A peek inside the headspace

Written by nervousprincesstragedy

Being LGBTQ+ comes along with its fair share of struggles, irrespective of which part of the globe you live in or how progressive your native country is deemed to be. Although experiences may vary among people, almost everyone who identifies as LGBTQ+ has dealt with a lot of inner-conflict while figuring out their identity and learning to accept themselves as a part of this heteronormative, if not explicitly homophobic society. This journey gets even more monumental in a country like Bangladesh where one cannot even utter the word ‘sex’ without feeling weird about it.

Contrary to what some people may make you want to believe, being LGBTQ+ is not a mental illness and it’s a well-established fact. However, the lack of societal acceptance, which leads to lots of other discrimination and toxicity hurled at queer individuals, takes a huge toll on the mental health of the people of the LGBTQ+ community all over the world. Even in developed countries where people are more accepting of different sexual orientations and gender identities, LGBTQ+ folks struggle with different mental health issues owing to their identity. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)’s public online data analysis system, over 39% of the people in the U.S. who identify themselves as LGBTQ+, reported having a mental illness in a particular year (“LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health”, n.d.). By pooling data from 12 population health surveys based in the UK, it was shown that adults identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and ‘other’ (non-heterosexual) were around twice as likely to report symptoms corresponding to poor mental health (i.e. anxiety, depression) than heterosexual adults (Semlyen et al., 2016). Needless to say, the situation is far worse in a country like Bangladesh where the LGBTQ+ community is heavily stigmatized and has to live in the fear of being persecuted. 

In an online survey that was anonymously conducted among people from the LGBTQ+ community of Bangladesh, 91.7% of the respondents admitted that they are dealing with some sort of mental health problems and the rest of the respondents were unsure about their mental health condition. 58.3% of respondents feel that their mental health struggles are somehow related to their LGBTQ+ identity and 33.3% of respondents feel that their identity may be one of the reasons behind the struggles pertinent to their mental health.

Most of the respondents admitted that the lack of acceptance in society (75%) and the pressure received from their surroundings to act a certain way (41.7%), bothered them the most when it comes to their LGBTQ+ identity in Bangladesh. Other major reasons include but are not limited to: family pressure (33.3%), unwelcoming behavior from school and/or workplace (25%), and religious belief (24.1%).

Some of the respondents have shared their feelings about being LGBTQ+ in Bangladesh. Here’s what they have to say, 

It goes without saying that belonging to a marginalized community that is subjected to mocking, bullying, physical and mental abuse, and sometimes even violent attacks only for expressing themselves, would definitely take a toll on someone’s mental well-being. Although some individuals are mentally strong enough to pull themselves out of all the damages caused by the vicious cycle of bigotry and homophobia, a lot of people succumb to it and continue to suffer. Besides, finding a good mental health professional in Bangladesh, who has proper knowledge about people conforming to different gender identities and/or sexual orientations and shows sensitivity to their struggles, is very difficult. With scanty resources to seek help from, it’s even more important for the LGBTQ+ people of Bangladesh to create a cohesive community of love, support, and acceptance. Let’s look out for each other and remind ourselves that, WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER! 

[1] LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health. Mental Health America. Retrieved 31 August 2020, from https://www.mhanational.org/issues/lgbtq-communities-and-mental-health

[2] Semlyen, J., King, M., Varney, J., & Hagger-Johnson, G. (2016). Sexual orientation and symptoms of common mental disorder or low wellbeing: combined meta-analysis of 12 UK population health surveys. BMC Psychiatry, 16(1), 6. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-016-0767-z

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