How to Take Care of Yourself When Your Identity Is Not Supported
By Amber Leventry
We live in a society where the assumption is that most people are cisgender (their gender identity matches their sex assigned at birth) and straight (they’re attracted to people of a different gender). That comes from a narrow cultural view on gender and sexuality, and when people come out as something other than what is considered the norm, there can be judgment and stigma.
Even if you aren’t out yet, you may still feel rejected because you don’t see acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ people around you. There are many allies who advocate for queer communities, but there are also many people who are not supportive and some who are hostile. These people may be family members, teachers, or strangers you will never meet but see on the news.
It’s important to remember that there is no such thing as “normal.” People will try to justify their bigotry, fear, and discrimination, but know that you deserve to feel loved and accepted for who you are.
If you are out to your family and you are not physically safe or have been kicked out of your home because of your identity, know that there are people who want to help. Start by telling a supportive friend, teacher, or coach. Work with them or by yourself to find safe shelter by calling a local Pride center or a space that offers temporary housing.
The Covenant House helps LGBTQIA+ folks find affirming shelter as well, and The Trevor Project can offer help through its lifeline. The organization also offers links to other shelters on its website.
Head to a library to use a computer and Wi-Fi if you don’t have a way to access the internet.
Here are other ways to take care of yourself when your identity isn’t supported.
Positive self-talk may sound cheesy, but it works! Instead of letting negative thoughts take over, focus on the things that make you strong and amazing. Make a list of coping skills you’ve used to get through hard times, such as journaling, exercising, reading, or taking a walk with a friend. Include anything you have control over that you know makes you happy. When you recognize your strengths, it can help remind you that you have the tools to get through anything. This isn’t about toxic positivity when others aren’t supporting you, this is about reminding yourself of your grit.
If you are out to family members and not feeling the support you want and need, it’s OK to set boundaries. Safety is always a priority, so if you don’t feel emotionally or physically safe around someone, don’t spend time with them if that is an option. If you have parents you can talk to about this, explain how extended family members or people in your community spaces make you feel and ask how you can limit your time with them. You may have to find a compromise, but it’s a step toward creating safer spaces for yourself.
Finding people who support you and will advocate for you is one of the most important things you can do. Online spaces, school GSAs, Pride centers, or a supportive teacher or coach are all great places to find joy and solidarity. People in your community often become a chosen family and remind you that you are loved.
Being of service can do a lot of good for your mental health. Whether it’s volunteering, helping a friend, or getting involved in local LGBTQIA+ groups, giving your time can give you a sense of control and purpose. It’s also a way to find friends and connect with other LGBTQIA+ community members who support you.
If you become active in LGBTQIA+ advocacy, be sure to do it with your safety in mind. Standing up for yourself and pushing for change isn’t inherently dangerous, but it’s good to have a plan if you find yourself at a rally or other event where you end up in physical danger.
You are not alone. It hurts when people aren’t supportive of who you are and how you express yourself, but there are other people who have felt how you do and they want to support you and hear your story. You can contact The Trevor Project, a leading national organization providing crisis intervention services for LGBTQIA+ youth, by texting START to 678-678 or calling 1-866-488-7386.
It can be challenging and exhausting to identify as LGBTQIA+ because of homophobia and transphobia. Not feeling supported and feeling pressured to be someone you’re not can take a toll on your mental health. You don’t need to be out to feel that strain. Wherever you are on your journey is valid. Remind yourself that you are perfectly you and surround yourself with people who will tell you that too.