May the 17th is a significant day for promoting equal human rights as its the international day against homophobia, transphobia & biphobia. This day tries to raise awareness of violence and repression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities worldwide. This raises the question, what impact homophobic & transphobic people actually have on vulnerable adolescents who are LGBT.
Homosexuality, after having been described for decades as a mental illness in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), finally got removed from this manual in 1973. Following this, the psychologist George Weinberg introduced a new term, namely homophobia which stands for a range of negative attitudes and feelings towards LGBT people and homosexuality in general. Those with homophobic views see homosexuality as a violation of traditional masculinity. In addition, transphobia and biphobia are specifically focused on the negative feelings and attitudes that people experience towards transsexuality and bisexuality respectively.
Since 2013 the Sex Discrimination Act 1985 has been enforced to make discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation and gender identity finally against the law. Even with this important step forward LGBT people in Australia still have to endure discrimination, harassment and hostility in everyday life. Young people during their adolescence who are questioning their sexuality can feel threatened, fearful or disgusted of themselves when peers are using hurtful labels and make them feel not accepted. To give you an example, in school, boys can be seen as week when they don’t comply with masculine gender roles and can be called names such as gay and homo, words that also can be interpreted as lame, dumb or stupid. As a result young individuals can feel isolated, misunderstood, ashamed or even have homophobic feelings but directed towards themselves.
There are different factors that lead to people developing homophobic beliefs and attitudes. One of those factors resolve around the idea that homosexuality contradicts gender roles in both men and women. Studies have shown that there are common traits to be found for people who are exhibiting homophobia or transphobia by having attitudes of intolerance and sexual prejudice. So what are those common traits exactly? Well usually they are less educated, conservatively religious, lived in rural areas, they are less likely to have experienced contact with anyone who is LGBT and have a strong belief in gender roles and traditional values.
Overall, homophobia can be damaging to those who are affected by it, especially the young generation who are already struggling with their self-identity. Therefore it won’t surprise you that a large amount of LGBT adolescents are dealing with depression and anxiety, caused by their discriminating environment and by applying negative stereotypes to themselves.
At Drop of Life we can help in different ways to not only support those young adults who are struggling with their sexuality but also their families who might be involved. Some examples are:
- Information about homophobia as well as information about the anxiety or depression that is a result of homophobia.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy that will focus on the reframing of thoughts and will help to develop coping strategies.
- Relaxation and breathing strategies.
- Strategies to gain a stronger sense of self.
If you have any questions or would like more information on this matter please visit one of our psychologists at Drop of Life.