Our sexuality and gender can form a big part of our identity and those who don’t fit society’s heteronormative ideal (assuming that everyone identifies as straight) can bring challenges. Research has found that LGBTQIA+ individuals are at higher mental health risks than the mainstream population due to experiences of discrimination. Although Irish society is thankfully changing for the better, LGBTQIA+ people can still be regarded as “different” to the norm (whatever the norm is!).
Our mental health and wellness is an important part of us. Yet negative life experiences (e.g. homophobia, biphobia, transphobia) can be extremely challenging and the impact of this stress can affect our psychological well-being. Yet in spite of the evolvement of Irish society in the last number of years, LGBTQIA+ individuals continue to experience varying levels of prejudice. Experiences such as “coming out” can often be harrowing for some, with anxiety and fears around rejection, hostile attitudes, harassment and bullying in different parts of our life.
Internalised homophobia refers to negative stereotypes, beliefs, stigma, and prejudice about being lesbian or gay and when a lesbian or gay person turns inward on themselves. Experiences, such as prejudice, expectations of rejection, and hiding our true self may be internalised from as far back as childhood or school experiences. Stressors such as homophobia or sexual stigma that may arise from society require an individual to adapt but also cause significant stress, which ultimately affects our physical and mental health outcomes.