Charity Just Like Us finds that lesbians are more likely to be lonely on a daily basis in lockdown

BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE VIA ISTOCK

The latest research from LGBTQI young people’s charity, Just Like Us, has revealed that lesbians are more likely than other identities under the LGBTQI umbrella to report feelings of loneliness, as they have been separated from friends and family since the pandemic began. This research has shed light on the disparities that exist within the LGBTQI community and has showed how now more than ever, we need to stand with one another.

The figures reveal that a staggering 87% of young lesbians have felt lonely and separated from the people they’re closest to during the pandemic, with 60% reporting that they have felt this way daily. This is compared with significantly less figures of 46% for young gay men, 54% of young bisexual individuals and 52% of young transgender people. 

Just Like Us’ research also found that young lesbians are worrying significantly more about their mental health than young gay men. 61% of young lesbians worry about their mental health on a daily basis, compared to 40% of young gay men.

Bisexual (60%) and transgender (65%) young people are also significantly more likely to be worrying about the state of their mental health on a daily basis. 

Speaking exclusively to Amy Ashenden, Head of Communications and Media at Just Like Us, she told DIVA: “I am slightly surprised that young lesbians are struggling more than young people of other LGBT+ identities but I can also see why young lesbians are struggling so much. Growing up, lesbians face a lot of pressure to date boys, fit in and also conform to gender roles imposed on us. As lesbians we have to navigate both homophobia and sexism. For me, as a gender-non-conforming butch lesbian, that means regularly having to deal with men glaring at me in the street, often getting aggressive towards me and having ‘dirty dyke’ shouted at me in the street. There is also a huge lack of visible lesbian role models.”

Amy continued: “I also think the anti-trans hostility in the media and the way that it has sometimes pointed fingers at the lesbian community as if we’re all anti-trans has been deeply damaging for both trans and lesbian young people. I know for me and my lesbian friends, this is really frustrating and couldn’t be further from the truth – what the media often misunderstands is that trans people and lesbians actually have a lot in common, especially us lesbians who are more gender-non-conforming, and they forget that you can also be lesbian and trans of course.”

We asked Amy how she thinks we can move forward and have a positive impact on these figures. She told DIVA: “One way this can be done and is happening throughout lockdown, is through Just Like Us’ school talks. As a charity we send trained LGBT+ ambassadors into schools to talk about their experiences and it’s often the first time students will have heard from someone who is LGBT+ actually talking about what it’s like to be LGBT+. If a lesbian had spoken at my school about being a lesbian and said that you can be yourself and life will be OK, that would’ve made an incredible difference for me growing up.”

Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us, also commented: “We hope that this research will begin to shed light on the experiences of young lesbians, who are sadly the most likely group within the LGBT+ community to report feeling lonely and separated from the people they are closest to on a daily basis since the pandemic began.

“Our research has found that young people who are also eligible for free school meals, Black and/or transgender are also more likely to be struggling with mental health right now.

“The results show the importance of looking at the experiences of different identities within the LGBT+ umbrella separately, ensuring that we understand the different people within the acronym and how their identities might affect their experiences.

“At Just Like Us we know just how important it is that all LGBT+ young people hear from their schools and families that it is OK to be LGBT+. It’s important the pressures of this time are not passed on to schools who are already overburdened with work. At Just Like Us our role to support schools in sending positive messages to LGBT+ young people during this difficult time.”

Schools can sign up now to take part in School Diversity Week here – it’s free and you’ll receive a free toolkit of resources.

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