One of the most important obligations a society has as a whole is to ensure and safeguard the safety and rights of its minority communities, especially minorities based on sexual orientation who are susceptible to violence and bias. Acceptance and safety provided at a societal level, percolates down to the various institutions in one as well as become norms which are then passed on to next generations, which eventually are imbibed in to existing norms defining normalcy. Acceptance and safety concerning sexual identity minorities has to be undertaken based on directions and information yielded by studies done in to the problems faced by various minority communities and their constituents and their vulnerabilities as well as studies focussed on assessing protective factors/initiatives which reduce the risk associated with their status.
Various studies conducted so far have repeatedly shown that youth and young adults belonging to the LGBTQ community are more vulnerable and indeed display elevated levels of emotional distress, mood and anxiety disorders, suicidal behaviors, substance use and abuse when compared to heterosexual youth and young adults. It’s also important to understand the specific vulnerabilities that exist when different communities within the broad LGBTQ community is compared. Homosexual male members are more vulnerable to suicide attempts when compared to young females of similar orientation, while young females (homosexual) are more vulnerable to substance abuse and dependence. An important finding to be considered in this context is that when compared to both homosexual males and females, it has been found that bisexual youth and young adults experience poorer levels of mental health and emotional wellbeing. These results should inform the specific actions and measures which are currently undertaken and needs to pursued to safe guard and improve the mental health issues faced by members of LGBTQ community as a whole and the specific communities which the constitute the overall LGBTQ community, especially bisexual females belonging to youth and young adult age groups.
The initiatives and actions which needs to be pursued to safe guard the interests of the young members of the LGBTQ community needs to be precise and action oriented to be advocated among the members of the general population so that they not only ever remain specifically mindful of them but also are informed of what to and not to go about doing or saying.
Starting with risk factors which significantly impact the wellbeing of the youth and young adults of this community, first is the lack of support at an institutional level, be at educational or professional institutions. Lack of initiatives to enhance the awareness among the organisation members and guidelines to avoid harassment, bias or offensive actions/words, not having trained professionals to assist the employees with such issues etc. have been found to be detrimental to the pursuit of acceptance and normalisation of LGBTQ members in the functional spheres of one’s life.
Secondly, the lack of general acceptance and providing a sense of safety on a community/ neighbourhood level have also found to undermine the wellbeing of the LGBTQ members.
Thirdly and very importantly, biased based bullying, which involves bullying based on one’s personal bias against other’s identity (religious, ethnic, sexual orientation, gender identity etc.) have been found to be greatly injurious to the wellbeing of the LGBTQ community members, to an extent that several studies have revealed that this form of harassment and attacks either in person or on an online forum or anonymously through various mediums can lead to severe behavioral and emotional breakdowns such as suicide behavior and substance abuse apart from taking a huge toll on one’s emotional doing.
Fourthly, on a familial and parental level, the lack of acceptance, opposition, disregard, trivialisation, hostility etc., have all found to be damaging to the wellbeing to the general wellbeing of the LGBTQ members. On an intrapersonal level, difficulties in emotion regulation which can be a product of familial environment and the difficult temperament (predisposition inherited with birth) they are often vulnerable to, such as lack of emotional awareness and healthy emotion regulation strategies makes them often vulnerable to behavioral excess such as substance abuse, suicide behavior, reckless and life endangering behaviors and behavioral deficits such as seeking help of family, friends or professional interventions.
The protective factors which safe guard the interests of this vulnerable population are specific laws which can be and needs to be enacted to protect this minority section of our society and our loved ones. The question is why not, when we have specific laws and provisions to protect children and women, why not have laws to protect this community, a question we should all concede to answering and be held accountable to.
Parental and peer support goes a long way in supporting these members and so the appropriate platforms to educate community members and parents and including them in educational curriculums and syllabus will be very effective in protecting them. Additionally, here, support lend by LGBTQ community to vulnerable members also is critical to assisting the ones to adapt with this status (sexual orientation) and lead a normal healthy life and therefore the onus is not just on the general community but also on the LGBTQ community as a whole to provide support through support groups and self-help groups to the vulnerable youth and young adults.
Two important factors which assists in helping the youth (early and late adolescents) to confirm with the normal developmental trajectory (in terms of emotional, intellectual and interpersonal development) rather than deviate from them and subsequently end up with insufficient resources to achieve and address desired goals and expectations, are facilitating romantic relationships (which is a normal part of an adolescent’s emotional and interpersonal development) as per the adolescent’s orientation) and enabling them to come out with their orientation early on (rather than conceal them) in a guided and informed manner. Both these have been shown through studies to reduce the risk of vulnerability in this community. The above mentioned measures can only be achieved if communities come together and decide to act on them from a place of acceptance, care and a sense of obligation to protect among the most vulnerable in our societies and families.