LGBT+ History Month 'Body, Mind, Spirit' - Mind
February 10, 2021
Mind, well, where do we start with this topic? There is so much we could look into. I'm choosing to focus on one aspect of this in this post - mental health. So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce myself and my reason for becoming an active member of the Auto Trader LGBT+ Network. I'll share a little bit about me whilst finishing on what we can do in the future.
Hi. I'm Declan (he/him), one of our LGBT+ Network facilitators here at Auto Trader. I joined the Network in 2018 to help steer the direction in which I wanted our community to be supported, represented and most importantly, recognised. I think it goes without saying that everyone in life has struggles. Throw into the mix the fear of being rejected by family, friends and loved ones by simply just expressing who you are, and you then arrive at our doorstep. Sadly, the LGBT+ community still faces this kind of rejection, hatred, bigotry and ridicule on an all too often occurrence. This is one of the many reasons why we still to this day celebrate Pride, but also why Pride is such an important event the world over!
I think growing up and finding who I was as an adult and an LGBT+ person was a bit of a struggle - not because I wasn't accepted or welcomed by my family and friends, but because of society. The pressures of societal norms. Hearing what my friends had faced themselves. Hearing such things as "Is it not just a phase?" or "are you old enough to know what you want?" Along with just trying to fit in and not stand out too much as a teenager. I suppose you could say I was one of the fortunate ones to have been surrounded by a very accepting set of family and friends. As I said, it wasn't always easy. I've been subjected to homophobic abuse, physically beaten, judged and mistreated just for being me.
When we look at some of the other issues we face, it does beg the question - is it any wonder why LGBT+ people face worse mental health problems than their Heterosexual peers and wider society? To put this into context, in 2018 Stonewall and MIND found that 52% of LGBT people said that they had experienced depression in the last year. Whilst 67% of trans people have experienced depression in the same year. Whereas Anxiety and depression in the general population roughly sit at one in six adults of 16.6% in any given week.
In the UK, Anti-Gay & Lesbian hate crimes more than doubled from 2013 to 2018, hate crime against our Trans friends and family has trebled since 2013/14. There are many reasons that this may be the case. People may feel more empowered to report on the crime, or the wider availability/usage of smartphones makes it easier to record/report. That being said, at the root of this is that the numbers are still rising.
Whilst we've come a long way, it's always worthwhile reflecting on the journey we've made and how we got here. For example, were you aware that Alan Turing, a pioneer of the modern computer, was also part of the LGBT+ community? Sadly, less than 70 years ago, it was illegal to be gay during Alan's life, and he was chemically castrated for this. He also took his own life at the very young age of just 41! Amid a couple of worrying conspiracies surrounding his death, it still shows just how poorly LGBT+ people were treated and regarded.
There is a beautiful memorial to Alan in the gardens on Canal Street, one of many memorials I must note throughout the Great City of Manchester. This past year has been one of the hardest for many in recent years, and I think we can all appreciate just how hard it may be for those who don't have a safe space at home or can't be their true authentic selves. So many people from Manchester and beyond see Canal Street as a safe haven, whether it be for food and drinks with friends, the gardens as a place to meet up, the LGBT+ foundation who offer a multitude of services to the community or simply an area of the city with so much history and heritage as an almost homage to their past. For many having it closed this past year has almost been like losing part of our sense of belonging and connection to others, it offers a sense of security and acceptance to all.
I've taken a vow to make sure I stand up and reach out when I'm struggling, to be more visible for those who could find strength in seeing others going through similar situations, thoughts or feelings. I myself am a very sociable person, so losing this connection to the outside world has taken its toll, and I'm trying to make sure I keep my connections with others. We are not alone in this, and if you are struggling, please do reach out to someone!
I think we can all agree we need to be kinder to one another and spread love throughout this world. I encourage you - if you really want to help the LGBT+ community this history month and forever onwards, simply be an 'Active Ally'; call out unwanted behaviours, attitudes and comments. Show individuals, they have a safe place in you and that you can help share their burden until they are ready to share it with more people.