Sexual identity and sexual orientation are part of what makes us who we are. Sexual orientation refers to your sexual preference for people of the same or opposite sex. On the other hand, we can define sexual identity as the label that you might adopt to signify to others, who you are as a sexual being. Commonly, LGBT+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The "+" ensures that we will always be inclusive of all identities, to make this particular community feel welcomed and that nobody is left out.
What life can throw at us
Most people know they are LGBT+ for some time before they decide tell others. This can be a challenging experience, but equally a rewarding one. Read more on "coming out" here.
Bullying or harassment
Some people will experience bullying. Anyone can be bullied but LGBT+ people can also experience homophobic/transphobic bullying or harassment. It can happen anywhere, such as the classroom, the workplace, sporting field or the home. Being a victim of bullying may lead you to feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable. Bullying and harassment can cause physical, mental and social pain and can make you feel alone, scared, angry, confused or sad. All of these can affect your mental health. If you experience bullying or harassment, talk to someone about it, whether it’s a colleague, counsellor, family member, friend or your doctor.
Losing a loved one
At some point in our lives we all experience the pain of losing someone we love through death. Bereavement can have a serious impact on your health. When someone dies, you enter the process of grieving. There is no right or wrong way to grieve and you can experience a wide range of emotions as you come to terms with someone’s death. Normal feelings include being stunned at the loss, sadness or depression, longing for the person who has died, anger towards yourself or others, regret over a last encounter or regret that something was left unsaid. All of this can be part of the grieving process. Eventually, the shock of bereavement and the strength of your feelings should begin to fade, but it does take time to go through this process and it may affect your mental health.
When an LGBT+ person loses their partner they may not get the same reaction or support that a heterosexual person gets when they lose their spouse or partner. People may fail to appreciate what your partner meant to you and the love you had for each other. Experiences like this can make grieving all the more difficult for LGBT+ people.
Sometimes relationships can be a source of pressure for people, pressure to be someone you’re not or to do things you’re unsure about. This can put a strain on your mental health. Developing a new relationship can also make it difficult for you to find enough time for your friends and family. When you begin a relationship with a new partner, it is important to keep working on your existing friendships and family relationships as well as your new relationship.
Relationship break-up can also have a powerful impact on your mental health, bringing a range of emotions, such as uncertainty for the future, anger, sadness, loneliness and isolation, and often a sense of failure. Relationship break-up can be more difficult if you are a parent as you also have to deal with the impact on your children. It can be difficult to adjust to new circumstances and this can affect your mental health. It is important to get support to help you through this difficult time.
Lack of support from family or friends
Some LGBT+ people can experience a lack of support from family and friends. This may happen when someone first comes out, when they get into a relationship, start a family or when a relationship ends. This can manifest in any number of ways and can be hurtful, and even detrimental to your mental health. Sometimes families, in particular parents, may not know how to adequately support LGBT+ family members and may need some support themselves. Information and support is available for LGBT+ people and their parents from a wide variety of organisations.
Supports for LGBT+ people and family
- LGBT Helpline - 1890 929 539
The LGBT Helpline is a non-judgmental and confidential service providing listening, support and information to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people, their family and friends, and to those who are questioning if they might be LGBT+. In addition, they facilitate instant support messaging and peer support groups around the country.
- Young people
BeLonGTo Youth Services provide a wide variety of nationwide supports, groups and information for young LGBT+ people and their parents.
- Transgender support
The Transgender Equality Network Ireland provides lots of helpful information and support for transgender people. They seek to improve the conditions and advance the rights and equality of trans people and their families.
- General Information
There are very helpful libraries of information, personal stories and good advice for LGBT+ people and their families, available on Reachout.com and Spunout.ie.