In early 2018, a movie adaption of a 2015 young adult novel named “Love, Simon,” gained popularity for its realistic and absolutely heartwarming coming-of-age story, in which the protagonist is a closeted teenage boy named Simon.
Like every person who’s read the book a movie’s based on, I too thought the book was better, yet just as everyone who had watched the movie, I loved it too. A lot of things about the film fascinated me, but what stuck with me was this beautiful scene where Simon says:
“Dear Blue, it doesn’t seem fair that only gay people have to come out. Why is straight the default?”
This dialogue is followed by Simon’s close friends coming out as straight to their parents. This scene subtly, and almost magically, depicts how stressful and painful the process of coming out is to a queer child, and how it alienates them from their straight peers.
Society perpetuates the belief that homosexuality, or any LGBTQ+ orientation, is a deviation from “normal”. It takes a lot of time for them to embrace their individuality themselves. In that time, self-doubt peaks and self-esteem dips; self-loathing’s in abundance.
Self-discovery and acceptance, even at a personal level, lets in a ray of sunshine through otherwise heavy, Manipal-August-esque clouds. But the process of coming-out, knowing what’s at stake, is psychologically draining. Respect and acceptance, as you are, by your loved ones means as much to a member of the LGBTQ+ as it does to a cis-het individual.
This crippling fear of being rejected by their friends and family is one of the reasons why mental health disorders are more prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community, in comparison to heterosexual people. The prejudice and discrimination they constantly face, ranging from queerphobic slurs to wage gaps, only deepens their misery, leading them to seek help more often than the heterosexual population.
According to an article from Mental Health America, LGBTQ+ individuals are three times more likely to experience depression, anxiety or substance misuse as compared to straight folks (an estimated 20-30% of individuals from the LGBTQ+ community engage in substance abuse and 25% abuse alcohol, as compared to 9% and 5-10% of the general population). The queer youth is four times more likely to attempt suicide or engage in self-harm in which 38-65% of the transgender population is included.
Merely arguing that this prejudice faced by the LGBTQ+ community is wrong is not enough.
As allies, there are several things we could do to make this situation less dire for the young individuals of the queer community. We could start off by educating ourselves about the struggles they have overcome as individuals and as a community with a rich history of protests, legal battles and culture. At a personal level, we could show our support for the LGBTQ+ individuals around us by standing up against any discrimination that we witness. A bystander’s support often makes a world of difference when someone’s being harassed.
The real tragedy isn’t being different from your peers, but to be treated differently by them.
Written by Medha Somayaji
Image credits (in order):
Instagram: @lifeisam.art.ni ; @aishu_ramesh_