What leads to low self-esteem in LGBTQIA+ youth and how can we help in boosting their self-esteem?

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What leads to low self-esteem in LGBTQIA+ youth and how can we help in boosting their self-esteem?

Imagine……..being a part of a society where countless individuals, your fellow countrymen, judge, mock, humiliate and disrespect you for being you ! what emotions would you feel? What thoughts would come to your mind? How long before you find that most of your existence is plagued by pain and negativity?

This is, sadly, the day-to-day reality in the life of MOST LGBTQIA+ individuals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also emphasize this hostile climate, drawing on data from the 2015 Youth Risk Behaviour Survey:

  • In the survey, 34% of LGBT youth experienced bullying at school.
  • Nearly a fifth of respondents (18%) experienced physical or dating violence.
  • In the survey, 18% of LGBT youth report sexual assault.
  • Roughly 1 in 10 LGBT youth were threatened or injured with a weapon at school.

Anti-LGBTQ messages, family rejection, hate-crimes, threats, refusal to accept one’s gender identity can all negative impact self-esteem. A 2018 Human Rights Campaign survey reports that although (91%) LGBTQ youth report pride in their identity, 70% reported feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness during the previous week.

Additionally, 67% of participants revealed hearing family members making anti-LGBTQ statements.

Causes of low self-esteem in LGBTQIA+ youths-

  1. Misgendering- misgendering refers to using a pronoun that does not match with the individual’s identity. If in confusion, it is always better to ask an individual which pronouns they identify with than misgendering them. The same goes for a person’s name…. they might no longer use or identify with their birth-name. Refusing to acknowledge that can make the individual feel caged within the confines of gender binary.
  1. Questioning and/or denying individual identity- every person reserves the sole right to decide who they are; it should never be up for question or denial by any other individual.
  1. Discrimination- people identifying as LGBTQIA+ have always been seen as either incapable or underserving of holding important positions of power. They are still strongly discriminated against by many institutions and employers, owing to toxic stereotypes and superstitions
  1. Social rejection before and/or after coming out- A drastic change in behaviour of others around us can shatter nearly all sense of security and belongingness. Often such behaviours come from people we trust, the ones who we always knew would support us through thick and thin. This rejection is often accompanied by allegations such as bringing shame upon their own family and being a liar and an imposter.

  1. Abandonment and estrangement – ‘families’ and ‘friends’ often go one step further by severing any ties with the individuals leading to emotional trauma, sudden poverty, destitution and a feeling of complete hopelessness. Such traumatised and abandoned youth are often underage and due to their tender age and societal discrimination, they often face difficulties in earning even meagre amounts to support themselves.
  1. Trying to dismiss a life and identity as a mere phase or episode- dismissing sexuality and gender identity as a phase can delegitimise and hinder access to support and prevent self-acceptance due to the misconception that one can grow out of being LGBTIA+.
  1. Violence, abuse, aggression- every year, thousands of LGBTQIA+ individuals are subjected to brutal hate-crimes ranging from rape, burglary, brutal beatings, emotional abuse, etc. Being in a constant state of fear and unrest can also lead to low self-esteem and insecurity.

Boosting the self-esteem of an LGBTQIA individual is one of the many roles of an Ally. Our team at Mpower proudly identifies as Allies and pledges to always respect and accept all the beautiful shades of the rainbow! Some of the ways in which we, as a society, can help foster self-esteem in vulnerable youth are-

  1. be inclusive- treat an LGBTQIA+ individual as you would your cis-heterosexual friend or family member, i.e., AS A HUMAN BEING!
  2. Be sensitive- be careful so that you don’t misgender, stereotype or make insensitive jokes
  3. Be consistent- do not start treating an individual differently by distancing yourself or not including them in your life after they come out.
  4. Be well-informed- learn about the wide and majestic spectrum of human sexuality and gender
  5. Be vocal- be open about your acceptance of all individuals as equals, despite their gender, orientation or sexuality. Protest as much as you can and try to spread awareness and positivity about LGBTQIA+ individuals

Also read,

Reasons why people self-harm and how to stop them.

5 ways to overcome the causes of low self-esteem. Seek help from a mental health therapist.

Image credits - Freepik