The transgender experience can be lonely. When I first began hormone replacement therapy, my doctor asked me if I had a good support system. I lied and said I did because I didn't have the time or energy to join a support group and didn't want to cause worry. Now, I think about all the hands that have reached out to me in the past that I brushed off. I believe loneliness was caused by my self-imposed social isolation.
LGBT Social Life
We live in a society where casual sex is a normal part of dating culture. There is, of course, nothing wrong with a casual hookup between consenting adults, but for demisexual folks (people who only experience sexual attraction after forming an emotional connection), dating and intimate relationships can be a bit harder to navigate -- in no small part because there are still a lot of misconceptions about what demisexuality is and is not. These misconceptions not only put a strain on our relationships but on our mental health as well.
June 12th is a difficult day for me. This year it marked the five-year anniversary of the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting that snuffed out the lives of 49 queer people -- most of them Black and Latinx -- and wounded 53 others in Orlando, Florida. The deadliest act of violence against queer people in the history of the United States happened less than a month after my own coming out. I've been dealing with the emotional aftermath of that ever since. Thankfully, I've also found a transformative way to cope with it: community. (Note: This post contains a content warning.)
After living a year of pandemic life, we are beginning to resume some normalcy just in time for June, Pride Month. Many states have lifted mask mandates while more than half the country has been vaccinated. Entering the month of June, Pride Month in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community, after a year of social distancing could put a strain on our mental health. I know I have been experiencing anxiety surrounding the idea of gathering with my LGBTQIA+ community after so long apart. Here are a few ways I have been coping with this new way of life while planning to celebrate pride.
I identify as a lesbian in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community as a whole. My gender expression follows a more masculine route regarding clothing and hairstyle. Gender expression for many of us in the LGBTQIA+ community can lead to judgment by a society which is used to gendering things such as clothing or hairstyle. These judgments and biases can lead to fear and anxiety for those of us in the LGBTQIA+ mental health community. My anxiety was heightened for years regarding my treatment from others who may not agree or understand my gender expression.
Gender identity in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community is important when speaking about mental health. Society has made a habit of assigning gender based on assumptions relating to outward appearance and tone of voice. Mental health concerns can be tied together with gender identity, and it is important to respect an individual's chosen identity without our own biases getting in the way.
I have identified as a lesbian for as long as I have battled anxiety. I came out to my family and friends 13 years ago, unaware that my sexual orientation would be one of the biggest triggers of my anxiety symptoms. Those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, etc. (LGBTQIA+) community who also have a mental illness face many obstacles regarding public treatment. The constant worry of judgment and non-acceptance when out in public can lead to heightened anxiety. Holding on to what we can control and educating others about our community can help calm this worry.
My coping skills for anxiety used to consist of immersing myself in my community or visiting a friend. I would frequently mix and mingle with my community to lighten the burden anxiety would put on my shoulders. We are now six months into a pandemic that calls for us to isolate and distance ourselves from those who keep us grounded. This lockdown has led me to find creative ways to search out my community as I needed new coping skills for my anxiety.
I'm not alone in using video games like "Animal Crossing" to cope with my mental illness. Ever since the shelter-at-home orders back in February, gamers have been purchasing the Nintendo Switch faster than they can be physically made. Video games became a form of escapism, and what was once a pastime became a coping mechanism for those stuck at home. While I’ve been trapped in my apartment in this pandemic, no Nintendo Switch game has been more useful for exploring and coping with my mental illness than "Animal Crossing."
The murder of George Floyd sparked an unprecedented civil rights movement and has changed our country dramatically. The face of the Internet has been completely reshaped, and discourse about racism is at the forefront of all of our conversations. Sometimes, especially for the mentally ill, the amount of information whizzing by is overwhelming.