How Privilege Impacts Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community

clock 7 Min Read

Brencia Daphne

June 30,2021

Global support and the amplified demand of Equal Rights have significantly made an impact in the LGBTQ+ Community in most parts of the world. But how does ‘privilege’ play a role in mental health?

In the age of acceptance and equal rights, support for the LGBTQ+ Community grows invariably. Quite a time to be alive! However, there are still a lot of people who face the negative consequences of ‘privileges’ that they are not bestowed with. ‘Humanity’ continues to make large and noticeable impacts and definite progress, but not enough to assure the protection of all our fellow humans. As we continue to raise awareness on the importance of human rights, some aspects should be evaluated, particularly its impact on mental health.

Privilege, as described by the dictionary is “a special benefit that is available only to a particular person or group”. It also refers to protection or advantages that are not acquired through fair means, concentrated within a certain social group. Au contraire to the imagined “free and fair society”, “oppression” is what the disprivileged social groups are facing even to this day as a direct consequence of ‘privileges’. Individuals who face oppression are often treated unfairly or unequally in comparison to a privileged social group, the reason being - differences that exist between social groups. As they stem from a history of inequality, they consequently create an imbalance of powers, putting individuals who are oppressed at risk of developing or experiencing several issues.

Privilege can be found both, out of and within the LGBTQ community. ‘Privilege outside the community’ refers to a special right or an advantageous status that is granted to a person or a group. When it comes to ‘privilege within the community’, there are terms such as ‘Intersectionality’ which are used. Intersectionality refers to the privilege and oppression that takes place between social groups (minor and major ones) within the LGBTQ community. It shows us that even within the community, differences such as race, class, socioeconomic standing, and religion can play a role in how individuals are treated. So, while we are fighting against the negativity brought about by privilege towards the community, we must also consider what goes on within the community.

In a world that aims to passionately embrace human beings just as they are, (their race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, and beliefs,) we could very well revel in the vision of a non-judgemental, non-stigmatising world to come. But the idea is irksome, that even though we have raised enough awareness and our fellow ambassadors have set examples of supporting equal rights and love, the lingering consequences of the ugly side of privilege still exist, like shadows lurking in the dark.

Why is this relevant to know when it comes to Mental Health?

Mental health can be easily influenced by our experiences in life. This means that every single human being’s mental health matters. We strive to find ways to improve ourselves, to live fulfilling lives. It is admirable to acknowledge that while becoming all-embracing, tolerant and affable humans, it falls upon each one of us that we make sure that every single individual feels loved and supported, regardless of our differences. Setting aside any notions of privilege and the existence of minority communities, we believe that it takes more than encouraging people to love and treat each other equally to ultimately rid the world of any sort of mentally and emotionally challenging circumstances.

When it comes to the LGBTQ community, we are aware that individuals face multiple mental and emotional dilemmas, some of which tend to have adverse effects on their overall well-being. Studies have shown us the impact that privilege can have on mental health - bringing with it discrimination, social isolation, intimidation, rejection, and legal injustice. Additionally, when it comes to oppression, individuals can be put into stressful situations, which affects their mental growth and peace. Living in a world that is dominantly heterosexual, our gay, lesbian, bi, transgender, queer, cisgender frineds could still feel uncertain about our sense of belonging and security within society. It takes more than just kind words and ‘call to action’ social media posts by influencers, to truly help them know that they belong and are loved. They are just as human as we are. Social stress, stigma, discrimination, and privileged rights all could lead to a vast number of mental health concerns. We've all come across articles, newsletters, books, films, television shows, and documentaries about mental health and its importance; the most prevalent ideas discussed in many of them are the terms love and care.

Every single creature; human beings, animals, plants, and anything that has a breath, deserves to be loved. So when we hold up banners and initiate mental health campaigns, who do we do these for? Everybody! It is good to look out for each other’s mental health and well-being, no matter who you are. That is the kind of peaceful world we aim for. To be there for each other; to embrace each other.

What we can learn from privilege and its effects on mental health.

Now that we have talked about the reasons why we have to be aware of the effects privilege can have on mental health, let’s break down a few of its aspects, hopefully guiding us towards a better understanding of the matter.

  • Discrimination and prejudice are widely acknowledged to have a significant impact on the mental health and well-being of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. When humans are exposed to stressful psychological experiences, they may develop disorders such as depression and anxiety.
  • Discrimination occurs when a person who is privileged in society and is not a member of a minority social group feels that people who are different from them (for example, in terms of sexuality or gender identity) is being singled out or treated differently. Oftentimes, this is harshly disappointing for those who experience this sort of treatment. Especially stigmatised LGBTQ communities; they might feel intimidated, devalued, or unwelcomed by those who feel differently about them. Stigma refers to the treatment and perception that others have on minor social groups, or groups that seem different from the norm, as a part of discrimination.
  • Studies have shown that Discrimination can have adverse effects on mental health, leading to poor well-being outcomes, and an overall poorer quality of life. While efforts to eliminate it are on the rise, discrimination's impact on mental health must be addressed both within organisations and across societies. The reason being, such demotivating and belittling effects can be a lot to bear, preventing individuals from living peaceful lives, no matter how much they yearn for it; especially among the minority who are pressured to “fit in”.

Anxiety and Depression are challenging and debilitating to deal with on their own; but when paired with continuous discrimination, directly or indirectly, they can beextremely taxing. It is scary enough, living in a world that once looked down upon differences. Wouldn't it be better if we could put aside our differences and treat each other equally, putting into practice what we preach and teach?

Privilege still plays a role in mental health. It is understandable that in an extensively and predominately heterosexual world, larger social communities may have an advantage when it comes to certain rights. It is both tragic and alarming to see how differences between societies can mentally undermine one and lift another. However, just because it exists, it does not give one leeway to hate or exclude a human being, internally or externally, judging them according to their opinion of what is acceptable and what is not, no matter how firm these beliefs are.

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”

– Article I of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Written by Brencia Daphnie for Heart It Out

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