Are the LG and BT Parting Ways?: A Focus of Unity in 2016

The year 2016 will see our current President of the United States step down from his seat and pass the torch forth to a new administration, but as the advances regarding equality in the LGBT community have helped the community to expand and grow, underlying issues remain untouched and heavily neglected. This includes topics such as mental health, biphobia and transphobia.

Throughout 2015, one of the most prominent topics to occur within the LGBT community was the growth of biphobia and transphobia outside of the community, but the shocking factor comes in when the individuals against bisexuals and transgender individuals include those within the community. A petition shared on Change.org a couple of months ago requested LGBT organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD to dissolve the inclusion of transgender people from the rest of the community, citing situations such as the community attacking well-known figures and activists, such as RuPaul and trying to rewrite history and culture. Currently known as the “Drop the T” campaign, it quickly caused controversy through social media and all over the country. This also added more negative stigma towards the transgender community, which suffered greatly from the number of crimes and murders against several transgender women last year.

Beth Sherouse, an openly bisexual activist who advocates racial justice and rights for the LGBTQ community, gave insight of the effect of negative stimuli in society and media towards transgender people despite the growing presence of transgender figures bringing the community to prominence. “People like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox…have really helped to increase visibility.” she stated. “On the other hand, violence has continued to be a really huge issue because there’s so much stigma facing transgender people, transgender women and transgender women of color.”

The situations that transgender people face daily bring forth several effects, including but not limited to rejection of proper insurance, housing, and jobs, therefore forcing them to live and survive in dangerous environments. This also affects the mental health capacity of the transgender individual, especially transgender women of color, who face more negativity than any other demographic within the community.

However, the transgender community is not alone when facing exclusion and negativity from society. Bisexuals have encountered negative situations and perceptions over the years as well, building up to a huge misunderstanding towards the community.

“The bisexual community is kind of in a tough position because we’ve faced lots of stereotypes and biphobia outside of the LGBT community as well as within the LGBT community,” Sherouse states. “There are several studies, and going from my personal experience as well as several other bisexuals who have worked in advocacy, that the worst biphobia comes from within the LGBT community. [And] when I’m talking about biphobia, I’m talking about people dismissing our sexuality, saying that it’s a phase, [that] ‘we just haven’t figured it out yet’ or accepted the fact that we’re actually gay.”

There are several studies proving the dissent from within the community towards bisexuals, especially bisexual men. As stated previously, the most mental health conditions come from the bisexual community as they face the situations of being out in the community and debating their sexuality. This causes confusion, which in turn causes mental health conditions, which include substance abuse, depression, and suicidal thoughts.

“So many of us are unable to live openly and/or were able to live openly in certain parts of our lives or only in recent years,” Sherouse explains. “The stigma doesn’t stop once you’re out, so coming out is great and liberating for many people, but at the same time, it does not mean that the stigma stops.”

Several factors of mental health conditions arising within the bisexual and transgender communities are negligence in various parts of their lives, including the workplace, families, and society. A recent factor playing a huge part of these conditions are stimuli such as suicide contagion.

“Basically, it’s something that happens when there is a high profile suicide or a suicide that is reported on very widely in the media” she explains, using the suicide as Leelah Alcorn as an example of an instance of suicide contagion. “Suicide contagion is something that happens when media outlets aren’t responsible and careful about the way they report on that suicide.”

Suicide contagion happens more often in the media than society thinks. For every instance of suicide reported by the media, contagion influences at least 5% of suicides within the youth demographic and even more when there are celebrity deaths.

Because of these factors in society, many organizations developed guidelines for reporting suicide in the media. They look forward to building the community back together by advocating mental health education, proper health care, and proper rights for trans and bisexual people, especially the youth, in hopes that it will build a better tomorrow and future.

“If someone is feeling depressed, if someone is contemplating suicide, the best thing you can do is reach out and ask for help,” Sherouse proclaims. “Just realize that the way you’re feeling now is temporary and it will go away.”

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