographing the queer youth she encountered at LGBTQ gathering places and interviewing them about their experiences. All of the subjects of her photos live, or at one point have lived, at the Ali Forney Center, which serves LGBTQ youths in New York. The majority of them have faced rejection from their families because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I want parents of LGBTQ kids to understand the tragic scope of this problem and the profound influence family acceptance plays in the lives of the LGBTQ youth,” Mariotti told HuffPost. “I want them to understand that an indecently high percentage of the LGBTQ youth suffer emotional abuse and violence first from their parents, relatives, and the communities they live in.”

With 40 percent of homeless youth identifying as LGBTQ, Mariotti hopes her project can help others see these individuals clearly and compassionately.

“People need to be less judgmental and more accepting,” she said. “People need to stop seeing the world in stereotypes, stop trying to define what ‘normal’ looks like.”

Check out photos and excerpts from interviews with the young people featured in Mariotti’s project below.

  • Alexander, 24 (Man With Trans Experience)
    “I started transitioning at 18. In Florida, at the time, trans-identified people were not really protected. I was diagn
    Letizia Mariotti

    “I started transitioning at 18. In Florida, at the time, trans-identified people were not really protected. I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and also gender identity disorder. Nowadays they categorize it as gender identity dysphoria. It’s a big difference.

    “My mom was not accepting of me. But me liking someone of the same sex or gender was not the biggest issue. The problem was more me representing very masculine. She said to me once, ‘If you are going to like girls, then why don’t you look like one?’ She couldn’t understand. She was abusive both verbally and physically. After a while, it got to a point where it was too much. I couldn’t be myself. So I left.

    “My time as a homeless was hard. I didn’t know if I was going to make it. Many times I thought my mental health was not going to allow me to get out of this situation. What kept me going is the knowledge that I had goals. I really wanted to get out of the shelter system.

    “For a lot of people, what is missing is the hope. And hope is necessary to get out of these situations.”

  • Cyrus, 18 (Trans Male)
    “I didn't even know what being gay or being trans meant until I was about 15 years old because it was a bad thing to kn
    Letizia Mariotti

    “I didn’t even know what being gay or being trans meant until I was about 15 years old because it was a bad thing to know in my family. Even though I knew my whole life that I was attracted to women, I didn’t know there was a label and I didn’t know it was normal.

    “Before I came out as trans, I was identifying as a lesbian. And when my parents found out, it didn’t go well at all for me. They deleted all my social media accounts and they wouldn’t let me leave the house alone. I was not allowed to see my friends anymore. So, after a while, I got so angry that I got into a huge argument with my mom. We got a little bit physical and my dad decided to send me into a psychiatric hospital. In total, I went to five of them.

    “Because I wanted to further my transition, get surgery and start hormones, I knew I couldn’t stay at home. My dad doesn’t want me confusing my younger siblings or our family members. So I had to go.”

  • Frankie, 19 (Non-Binary Trans)
    “My parents tried to ignore what they called ‘my lifestyle’ and pretended that it would go away. Growi
    Letizia Mariotti

    “My parents tried to ignore what they called ‘my lifestyle’ and pretended that it would go away. Growing up, I started to be more unapologetic with who I am. I wasn’t hiding. So the tension at home just kept rising until one day my mom just exploded on me. She told me to leave and not come back.

    “Being homeless is very scary. You have no security and you can only keep what you can hold in a bag or a suitcase. Money is also a problem. I did sex work for a few months. It was dangerous. I had a lot of encounters that were very bad, but I made money from it and I was able to buy food.

    “Now I am lucky I don’t have to do it because I have a stable housing and a job.”

  • Eli, 17 (Gender Non-Conforming)
    &ldquo;I grew up in an Orthodox family. So when I was discovering my identity, I had to keep a lot of things secret. ...<br><
    Letizia Mariotti

    “I grew up in an Orthodox family. So when I was discovering my identity, I had to keep a lot of things secret. …

    “During my last year of high school, I came out to my parents. They weren’t supportive of it. They thought it was a phase that would go away or something that I should religiously keep under wraps and not act on it. Most of the times, they pulled the insanity card, saying things like I am not thinking clearly or people that I am around changed my point of view. …

    “This has been really hard for me mentally. I was sent to a religious school in Israel. But I got kicked out after just two days because of my gender identity. I told one of the social workers there, because I didn’t want to keep it secret anymore.

    “I booked a plane ticket and instead of going back home, I came here to New York City. I guess you could just say I ran away.”

  • Rose, 19 (Trans Woman)
    &ldquo;I realized from a very young age about my trans identity because I was surrounded by a lot of things in my childhood t
    Letizia Mariotti

    “I realized from a very young age about my trans identity because I was surrounded by a lot of things in my childhood that forced me to mature early. I think that is why I began transitioning so young at age 13. After my parents’ death, I socially came out.

    “When I started transitioning, I was mostly on my own because I didn’t have anyone to talk to. So it took me a while to figure things out. I knew about hormones and I wanted to go on them, but I couldn’t see a doctor. At 14, I managed to get black market hormones. But since I wasn’t able to get a steady supply, it didn’t last long.

