In the third part of our series on LGBTQ themes, our research/interviews revealed to us that there are extra layers of stress for LGBTQ students compared to their non-LGBTQ peers.
Growing up as a teen in today’s fast paced culture is hard enough as it is. To compound those struggles with stressors related directly to being an individual that identifies as LGBTQ can be overwhelming. So what are “normal stressors” all you are at risk for experiencing? Let’s take a quick look:
- puberty/physical changes/body image issues
- peer comparison
- performance anxiety (school, athletics, roles at home, church, etc.)
- pressures to engage in high-risk behaviors, such as; drug use, drinking, and sexual activity
- academic stressors/college prep/career planning
- family life/expectations (child care of younger siblings, household chores, etc.)
- challenges related to managing emotions
- onslaught of negative messages (self/family, peers, media, culture) and filtering them
Now let’s take a look at specific stressors identified by LGBTQ teens related to being LGBTQ:
- internal/external homophobia
- social isolation/alienation/minority stress
- academic struggles due to not feeling safe at school
- higher risk of depression, self harm,, substance abuse, and suicide
- fear of or actual rejection from family and friends
- misconceptions by public related to what it means to be LGBTQ
- pressure (internal or external) to suppress sexual identity/gender identity
- incongruent identity
- intersections, such as; disability, race, gender, gender norms, religious background/beliefs
These lists are probably incomplete but it gives you a clearer picture of what the average LGBTQ student is likely to deal with on any given day. High levels of relentless stress contribute to feeling hopeless and helpless, which is a precursor to suicidal ideation. This alone sets apart LGBTQ youth from their non-LGBTQ peers. This also contributes directly to further alienation and isolation. Regardless of your faith tradition and its respective doctrine about the issue of homosexuality, this kind of collateral damage to God’s beloved children cannot be acceptable to anyone calling themselves followers in the way of Jesus.
So, what might be a better way of engagement?