ADVICE

Queer loneliness

What’s going on in the LGBTQ+ community, and why is loneliness such a big problem?

Feeling lonely sucks!

Not the most insightful way of starting a post I know… But, well, it just does.

It’s something that seems to impact people in the queer community a lot, regardless of whether you’re 12, 20 or 70, regardless of whether you’re out or closeted, whether you got bullied or straight-up accepted, whether you can legally get married & change your name and regardless of how many people out there say it’s OK to be who you are.

It’s kind of funny… Only not, because it’s painful and stuff.

But funny, in that sexuality is mostly about how you want to connect with other people – who they are, what you want to do with them and all that –  and because that’s probably different to other people around you it ends up being the very thing that stops you connecting with other people. And that’s not even throwing gender identity into the equation…

See? Funny. OK it’s not funny at all… It sucks. But it’s why it can feel all the more frustrating that it plays a part in those feelings of loneliness.

Regardless of all our collective, varied experiences – loneliness is something we all still seem to experience from time to time.

So what’s that about?? There should be a magic formula to sort that out right?

feeling lonely + meeting heaps of people = not lonely anymore

That feels nice and logical…  Is that all there is to it? Did… Did we just fix it?

Well in some ways that might make a ton of difference, yeah. But it’s also much more than that….

The literal side of feeling alone

It can definitely feel you’re in the minority sometimes (well, let’s face it, statistically you probably are) and you might even be the only trans, gay, bi, pan or non-binary person you know, or the only one in your year, school or even neighbourhood.

That is, quite literally, a lonely place to be. There’s no two ways about it.

If you’re not “out” there’s an extra barrier there too. There’s a niggling sense that even if you are close to someone, they might not be seeing the “whole you” – they’re not connecting with what’s possibly the most vulnerable bit of you.

It might feel like there’s a gap there, no matter how close you get to someone. In fact there’s a fair bit of research that says hiding part of yourself in various situations is one of the biggest causes of poor wellbeing for queer young people, and loneliness is part of that.

But, there’s stuff we can do about that!

And yes, coming out is one those things, but it doesn’t have to be the first thing – I’m not just going to tell you coming out will make everything OK, life’s never that straight forward, sorry!

These first few things I’m going to talk about have something in common: finding a way to be yourself.

That means being vulnerable. And that can be scary – so scary, in fact, that most adults haven’t got the hang of it and avoid it at all costs! And funnily enough, it means a lot of us are still feeling lonely…

Truth is though, people can only connect to what you show them. If you only show them filtered Instagram feeds and last minute homework answers and rare Fortnite skins, that’s what they’ll connect with.

If you get older and you only show people semi-naked Grindr profiles and witty put-downs and make-up tips, that’s still all people can connect to.  

There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but building beasty, meaningful connections to others means you have to give them something meatier to connect to. Did that come out right? I feel like that can get taken the wrong way… I mean show them more of yourself. Nope, still coming out wrong… You know what I mean, right?

These things mean being brave, and being a bit vulnerable, and if you’re not ready yet, then that’s OK. But when you are, they might help.

 

Youth Groups

You can meet other queer young people without coming out to friends and family, and for a lot of people meeting others first helped them to make that step. If you’ve got an LGBT Youth Group near you (and if you’re in Greater Manchester you definitely do – in fact there’s a surprising amount of them up and down the country) then go to it!

It might not be your cup of tea and walking through that door might be the scariest thing in the world but it’s really, really worth it, even if you only go once!

I’ve been there. I’ve done laps around the block, building up the courage to go inside a youth group (and getting unhelpfully sweaty in the process…) I actually e-mailed the youth worker first so I wasn’t just walking in out of the blue and I’d recommend that to take the edge off.

I only ended up going for a few weeks but I know meeting other queer people in that youth group made a huge difference to me…

Anyway, you can find info about local youth groups here and here and if there really isn’t one anywhere near you, the Proud Trust have written a great guide to setting one up yourself here.

The weird and wonderful world of the web

If turning up at a youth group feels a bit much that’s OK. There’s also a bunch of stuff online that might help too. No, I’m not talking about dating apps or any of that (we’ll get to them…).

Seeing other people your age might help give you a boost – there’s tons of YouTubers out there talking openly  about their experiences, good and bad, and just being themselves. It can be great to get lost in them sometimes (although maybe stop short of getting sucked into comments from idiots and $££%£%s). 

There’s also loads of people to talk to online (yes, including some rather… weird people…) There are forums filled with young queer people at Childline (a little shy of 8000 threads to be precise!) and trans specific forums at Mermaids.

Sometimes people create a second account on Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit, Tumblr (or whatever your preference is) where they can join LGBT groups and talk more openly about how they’re feeling.

There’s a lot of LGBT youth blogs on Tumblr and Instagram a good number of SubReddits too. And now Tumblr’s purged a lot of adult content it’s easier to find posts that are friendly rather than… over friendly!

If you do want to connect to people online then be sensible! Don’t give out personal details or information and just be mindful people might not always be who they say they are. If things go pear-shaped or you get worried about something you see online then go to www.thinkuknow.co.uk for information or report it directly at www.ceop.police.uk/Safety-Centre 

You can also chat to someone one to one online at www.kooth.com or, in Salford, 42nd Street’s new service www.onlinesupport.42ndstreet.org.uk 

 

Coming Out

So finding a space, IRL or URL, to be yourself can be great. But maybe it’s not all you need, or maybe it’s just not a practical option.

