Mental Health: Mental Health and LGBTQ Labels News







Christina Walsh


Labels are a way for a person to put language into their understanding of who they are and a way to communicate this to others. But are they important and do we need them so much?

You may have noticed that GLB (gay, lesbian, bisexual) has evolved into LGBTQQIP2SAA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, weird, questioning, intersex, pansexual, dichotomous, androgynous, asexual). This transformation is a demonstration of how the Queer community has grown, recognizing and incorporating a wide variety of sexual orientations and gender identities, more than two of each. They have always existed, but now, in the name of inclusion and equality, we use language to create space for other identities that exist within an already marginalized group.

We all have roles in life that give us meaning and direction and we use labels to describe them. Labels such as Christian, spouse or disabled inform us about another person’s experience. Many of the labels we use are given to us and feel real. However, some do not accurately describe our most authentic selves, and we use labels to describe and honor who we really are and to communicate this.

The presence of labels creates community and connection, but more importantly, it creates validation for all people who have felt different from the identities that have been accepted or attributed to them. For some, this journey leads to the recognition that they do not want to use labels for themselves, but it is still a tool for identifying who they are not and practicing understanding and accepting others. This process can be confusing and filled with doubt and fear when you explore a world that you know may reject you. This label, knowing that there is a word to describe how you feel or who you are, is a message that you are not alone, you are not wrong or strange and there is always room for the real you, label or not.

Empowerment, which comes from recognition and validation, improves self-esteem and the way one interacts with the world. Confidence and support like this have been shown to reduce depression, anxiety, self-harm and overall symptoms that can disrupt a person’s daily functioning. When we do not respect and acknowledge who others are, we harm them. We tell them that the kind words that come out of my mouth are more important than them. When you face this on a daily basis, it is the trauma that breaks you down, which is why LGBTQIA + teens have some of the highest suicide rates. Our children feel so unloved that they begin to believe that non-existence is the best option and will no longer be a burden to others. But when you accept a person as he or she is, you are helping to improve his or her existence and the mental health of your community. You help people stay alive by letting them know that they are no better dead than in this society.

Acceptance does not always mean that you fully understand. This does not mean that you know all the definitions and vocabulary for each group. This does not mean that you have to be an expert or that you cannot make a mistake when communicating with people other than you. This does not change your labels or identity. Acceptance is just a demonstration of your values. This means that you do not assume or speculate on another person’s being, do not verify your identity by requesting evidence or explanations, and acknowledge that your approval is not necessary because your identity is a fact, not an opinion. Acceptance means that you value respect for your neighbor. Acceptance means that you value your child’s life and well-being more than the picture you have created of who they will be.

If you are exploring any part of your identity, know that self-discovery is not linear and can be a liberating adventure. You don’t run out of time because there is no age limit. You are allowed to change the language of how you identify while discovering new parts of yourself, and you can live authentically, regardless of understanding or accepting someone. Surrounding yourself with love and acceptance certainly makes life better and you are allowed to set boundaries with those who knowingly hurt you. Whether you are pansexual, non-binary, Christian or Native American, you must decide how to express any part of your identity. You do not need to earn the right to use a label. Most importantly, you are your own expert. No one will ever know you exactly, not the way you know yourself.

We have a lot of labels because humans are a variety of wonderful creatures that don’t have to be identical, we don’t have just one role, and we don’t have to have all the answers. The next time you do an adventure online, taking a test to see what your personality tastes like, remember that identity research can sometimes be much more difficult, and the only expectation from you is respect. Your kindness to yourself and others improves your mental health.

So, for the well-being of the children in your life, your neighbors, and your own mental health, reject judgment and rejection in order to practice acceptance and kindness.

Be proud of all your numerous labels and, if you have them, your Queer identification labels.

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