Many LGBTIQA+ young people face challenges living in culturally and linguistically diverse communities. Exploring issues of sexuality, gender and identity can be a difficult journey.
Different cultural groups may have different views on sexuality, and some young people might face stigma about exploring their sexuality and gender identity. In this situation, it may feel like you have to choose between your sexuality and gender identity, and your heritage, cultural background and beliefs.
It’s important to feel comfortable about how you want to identify your gender and sexuality. It’s also important to know that support is always available if you need help.
We explore why sexuality and gender is important in diverse communities, and what you can do to overcome obstacles within any cultural group.
Navigating faith and sexuality
Research suggests that many LGBTIQA+ people living in communities with religious beliefs face big obstacles in their communities. It can be hard to know what to do in this situation.
Often people don’t talk about the intersection of their faith and sexuality, so knowing how and where to get help is sometimes difficult. You could be feeling uncomfortable about expressing yourself, or experience homophobia and discrimination because of how you identify.
Everyone is going to have a different experience when it comes to exploring their sexuality and gender. It’s important to know that many people have found their communities accepting of their sexual and gender identities. While you may be anxious about how your community will react to your sexuality, you may be surprised.
On the other hand, it's also important to consider your safety when choosing who you might talk to about your identity. There's a possibility that your community won't understand or accept your gender and sexual identity, and this could put you in a difficult position. Consider if you've seen other people in your community come out, and how the community has responded. If you think there might be a risk of being harmed by having discussions about your gender or sexuality, you might like to talk anonymously with our eheadspace clinicians to get some advice.
If you’re unsure about how to handle your faith and sexuality, you should reach out to your trusted friends, family and support networks for help. You could even reach out to your local headspace centre to chat with someone about how to approach this.
Staying strong and resilient
Sexuality isn’t black and white – it’s a very broad spectrum that we all sit on. It’s hard to cope with tough feelings without getting the right support.
With many different views on sexuality in every community, you might find that some people express negative thoughts and opinions about it. If you find this happening, it’s important not to let yourself get too upset. Although it can be challenging facing negativity, stay strong within yourself and know that only you can truly understand your own sexuality. There will probably also be people who will share positive and uplifting views about gender and sexual diversity. Hold on to this support, and find people you are comfortable talking to about your challenges.
LGTBIQA+ discrimination affects many diverse communities. It can cause stress, loneliness and isolation. Because of this, some people may experience lower access to medical care, perhaps for fear of discrimination or being hurt. This can be really tough to cope with. You should seek support from people you trust – whether that be family members, friends or online support groups.
Inviting people to know the real you
Telling others about your sexuality and gender can be a complex and fluid process.
It might take time to tell others. That’s OK. Gradually build up your confidence and courage to do so. There's nothing wrong with going at your own pace; everyone's journey is different.
It’s important to feel safe when confiding in people about your sexuality. If you don’t feel comfortable expressing your true self to your family and community, it may help to have a trusted family member, teacher, friend or mentor on hand who can help you manage your community’s reaction.
Coming out and Inviting in
Coming Out, or as we like to frame it “Inviting In”, about your sexuality or gender identity is a different experience for everyone. For some it can be an easy and positive experience and for others it may not be.
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It can also help to have a strong support network independent of your family, so you have something to fall back on. Consider getting support through:
- Your school or work friends
- Support services offered by your school, TAFE, uni or work
- Online support groups.
Be aware that while sometimes family, friends or community might not be accepting at first, people can grow to understand how difficult this is for you, and get more onboard as time goes on. Either way, it’s important to be kind to yourself. Ensure you're taking care of yourself by eating well, getting enough sleep, doing things you enjoy and saying kind things to yourself.
Put the ‘pro’ in proactive
Everyone will have a different experience of their gender and sexuality within their communities. While some people may feel like their sexuality changes how their community accept them, others may find that it doesn’t affect their relationships at all. No two experiences are the same.
Being proactive about getting support is a great way to help you overcome negative emotions and feel supported. Who knows, one day you could be a great position to help other people.
Check out these resources to get you started:
If discussing your sexual preferences with your family and community becomes a bit too stressful, or you're feeling overwhelmed, you can always turn to a professional for helpful advice. They can also be useful to talk to if you're still getting comfortable with your sexuality and gender identity yourself. If you have a psychologist or social worker, you might want to get in touch with them for support. You could also contact your local headspace centre.