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The Life: LGBT

Recently, my home state proposed a bill that would have banned conversion therapy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Although the bill didn't pass, it created greater awareness for how damaging conversion therapy can be to a person's mental health, especially for teenagers. So many young queer people are coerced into therapy that they believe will "cure" them of something that wasn't harming them to begin with. And because people's gender identity or sexual orientation is such an inherent part of who they are, conversion therapy can lead to serious mental health issues and perpetuate gay discrimination.
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend about her relative who has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). She was worried for her relative because he told her that part of his OCD involved worrying that he was gay. Until then, she'd never heard that rumination about your own sexuality could be an OCD symptom and felt like her relative was probably just part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
I believe in the importance of self-care, especially for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. But I wasn't always this way. In fact, until this past year, I'd heard about the self-care movement but dismissed it as "narcissistic" or "selfish." I also thought that I didn't deserve to take care of myself when I could spend that time helping others.
Since I'm openly transgender, I sometimes get comments that my identity is a mental illness because "gender dysphoria" is in the DSM-5, the official diagnostic tool for psychiatric disorders. To me, this reflects a misunderstanding about what gender dysphoria is and how it's treated. While most trans people experience dysphoria, especially before transitioning, not all trans people do for their whole life. For that reason, it's possible for someone to be transgender but not have gender dysphoria.
Last week I went to my two-year checkup for hormone replacement therapy, a medication I take because I am transgender, to align my body with my gender identity. I visit my doctor every six months to make sure my testosterone levels are in the healthy range for a man and that my mental and physical health are okay, too. The past two years have gone by so fast that it's hard for me to believe I've been on hormone medication for so long. It feels like just yesterday that I decided to seek help for my gender dysphoria, or the distress I felt because my biological sex and gender identity didn't align. Since my appointment, I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be transgender and how complex gender really is.
Finding love as a transgender (trans) person is difficult. After recently leaving a long-term relationship, I've found myself back on the dating scene. Finding a romantic partner as a trans man isn't easy. Even the most affirming cisgender (a person whose gender conforms with his or her birth sex) people can have reservations about dating someone who's transgender. I don't blame people who aren't comfortable dating a trans person. Physical attraction is an important part of a healthy relationship and, if someone isn't attracted to my body, I understand that. But I also think it's important to recognize and eradicate transphobia in the dating scene to make finding a partner safe for everybody.
My name is Andy Winder, and I’m excited to blog for "The Life: LGBT Mental Health" here at HealthyPlace. It means a lot to share my experiences as a queer, transgender man with mental illnesses obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and social anxiety disorder. Everyone has a story, and I believe that as we share our triumphs and challenges in life, we can learn from one another and feel less alone.
The decision to come out as queer may affect your mental health and is a very difficult and emotional decision. There are many people who do not have the chance to come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) because of discrimination and potential violence. Many young LGBTQ people run the risk of getting kicked out by their parents. When a person is safe and comfortable to come out as queer, though, the results can be extremely positive and can even improve his or her mental health.
Alcohol abuse while being queer can bring with it specific challenges. Unfortunately, for many people who are part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) community, alcohol abuse is a very common and serious problem. Many LGBTQ individuals rely on alcohol to deal with the stigma and mental illnesses they face. Here are some tips on how to get help if you identify as queer and abuse alcohol.
Dealing with self-harm while being queer can be challenging. For many people with depression and anxiety, the only way out of the pain is through self-harm. This is especially true for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). The connection between people who identify as LGBTQ and who self harm is alarming, but not surprising. When we are surrounded by a society that is not LGBTQ-friendly, it is easy to see why so many queer people choose to escape the emotional torment through self-harm. Here are some tips on dealing with self-harm when you're queer.