The LBGT journey

I have called this article the LBGT journey but, I am only going to discuss the LBG. I hope to return to gender and sex and how the world has a default of specific gender roles and binary sex that are social constructions but that topic needs a full article.

We are at a point in history where there is equal marriage. The journey to equal marriage has been exhausting, distressing, and painful for many people. It has also been exhilarating and full of many achievements over the years.

There are gay and bisexual men in their 60s and over that may have been imprisoned or risked imprisonment for who they are.

There are many men and women who were young when homosexuality was deemed to be a mental illness, or suffered raids from the police in social situations.

Later still and well into the 1990s gay and bisexual men and women feared losing jobs, homes, access to services. Gay bashing where gangs would wait outside pubs and clubs to attack gay men and women was still in full swing. There are young men and women who will have suffered physical assault just for being gay or bisexual. There are the many aspects of HIV. In the 1980s-1990s HIV brought so much fear and grief. The illness and grief is enough for anybody to contend with but people also have to endure extra social stigma. HIV came to the fore at the time of four television channels. Those channels included; government ‘public service’ advertisements about HIV featuring giant gravestones; public figures calling HIV a ‘gay plague’ and ‘punishment from God’.

That is the social context of the journey; there are also the various personal narratives. In the simplest terms the world is heterocentric which makes it difficult for a non-heterosexual child to grow up develop esteem, their identity and generally navigate the world. But the journey is far from simple, there are thousands of gay and bisexual men and women who were disowned by their families and never had contact again. For some that process involved physical assaults or visits to psychiatrists, aversion therapy, visits to Priests, Imams, Rabbis, and exorcisms.

Other gay and bisexual men and women hide their real selves because the judgement, the shame, the disapproval and disappointment of others is too much to take. There are the years of bullying people have experienced, at school, at home, being told over and over ‘you are perverted’, ‘immoral’, ‘unnatural’. For years this bullying was not addressed by society because gay and bisexual men and women were seen as less than. The coming out process is never ending because there is always an assumption of heterosexuality.

There is huge diversity in the LBGT population, crossing socio economic status, including every race, colour, religion, disability/ability, parents and non-parents. Not only does everybody have a different experience of their individual journey but some experience the double whammy of dual discrimination.

People will have experienced some of this journey, some more than others and all will have different reactions. It has been both a devastating and wonderful period for the LGBT population and in many places of the globe; it still is a devastating era with much still to fight for. It can leave effects of; low self-esteem, anxiety, attachment difficulties, sleep problems, loneliness, sadness, anger, rejection, isolation, bereavement and so many more effects. If you feel those things or other distressing feelings, there are people who will listen. Therapy can be used to explore any uncomfortable feelings and distress.

Now there is equal marriage everything is okay right?

Reaching the point of equal marriage was both surprising and wonderful. It does not wipe away the hurt that people have experienced. There are still challenges for gay and bisexual men and women. There will be some elderly people without families who may be bereaved, lonely, in need of support. There are people who might be accepted by their immediate family but because of wider religious or cultural issues that family is afraid of ‘shame’, ‘disapproval’ or ‘rejection’ by their community. There are the complications of living with a partner who is or is not out and the emotional results of that if the relationship breaks down or a partner dies. There are the differences in life stages. Lastly, but, not least there is the lack of a frame of reference.  

When gay men could be imprisoned there were some unwritten codes and ways of being, there were places to seek out arts, books, narrative. Now some of those nuances are not necessary but the predominant frame of reference is heterosexual. So, what are the ‘rules’ of relationships, dating, identity, being in the world, belonging in the world? In a context of equality how can you be different and accepted? There are no ‘rules’, it is up to you to explore what is a comfortable way of being for you. Equal marriage does not mean conforming to certain gender boxes and roles and it does not mean conforming to a socially constructed idea of relationships. It means you can you can explore who you are then be. You can be you. You can become the frame of reference. You can be you without fear of losing your liberty, your job and your rights. It means the LBGT journey has reached the mountaintop and is still going in a positive direction towards the next summit.

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Written by Jacqueline Karaca M.Sc. Hons Counselling Psych; MBACP Reg.

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