This June we are celebrating the 52nd year of LGBTQ+ Pride!
LGBTQ+ individuals were unable to live openly and proudly as their full selves until recently. For years, living as an LGBTQ+ individual meant facing danger and risk every day. We want to honor the lived experience of every LGBTQ+ person this Pride by recognizing the history of resilience and resistance that makes Pride in 2022 so special.
Identifying as LGBTQ+ is not a mental health condition. Sexual and gender identity are valid and important parts of one’s being. We believe that we cannot be mentally well if we cannot be fully ourselves. Those that identify with the LGBTQ+ community deserve acceptance, appreciation, and access to necessary and gender-affirming healthcare. It is important for us to recognize the impact that experiences of gender identity and sexuality have on mental and behavioral health.
LGBTQ+ communities historically have been criminalized, misunderstood, misrepresented, and traumatized by societal violence. These identities were seen and treated as mental disorders for much of the 20th century, which led to dehumanizing and ineffective treatment from the psychiatric community.
Prior to the modern era, many people viewed same-sex attraction (and overall queerness) as amoral – there is evidence to suggest that England and other Western civilizations criminalized same-sex attraction, as well as any sexual act that didn’t revolve around reproduction. In the 19th century, same-sex attraction was adopted from the church by psychiatric and medical communities as a mental disorder, largely due to the religious influence in legislature and healthcare.
In 1968, the DSM-II, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the taxonomic and diagnostic tool published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), classified same-sex attraction as a mental health disorder, contributing to increased violence and intolerance towards LGBTQ+ people.
Though there were voices in the psychiatric and scientific communities that strongly disagreed with labeling queerness as a mental disorder (namely, Sigmund Freud and Alfred Kinsey), by the 1950s many of these opinions had been overrun by an increasingly conservative and heteronormative medical community.
Then, in 1973, the APA asked its members to vote on whether same-sex attraction should remain a mental disorder in the DSM. 5,854 psychiatrists voted to remove same-sex attraction, while 3,810 voted to keep it in. It wasn’t until 1987, just 35 years ago, that same-sex attraction and queerness were removed from the DSM completely. However, the stigma surrounding LGBTQ+ individuals has persisted despite the removal of same-sex attraction from the DSM.
In the years that same-sex attraction and queerness were widely considered mental health conditions, LGBTQ+ people experienced violence at the hands of the state through police enforcement and forced institutionalization. Treatment for these “disorders” included violent and ineffective conversion methods like electroshock therapy, aversion therapy, hypnosis, electrically induced seizures, lobotomies, castration, and worse.
This long and traumatic history still affects our understanding of gender identity and sexuality, and this contributes to the barriers that LGBTQ+ people continue to face while seeking mental and physical healthcare. As of 2018, It is estimated that almost 700,000 LGBTQ+ adults in the US have experienced conversion therapy, and 77,000 youth (ages 13-17) will receive some form of conversion therapy before the age of 18 (Source).
Conversion therapy methods have been proven to be ineffective, traumatic, and ultimately extremely harmful to LGBTQ+ people. The American Psychiatric Association has confirmed that conversion therapy is inhumane and does not condone its usage under any circumstances. Despite the substantial proof of its harm, conversion therapy remains a problem in the United States. In many states it is still legal to send minors to conversion camps. Click here to see which states have conversion therapy bans.
On June 28th, 1969, local law enforcement raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club in Greenwich Village in New York City. The raid sparked a series of riots that lasted six days and ignited the gay rights movement across the United States. We celebrate Pride at the end of the month in honor of the Stonewall riots and all the LGBTQ+ individuals who lost their lives fighting the state for their right to be wholly themselves.
The Stonewall riots happened in response to the frequent and violent raids by law enforcement on queer spaces. LGBTQ+ individuals created and maintained these spaces so that they could feel safe together. Police would often break up gatherings in these spaces, beating and arresting LGBTQ+ individuals. The Stonewall riots catalyzed the gay rights movement in the US, leading to the first ever Pride parades, large urban protests, and wide political advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights in legislation. Same-sex attraction gradually became decriminalized, but it wasn’t until the landmark case of Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex marriage became legalized federally.
It is vastly important for us to recognize the impact that intersectionality has on the LGBTQ+ movement. First coined by Kimberele Crenshaw, an American scholar and activist, intersectionality is a framework that considers the interlocking identities that make us who we are. Intersectionality states that our identities are like roads: where roads intersect, i.e. where two or more identities overlap and interact, there are multiple layers of discrimination that uniquely impact the individual. Our identities are inseparable: a Black Trans woman will experience unique and multilayered discrimination that is fundamentally different than a cisgender Black woman’s experiences. This is because of the intersections of that individual’s identities.
