Where you feel you belong...

Recently, Compassionate Cuppa attended an input regarding some of the issues that people who identify as LGBTQ. People in this group are disproportionately more likely to experience mental health challenges such as body dysphoria, anxiety and depression; also are more vulnerable to victimisation, self-harm and social isolation. Therefore, we show solidarity and compassion towards people who identify themselves as being LGBTQ. We discuss a little bit here about why this matters.

Our gender identity is a social construct – if we identify as male or female and this matches our biological sex (usually defined as XY or XX), that's great. However, what if there's a difference between our gender identity – how we express ourselves and our biology? The same goes for sexual orientation, what happens if your preference is anything other than heterosexual? If you are LGBTQ, some of your challenges go far beyond whether you decide to 'Come Out', which in itself can be a very difficult thing to do.

Gender stereotypes are deeply ingrained in society – starting even before birth as people are always curious to know if their expectant friend/family is having 'a boy or girl'. Often, we conform to stereotypes without being aware of them at play. Areas such as changing rooms and toilets are often split by their gender. This can act as a barrier to those not identifying as men or women, perpetuating the sense of exclusion to those in the LGBTQ group.

The sense of feeling 'different' can lead to further feelings of exclusion and shame. This is more so if you are not aware of anyone else that identifies in a similar way or who can understand your experience. We are all social beings, what connects us is the need to fit in or that we belong. If we are continually excluded in situations or that our needs/preferences don't matter it will adversely impact upon our wellbeing.

It's not to say that we should never make references to women or men in society. However, we need to be mindful of the language we use when we speak, particularly if we are seeking to include everybody. Diversity and inclusion is about the acceptance of all groups; every person is entitled to feel safe, has value and that they belong. We might express love and kindness in different ways – love is love and that connects us all.

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