By Hannah Gianfriddo
Massachusetts is oftentimes talked about as a safe place for members within the LGBTQ+ community based upon the long history of legislative wins and the establishment of an accepting population. While this statement may ring true in certain aspects of life it is important to reflect on the issues still affecting the community today. More specifically, the health and safety of members within the LGBTQ+ community is still greatly at risk. On the surface things may look prim, proper, and shiny but when we truly look into something as serious as suicide rates we can see that members amongst the LGBTQ+ community are dealing with high levels of depression and mental health ailments.
I looked into a recent report released by the Boston Indicators and The Fenway Institute in 2018 that focused on the variables of discrimination, depression, and suicide among young people who identified as gay, lesbian or transgender. (Schoenberg, 2018) This study indicated that approximately 5% of the MA population identifies within the realm of LGBTQ+; more specifically 16% of people aged 18-24 identify themselves within the LGBTQ+ community. (Schoenberg, 2018) When looking particulary at discrimination rates amongst MA transgender individuals it was found that 65% have experienced public discrimination. When looking specifically at LGBTQ+ youth of color it was found that 88% have been a victim of discrimination. The report’s findings indicated that one third of the LGBTQ+ population has been diagnosed with depression at some point in their life. (Barrera, 2019) This number doesn’t even extend to those individuals who do not seek help or have the access to mental health care needs. The thing I view with the utmost importance in this discussion is that around 48% of LGBTQ+ youth have considered suicide, 35% have devised a plan, and that 25% have actually attempted suicide. (Schoenberg, 2018)
The numbers prove without doubt that there are things we as a community at large can do better to promote acceptance and safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ population. As a community we need to be more aware of those around us; a simple check-in with peers or providing a shoulder to lean on may be just what it takes to save a life. The LGBTQ+ population as a whole is found to be at a much higher risk for depression due to the variety of struggles they experience throughout their lives. While more and more people are displaying pride flags, transgender flags, etc. and normalizing the LGBTQ+ community this research proves we are simply not doing what we should to make our peers feel loved, valued, or accepted.
In order to truly get to the root of creating a solution and promoting change we need to look into outside factors that the LGBTQ+ community is facing. I think it’s vitally important to ask ourselves and fellow peers why LGBTQ+ youth are committing or thinking of committing suicide at 5 times the rate of non-LGBT youth. (TBF, 2018) It is also timely that we wonder why transgender peers have experienced housing discrimination at around 61% in the greater Boston area in recent years. (TBF, 2018) These are just two examples of an extensive list of errors within how we are treating LGBTQ+ community members. However, members of the LGBTQ+ community still face widespread discrimination and are at greater risk for depression, homelessness, and food insecurity. (TBF, 2018)
Another jaw-dropping point is that this study was the first of its kind and was conducted in 2018; there was no check in with LGBTQ+ peers or focus shed on this population for decades. (Schoenberg, 2018) With that being said, we are already progressing farther from the starting line. As a new generation with tendencies to love and accept everyone around us with lack of judgment we need to be the model for previous and future generations when it comes to protecting those struggling around us.
What I’m really trying to promote in this piece is the importance of checking in on those around you; ask your friends and family how they’re doing. Do a good act for someone you know would benefit from it. Be a safe space and non-judgemental person to those who feel like they have nobody else. I’ll stress again how you could be the reason someone decided to keep moving forward and pushing through their struggles. I believe that proposing new forms of policy change as well as strengething discrimination laws against LGBTQ+ individuals will act as a positive force to reform blatant housing discrimination, job discrimination, and other sources of public bias. We as a whole are not doing enough to make LGBTQ+ community members feel welcomed and valued. As we move forward we need to be better at advocating for those around us. Sometimes having someone to help amplify your voice and struggles is what’s needed to finally be heard by others around you.