Being Gay Should Mean Happy
Like being on the receiving side of racism and sexism, homophobia is a painful prejudice to experience. To be abused or alienated in a society will have an adverse effect on your mental health. How can it not? It attacks who you fundamentally are. Just imagine the devastating effect of coming out to your family as Gay, Bisexual or Transgender and have them utterly reject you. You think: am I really that terrible, that unlovable, that my own parents hate me because of the gender of the person I love? So it is as no surprise that there are studies where it is recounted anywhere between 20-50% of LGBT people attempt suicide.
Each form of discrimination or prejudice has its own shape, and homophobia is unique in that prejudice can come from your own family, and in that way it can be even more devastating. I have only been rejected by half my family, but some people have lost all.
It is hard also to be young and gay, especially if you don’t have gay role models to help you through teenage landmarks that their straight counterparts take for granted like first crush, first kiss, first date, first sex, and so on. As non-straight people this is how we experience life. Shame is part of the conditioning of a gay person, and it takes a long time to find yourself and accept yourself as equal in a world that keeps telling you: you are not. Thankfully, in some sectors of society, that is slowly changing for the better.
I have had several horrible experiences at the hand of mental health services, and one of them relates to my sexuality.
When I told my care coordinator at time I was going to kill myself over a relationship breakup, she referred me to the Home Treatment Team, who came to visit my home for an assessment.
Two men from the local Home Treatment Team knocked on my door and began by telling me that Home Treatment was for very ill people and that I did not fit the bill ‘because my personal hygiene was good and my shoes were clean(!)’ They continued to make basic false assumptions about mental health like that. They were telling me I was not suicidal when in fact I was. They said this because I wasn’t crying. They didn’t let me talk and I didn’t want to confide anyway because you could see there was no way I could tell them anything. They had their minds already made up. They had an aggressive swagger about them, which scared me. I could just imagine them holding me down in my own home to inject medication into me. I was an old hand in the psychiatric game but their behaviour shocked even me. If I had been just in the first phases of mental distress and suicidalness and was hoping that the medical services could save me, and had what I just experienced as their first contact with mental health services, I would have waited till they left and committed suicide. But the best was still to come. I told them that I couldn’t sleep and that I had just split up with my partner and it was very painful. One of them perked up and said, “Well, kill two birds with one stone and read Mills & Boon at bedtime and you’ll be fine.”
The hole the relationship break-up had left me with was shattering; I wanted to die and for him to be as blasé as that, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. What scared me was that I was totally vulnerable and they couldn’t see that. Then he kept referring to my partner as he/him when I said it was a her. “You’re better off with a man anyway,” said one of them to me.
Funnily enough, their 'home treatment' didn't help and I ended up in hospital the very next day.