“It is yet another reminder of why events such as Lesbian Visibility Week are needed for our young people who are still so clearly struggling for equality in every aspect of their lives”
BY HARRIET ARGENT, IMAGE BY JOICE KELLY FOR UNSPLASH
Young lesbians are the most likely in the LGBTQI community to experience tension at home, according to new independent research by the young people’s charity Just Like Us.
The research, released this week, shows 61% of young lesbians are experiencing tension, such as arguments with family members, on a weekly basis compared to 54% of LGBTQI young people generally and just 37% of non-LGBTQI young people.
In addition, the research found young lesbians were more likely to report feelings of loneliness and separation from the people they were closest to on a daily basis since the pandemic began, with 87% reporting this and a further 78% saying their mental health had got worse through lockdown.
Young LGBTQI people who are Black are also more likely to face tension at home, with 58% reporting this, compared to 54% of white counterparts.
Amy Ashenden, Head of Communication and Media at Just Like Us, said it was sad to see that not enough has changed for LGBTQI young people.
“It may be 2021, but there are still huge challenges for young lesbians,” she said. “Those challenges might look like not living up to your family or society’s expectations of how you look or express your gender, or not being able to live up to the pressure to date and take interest in boys.
“Even the word lesbian is still taboo. I often see people’s awkwardness in using the word, which is a real shame, and it takes a lot of unpicking that shame projected onto us to finally accept ourselves.”
A mental health crisis
The research by Just Like Us also found young LGBTQI people were twice as likely to experience depression, anxiety disorders and panic attacks than non-LGBTQI young people.
Depression rates, in particular, were the highest among young lesbians and young trans people, who are three times more likely than non-LGBTQI people to experience this condition.
The research also found that more than a third of gay people and half of bisexual people reported having depression, with bisexual girls being more likely to have the condition than bisexual boys.
This was also the case with anxiety disorders as bisexual (56%), lesbian (55%) and transgender (55%) young people were more likely to report having it, with, again, bisexual girls significantly more likely to have the disorder than bisexual boys.
The number of Black LGBTQI young people experiencing panic attacks and depression was also higher than it was for their white counterparts, and the same goes for disabled LGBTQI young people with their able-bodied counterparts.
Up to the education system
When asked what action needed to be taken in light of these shocking figures, Amy said change and progression will only come if the education system gets on board.
“We need education to be inclusive if the future is going to look more positive for LGBT+ young people’s mental health. Of course the pandemic has been tough for everyone but young people who are LGBT+ are disproportionately struggling and are twice as likely to be feeling lonely and worrying daily about their mental health.”
She also said the charity is urging primary schools, secondary schools and colleges to sign up and take part in School Diversity Week to demonstrate to their LGBTQI pupils they are safe and belong in school.
The charity’s research, of over 2,900 secondary school pupils, comes just weeks after AKT’s LGBTQI youth homelessness report, and restates the desperate need for change in the way we handle and address the mental wellbeing of LGBTQI young people as well as minority groups within our community.
It is yet another reminder of why events such as Lesbian Visibility Week are needed for our young people who are still so clearly struggling for equality in every aspect of their lives.
School Diversity Week is the annual celebration of LGBTQI+ equality in education run by Just Like Us, happening 21–25 June – sign up for free at www.justlikeus.org to take part.
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