Hey! My name is Cris and I am a 21 year-old professional artist who is currently living within a loving family that, nevertheless, can often be quite turbulent.
A Little About Me
I first started thinking that I might be trans in about the sixth grade. Trans, the shortened term for transgender, means that I didn’t identify with the sex that I was assigned at birth. It was at that time that a friend had introduced me to a show that featured an AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) protagonist who didn’t have any strong connections to either of the binary genders. Years later, in the summer before my junior year of high school, I was asked my pronouns for the first time. I realized then, that she/her definitely didn’t fit me. Though I panicked, and blurted out “they/them” in the moment, the more people used those pronouns for me, the more happy and comfortable I felt.
The next month, I asked my parents (without warning) to start using those pronouns for me. They took it well, but unfortunately it took about three years for them to begin using them even some of the time. I wouldn’t have done things differently, but I do wish that I had been more insistent that they use my name and pronouns than I had been in the past.
I have a rocky history with mental health, dominated by PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety, and severe depression. Even before I was actually diagnosed with these conditions, I was used as an emotional crutch for many of my other friends during middle school. It took me until January 2022 to finally accept all of my mental health issues and the methods that could help me to better live with them.
Mental Health in the LGBTQUIA+ Community
I absolutely think that LGBTQIA+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, etc.) individuals are far more likely to experience mental health issues than others. Even if they are raised in an open and accepting environment, many people my age grew up with societal norms that consistently told us that we were different, deviant, wrong, or lying. I am still struggling with fears that my identity is fake and that I’m a fraud even though I know that that is not true.
Now, with the mere existence of LGBTQIA+ people being made a political matter, even children are being categorized as perverted groomers who are simultaneously scheming to convert other children. At the same time, they’re also told they’re too innocent to know their own thoughts and feelings. Perhaps the people saying these things aren’t a majority, but they sure as hell exercise enough power to count as one anyway.
Personally, finding a community in which I don’t have to constantly validate my existence has been the only thing that has helped regarding my queer identity and mental health. I wish there were more ways for queer people to find emotional relief, but as of right now, our society is seriously lacking in what queer people need.
As for the wider mental health community, the best way to support LGBTQIA+ individuals is to:
Make the effort to educate yourself outside of asking LGBTQIA+ individuals to tell you everything they know. It can be endlessly exhausting for those in the LGBTQIA+ community to be educators on topics that are directly entwined with many other aspects of their lives, especially when their existences are constantly criticized and questioned in the media and society as a whole.
Actively participate in the movements that help to protect LGBTQIA+ people. You can do that by donating to causes that work to keep people safe, protesting unjust pieces of legislation that directly put LGBTQIA+ people at risk, cutting out harmful organizations, companies, and people, and creating spaces in which LGBTQIA+ people can be safe and cared for without fear of a double standard or backlash against their identities.
My advice to others who identify as LGBTQIA+ that may be experiencing mental health concerns is to find an educated community of queer folks that you can turn to even when things are going smoothly. I would also recommend the services that the Trevor Project provides even when you fear that your troubles are too trivial for outside help. Trust me, they are there to help you, no matter what.
I would also suggest that you find an outlet in addition to professional mental health services. This can be anything from artistic expression, to organized sports, or even writing. If it’s something that you don’t have to mentally strain yourself to accomplish and it keeps your symptoms at bay, that is enough.
What helps me with my mental health concerns is often a combination of continuing to work when I feel like I can’t and taking the time to engage in unrelated activities that help me unwind. For example, I enjoy critiquing films when I’m by myself without the pressure of trying to write my thoughts for a wider audience. It is something that I do for me, and no one else.
I also think that physical activity can be extremely helpful when it comes to bettering mental health, even though I don’t really think about movement all that much when it comes to myself (I am a practicing circus artist). Finding a way to participate in physical movement outside of societal fitness pressures, or unhealthy social situations regarding physical activity, is key. Take things slow, and find ways to be active that are comfortable for you, regardless of how you look while doing it.