    “Only at 17, I was able to really start and stay on hormones. For a while, my cousin took care of me, but she didn’t know how to help me and she didn’t have any understanding for me being trans. That made things tense and difficult between us. So last summer, I came to the Ali Forney Center to try to get myself together.

    “To get money, I was doing sex work. I did it on and off because I have a lot of social anxiety in general, so trying to find clients to have sex with for money was difficult for me. I would get a lot of money for it … but then I wouldn’t see anyone for weeks after that. And when I was really broke, I just went back on doing it. Sex work is very prevalent in the trans community.”

  • Je’jae, 24 (Non-Binary)
    &ldquo;At 18, I was sent to Israel on some heritage trip like a lot of young Jewish people do. The religious community where
    Letizia Mariotti

    “At 18, I was sent to Israel on some heritage trip like a lot of young Jewish people do. The religious community where I lived forced me into it. It was also a period where I was really struggling with my sexuality. And within an environment that was telling me that I should feel ashamed, I started feeling really suicidal.

    “I went through two years of shaming from our rabbi ‘therapist’ in Israel. It’s what they call ‘conversion therapy.’ In other words, it’s only physical and emotional abuse. I felt scared and trapped. It took me nearly two years to have the courage to leave that place and to tell my ‘therapist’ that I didn’t want to hide anymore. … This man, who was supposed to be my mentor, shamed me. He said that I would grow up being alone, that I was a sick and an unnatural person.

    “When I came back from Israel, as I was more open about my gender identity, my mom really started to have greater problems with me and she became even more emotionally abusive. And a year and a half ago, she locked the door on me.

    “That’s when I became homeless for three months.”

    #TheFutureIsQueer is HuffPost’s monthlong celebration of queerness, not just as an identity but as action in the world. Find all of our Pride Month coverage here.

LGBT people are prone to mental illness. It’s a truth we shouldn’t shy away from

almost didn’t write this. It wasn’t from not wanting to. I cradled my head in my hands, desperate to contribute to the reams of social media positivity I had seen surrounding Mental Health Awareness Week.

I almost didn’t – couldn’t – because I was depressed.

There came a certain point in my experience of being LGBT where I accepted that I had to be strong and uncompromising in the face of disapproving glances and withering remarks. I made a pact to throw myself into my community with zeal, no matter how exhausting, and to make full use of the privileges I was afforded in the tolerant metropolis I’d landed in.

And yet, for some reason, I find this an incredibly difficult attitude to transfer over to my struggle with depression. I will share with my co-workers that I am going on a date with a man or going to an LGBT-themed event with an almost belligerent pride, but am overwhelmed with fear in having to admit to those same people that I’m leaving slightly early to see my therapist or that I need to take some time off due to another episode.

Indeed, the word “depression” still has a bite to it, in the way that the word “gay” did when I first dared to say it to someone else in reference to myself. The tone of my voice takes on an odd quality as I approach it in a sentence, to the point where I sound intolerably meek by the time “depression” tumbles out.

The thing is, in many cases, mental illness and being queer go hand in hand. It’s an uncomfortable but important reality that LGBT youth are four times more likely to kill themselves than their heterosexual counterparts. More than half of individuals who identify as transgender experience depression or anxiety. Even among Stonewall’s own staff, people who dedicate themselves to the betterment and improved health of our community, 86% have experienced mental health issues first-hand. It’s a morbid point to make, but it makes perfect sense that we, as a community, struggle disproportionately.

At a recent event I attended, set up to train LGBT role models to visit schools and teach children about homophobia, no one explicitly mentioned their struggles with mental illness. We told one another stories of how we had come to accept ourselves in the face of adversity, talking in riddles about “dark times” or “feeling down” or being a “bit too much of a party animal”. But these problems have other names – depression, anxiety, addiction – that we consistently avoid, despite being in a community in which a large percentage of us will have undergone similar experiences.

And this phenomenon replays itself over and over. Despite there being a common understanding between me and my queer friends that we’ve probably all been vilified in the same way and made to feel a similar flavour of inadequate, we will rarely acknowledge, even within the safe boundaries of friendship, that this has had a lasting impact on our ability to maintain a healthy self-image.

But part of being proud of who we are as LGBT people is being able to be open about the struggles we’ve faced. It’s in naming and wearing the uncomfortable badges of anxiety, depression and addiction that we take the first step towards fully accepting mental illness as an important part of our collective identity. After all, how can we be true role models to the next generation if we refuse to tell the whole story?

And so, this Mental Health Awareness Week, I’m issuing a challenge to my community. If you are LGBT and suffer from a mental illness, be defiant in your acceptance of it in the same way that you would about your sexuality or gender identity. Bring it up, speak it out and feel sure that your voice, however seemingly small or insignificant, is a valid one. After all, we have been, and will always be, a community of fighters – it’s about time we dared to show our battle scars.

By Alexander Leon