Sometimes we’re not so glad to be gay

Just over a year ago now the Office of National Statistics published it’s report stating that people who identify as lesbian, gay and bisexual rate the quality of their life lower than the UK average (ie, lower than their straight counterparts, see ONS link – the data does not include trans people).

 

So what does this actually mean?

 

It means that many lesbian, gay and bisexual people are dissatisfied, unhappy and feel their life is less worthwhile, or at least struggle with these thoughts on a regular basis. Many lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience high levels of anxiety, and all the related stresses that accompany this.

 

The most worrying factor is that this lower level of well-being is itself a downward shift compared to the ONS 2015 data (ie, we are feeling worse as time progresses, not better).

Why is this?

 

Lots of different reasons abound. Stonewall have found that 20% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people experience verbal bullying in the workplace, while 25% do not feel safe enough to be open about their sexual orientation.

 

Discrimination and harassment, not just in relation to employment, but in all aspects of life, has been attributed to impacting negatively on our mental health, see for instance the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control notes that LGBT youth are four times more likely to commit suicide that heterosexual youths, due to mental health related issues.

 

Many surveys have noted a correlation between mental health, bullying and harassment, and the rise in hate crime. In 2016 there were 7,194 sexual orientation hate crimes recorded by the Home Office. However, it has long been recognised this data is flawed due to significant under-reporting. The true figure is more likely to be not far off 30,000.

 

Fear is a great driver of anxiety.

These are issues that need to be addressed legally, culturally and collectively.

 

But what can we do, individually, to help ourselves?

 

  • The first step, whether we are looking to address general feelings of anxiety, or specific areas we are dissatisfied or unhappy with in our life, or our levels of confidence, self-esteem and self-worth, is to raise our own self-awareness.

 

Who are we? What are our motivators? What is our attitude to life? And how do these translate to our behaviours (and our habits of doing).

 

  • The second step, is to shift our thinking from overly emotional or overly rational, both of which can lead to heightened anxiety or stress, to what is referred to as a state of discernment. This is connected to the notion, where your focus is your energy goes (see my related article How to grow in confidence)

 

This connects well to the root of mindfulness; How am I feeling? What am I thinking? Where the intention is not to eliminate all thought, but to manage our thoughts and emotions for better self-control.

 

  • And third, disassociating from the problem and our past actions to envisaging the future based on the truth of who we are. This is a form of value elicitation. What am I committed to being? Who am I committed to being?

 

This frees us up to taking responsibility. Through responsibility comes empowerment, where we are then able to chose how we respond. This connects to the idea of ‘our sphere of influence’, where we focus on the factors within our control. We are less likely then to be anxious or stressed by those aspects we are not able to influence or control.

 

  • Finally, this allows us to better connect with other like minded people, where we can more easily embrace change. This is often called the transition stage. The in-between; between the present and the next stage in your life.

 

Bringing it all together

 

The steps above will by no means address the ongoing issues around bullying, harassment and discrimination that many lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people experience daily. But they will help you in how you respond, and so manage your life in a way that will enhance your sense of well-being and the quality of your life.

 

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