I’ve wanted to write news articles about LGBTT mental health here for quite some time now. I will inaugurate this column with an essay written by Eric O. Jackson-Rivera, B.A., C.P.S. He is a Certified Peer Specialist with 30 years of experience in LGBTT mental health and activism.
Future columns will detail specific mental health issues for the LGBTT community.
Being LGBTT in 2013 and Beyond
As I write this article it’s still some weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court issues a decision regarding gay marriage. I’m not following the case in all its details and am not an authority on the legal issues before the court, but of what we citizens know and have experienced regarding gay marriage and other LGBTT issues, we can speak from peer and peer work experience about many Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Transsexual (LGBTT) issues in the context of health, mental health, wellness, and public health.
It’s with such experience that we safely coincide with experts and academics when it’s stated that discrimination, rejection, social and cultural ostracism, and other examples geared to destroy a cultural group such as the LGBTTs, are greatly responsible for far too many mental health and addiction problems, homelessness, and the corresponding problems that come with such.
With the desire to address and help fix these problems is that those of us concerned with our personal wellness and that of the general society and the LGBTT’s, it’s that we see steps like gay marriage as one more step to provide the structures and supports to make LGBTT life the good, happy and healthy life experience to which all citizens are entitled to.
Gay marriage and other LGBTT issues are indeed health issues for those who decide to accept their LGBTT identity as one that is a good part of our human identity not to be reverted, changed, hidden, repressed, or in any other way destroyed.
Many LGBTT youth and adults, to state one example, who are or were homeless, or who at one time faced or are currently facing seriously unmanageable crisis of addictions and mental health, were before a part of a family, a community, or a religious group which rejected and ostracized them from the traditions, supports and structures which granted other members of such groups opportunities of living happier, more prosperous lives within institutional structures and supports benefitting citizens who do not stray from the heterosexual lifestyle, marriage included.
While you find many instances of health, mental health, and public health issues in the heterosexual-supported community, these problems sometimes manifest in greater rates in LGBTT people and communities, and many times the culprit variables are, among others, serious patterns of discrimination, rejection “including blood-family rejection”, social and cultural bullying and ostracism, diminished economic supports and opportunities, etc.
Many groups with a desire to not allow LGBTT identity to be accepted “whether at personal or social levels” hold the opinion that being LGBTT is in itself the problem and that the other problems are a by-product of it.
However, once we accept that being LGBTT is a good part of one’s identity, it’s our responsibility to live our lives the best way we can knowing that it’s not an unreal fantasy that there are indeed many people in the society who’d like and are taking concrete steps to destroy anything LGBTT, but much especially anything positive about being LGBTT.
This challenge in itself negatively affects many LGBTT’s with addiction and mental health diagnoses and vulnerabilities.
Many people have noted that some fiercely anti-LGBTT individuals see with good eyes that LGBTTs fall into serious addictions, depression, and other serious mental health problems because it’s a way in which some LGBTT’s can self-destruct, making it easier to sell the idea that being LGBTT is not good and that there’s something intrinsically wrong with it.
In many places across the U.S. and other countries, it’s a tremendously challenging task, to say the least, to recognize LGBTT individuals and communities as having the right to exist and live in dignity, health and prosperity, so that we can address the problems of LGBTT people the same way the heterosexual community has successfully addressed the same problems for their own. And there are also challenges within the LGBTT communities to be addressed when it comes to finding solutions.
More resources are needed to address mental health and addiction challenges in LGBTT people and communities. Forty years (1973-2013) after the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality as a mental disorder from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), it’s still a work-in-progress to ensure that current and future generations of LGBTT individuals can live lives with the same health-supported structures and networks granted to heterosexual society.
Eric O. Jackson-Rivera, B.A., C.P.S., is a writer, music performer, and Certified Peer Specialist, with 30-years of experience in peer LGBTT health and activism. His first novel, A Cause to Kill For (Xlibris, Corp. 2004) a suspense thriller set in Puerto Rico, is available through all major online booksellers. He is currently working on his first book of short stories and other works of fiction in the suspense genre.