I want to tell you what I have realised. I’ve realised that our pre-teens, tweens and their parents have little information to help them when it comes to being LGBTIQ+ and this is impacting on the mental health of adults. This is not due to a lack of desire to help by all the wonderful groups and charities that do such great work to support LGBTIQ+ children and their parents. These include groups such as PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) which exists in a number of countries including USA and Australia, FFLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in the UK and various similar associations in other countries across the world.
There is a group though that are slipping through the cracks and I believe this group is extremely important to the future of our society as a whole. This is not about politics and law changes. Law changes will happen gradually throughout the world through the tireless work that is being done by activists and advocates. The people making these changes happen are incredible and deserve our gratitude. We have been seeing these changes happen globally at an increasing rate over recent years.
What I am interested in though is making a difference in the long term to the well being of the LGBTIQ+ community and I believe it begins with pre-teens, tweens and the people who care for them and love them.
That long term difference is mental health and connection. Similar results are shown in research across USA, UK and Australia when it comes to mental health in the adult LGB community and these statistics are higher in the trans* and intersex community. I expect in many other countries the statistics are worse.
- 8 times more likely to have tried to commit suicide
- 6 times more likely to report high levels of depression
The starting place is with our youth and their loved ones. Not just our children who are LGBTIQ+ and adults but every heterosexual person also. I’m going to get ranty now – we need everyone to be on the same page to make a difference.
Children are coming out younger now than ever when it comes to their sexuality or gender identity. This is fantastic. What it shows is that overall acceptance is better and youth feel safer. There is valid research which shows a transgender child is aware their assigned gender does not match their understanding of their authentic gender by the age of 4 or 5 years of age. Many children are aware of their sexuality prior to being teenagers. What tends to happen is though is that adults align this to sexual activity and argue that children cannot possibly be aware of this at such a young age. What we need to understand, as adults is this has nothing to do with sexual activity; it is a core sense of self, their sense of autonomy and just as we are all entitled to ‘know’ ourselves so are our youth.
So firstly we need to be comfortable with our children expressing themselves and secondly we need a way to help these children and their loved ones navigate through possible tough times so that everyone finds themselves remaining connected to their loved ones and through this there will be better mental health outcomes.