The creators, champions, and innovators of the LGBTQ+ movement have been BIPOC Transgender women. Without their activism, we would not be where we are today. However, LGBTQ+ individuals, especially Transgender people, still have lower access to care than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. In fact, LGBTQ+ people are still over twice as likely to develop and experience behavioral health conditions.
Proud to be Me
As a queer, gender non-conforming individual, I have experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to find the right support. The best thing that we can do for the LGBTQ+ community is to always honor the lived experience of queerness. Educating ourselves, advocating for others, and de-stigmatizing these conversations is the best way that we can support those with lived experience. At the end of this blog, there are local and national resources that you can share with your communities. Take some time to read through the following statistics and let them affect you – though we have made great strides, there is still work to be done to protect our LGBTQ+ community.
(Statistics from the Trevor Project):
40% of LGBTQ respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered suicide
68% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks, including more than 3 in 4 transgender and nonbinary youth
48% of LGBTQ youth reported engaging in self-harm in the past twelve months, including over 60% of transgender and nonbinary youth
46% of LGBTQ youth report they wanted psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in the past 12 months
10% of LGBTQ youth reported undergoing conversion therapy, with 78% reporting it occurred when they were under age 18
29% of LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out, or run away
1 in 3 LGBTQ youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their LGBTQ identity
61% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported being prevented or discouraged from using a bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity
86% of LGBTQ youth said that recent politics have negatively impacted their well-being
Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all or most people in their lives attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected
(Statistics from Mental Health America):
Among U.S. adults, 4.5% identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
LGBT identification is lower as age increases; 8.2% of Millennials (born between 1980 and 1999) identify as LGBT, compared to 3.5% of Generation X individuals (born between 1965 and 1979).
Women are more likely to identify as LGBT than men (5.1% compared to 3.9%).
Research suggests that LGBTQ+ individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide.
Personal, family, and social acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity affects the mental health and personal safety of LGBT individuals.
LGBTQ+ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than non-LGBTQ+ identifying teens.
LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and over four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
48% of transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the last year, compared to 4% of the overall US population.
In a survey of LGBTQ+ people, more than half of all respondents reported that they have faced cases of providers denying care, using harsh language, or blaming the patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the cause for an illness. Fear of discrimination may lead some people to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity from providers or avoid seeking care altogether.
Approximately 8 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals and nearly 27% of transgender individuals report being denied needed health care outright.
In mental health care, stigma, lack of cultural sensitivity, and unconscious and conscious reluctance to address sexuality may hamper effectiveness of care.
Evidence suggests that implicit preferences for heterosexual people versus lesbian and gay people are pervasive among heterosexual health care providers.
LGBTQ+ Care Providers:
Blue Bristlecone Counseling
Briana Johnson LPC/LAC (she/her)
Callie David, MA, MFTC
2505 S. Bannock St.
Rooted Acorn Counseling
Lindsay Cade, MA, LPC
2949 Federal Blvd, Suite 221
Living Story Therapy, PLLC
Amanda Earle, Licensed Addictions & Professional Counselor
827 Grant St.
The Center on Colfax – LGBTQ Colorado
Name & Gender Marker Changes in Colorado – Colorado Name Change Project
One Colorado — One Colorado (one-colorado.org)
LGBTQ Mental Health & Substance Use Disorder | Envision : You | United States (envision-you.org)
Bisexual Resource Center (biresource.org)
Family Equality – Advancing Equality for LGBTQ Families
National Center for Transgender Equality (transequality.org)
Sexual Orientation and Estimates of Adult Substance Use and Mental Health: Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (samhsa.gov)
LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health | Mental Health America (mhanational.org)
LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health (dbsalliance.org)
The Trevor Project National Survey
Suicidality and Depression Disparities between Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Youth: A Meta-Analytic Review – PMC (nih.gov)
Mental Health Diagnoses Among Transgender Patients in the Clinical Setting: An All-Payer Electronic Health Record Study (liebertpub.com)
LGBT Youth | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health | CDC
History and Informational Resources:
1969 Stonewall Riots – Origins, Timeline & Leaders – HISTORY
The Lies and Dangers of Efforts to Change Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity – Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org)
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Definitions – Human Rights Campaign (hrc.org)
LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health (dbsalliance.org)
When Homosexuality Stopped Being a Mental Disorder | Psychology Today
The History of the LGBTQ Community and Mental Health Treatment – Talkspace
LGBTQ+ Community and Mental Health – NCBHS (norcalbehavioral.com)
LGBTQI | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
The History of LGBTQ Conversion Therapy – Talkspace
Obergefell v. Hodges | Summary, History, Ruling, & Facts | Britannica
Black trans activists’ roles in leading 1969 Stonewall Riots – PBS NewsHour Classroom