Maybe coming out where you are, with people already in your life is something you feel is right.

If you come out then there’s always a fear you’ll encounter some… “unenlightened” views from certain parts of society or maybe people won’t want to know the “real you” anymore, and that’s a pretty scary thought.

But it might also mean people see you properly for the first time, and that can be amazing.

If you are thinking about coming out, that’s fantastic and there some advice and tips here. Only you can make that decision though and you should never feel pressured to do it before you’re ready (or to do it if you don’t feel it’s safe to do so where you are).

Just remember, your situation is unique to you but, all the same, there are thousands of people your age wrestling with whether or not to come out every day.

They know a lot of what you’re feeling!

And if you do decide to come out, maybe picture them all with you. Because even if you do feel lonely right now there’s loads of people who know what you’re going through and so many that have made it through the other side! 

Happy hunky dory times

OK, so you can find others. What then? Does that mean loneliness goes away?

If so, why is there an entire population of queer people out there lucky enough to have a community, or even live in country that gives them loads of rights, who still feel lonely?

It’s not an easy thing to unpick, and I’m not going to claim I have the answers here, but here’s a few thoughts about the pitfalls we can fall into…

 

Quick fixes

One perfectly human and totally understandable thing we all do is hunt for easier things instead of that whole scary “being vulnerable” thing.

That might mean doing different things for different people, but what those things will probably all have in common is they pretend to be “meaningful” connections.

They look like they’ll fill that void, and for a while they will – it’s daft to pretend they don’t work at all, people wouldn’t do them if they didn’t offer something! But what they don’t do is fix that problem of loneliness.

It’s kind of tricky to word this bit right, because only you will know why you’re doing these things (if you are!)

I can’t say it’s because of loneliness, because it might not be at all – it might not be an issue in the slightest and everything might be roses. Sometimes though, stuff like getting wasted or trawling for “likes” or even sex can be problematic when they replace more meaningful connections, that’s all.

 

Carrying that closet

So, at one point of another, we’re all “in the closet” (because society still pretty much assumes everyone is straight and cis till proven otherwise, but let’s leave that rant for another time…!)

Some of us might only stay in that closet for a short time, for others it might feel like a lifetime.

Sometimes, we carry that closet around with us, long after we’ve come out.

Am I stretching the metaphor too much with that one? Well, what I mean is this;

Whilst we’re in that closet we’re basically telling ourselves, one way or another, that who we are isn’t OK – it isn’t enough.

Sometimes, that message can sink in a bit too deep. It can hide somewhere we can’t see and it can pick at us without us noticing.

Big chunks of that message might melt away if people accept us and embrace us, but sometimes little bits of it stick around…

What has that got to do with loneliness??

Well if nasty thoughts like “who I am isn’t OK” lurk around they’re probably going to stop us being vulnerable. If we don’t think we’re “good enough”, for whatever reason that might be, we’re hardly going to be in a rush to put ourselves out there in an honest and open way.

And that gets in the way of us making those real connections with others. It some ways, it can cause us to isolate ourselves.

Annoying enough I think Ru Paul beat me to the punch with that whole “If you can’t love yourself how the hell you gonna love someone else?!” thing… Ugh…!

That message is one of the reasons we still have Pride events (the “who I am isn’t Ok” thought, not the Ru Paul one).

That thought, that feeling, that who you are isn’t OK – well it can’t survive if you’re feeling proud. Looking at yourself in the mirror and thinking “hell yeah, I am damn proud of who I am” is pretty hard for a lot of people, whether they’re queer or not.

Pride events should be there to help that journey along, because all the amazing strides towards equality in many parts of the world don’t always reach that place where those thoughts hide.

One way of shaking off that closet is to go to a mirror and say your name and say whatever your identity is. Then tell yourself who you are is OK and that you love yourself and that hell yeah, you’re proud of who that is. And mean it!

Might be real tough to do the first time, and sometimes the second and third too… But keep telling yourself it! Make sure that closet is well and truly out of your life!

…I’ve gone off topic haven’t I?

Loving yourself – that’s what I was talking about. It makes it easier to connect with others. So, yeah, there’s that.

Connecting with yourself

I think that’s the most hippy sounding thing I’ve ever said.

Eesh.

OK, hear me out. You’re an awesome human, with tons of complicated and weird and wonderful sides to your personality and identity (I know I have no idea who you are, but it’s just true, K?)

It might be worth spending some time with yourself and getting comfortable and relaxed with who you are.  

That whole “If you can’t love yourself how the hell you gonna love somebody else??” line? Well, you kind of need to know a bit about yourself before you can start loving yourself.

I know for some of us that thought is actually scarier than getting out there and cramming loads of other people into our lives. It might not be something you’re ready to run head first into and I get that, but it might be an interesting experience if you do try it.

You could try out a bunch of random hobbies and activities and see what you enjoy.

You could simply have a few chilled out moments in your room (or anywhere for that matter) where you just listen to music and let your mind go where it wants.

You could make a list of all the cool stuff you’d like to do in your life, no matter how “out there” it gets.

Get excited about all the bits and pieces that make up who you are – no one else has them in the combination you do, and that is brilliantly unique!

 

Lonely Shmonely

Hopefully some of this has helped if you’re feeling lonely at the moment.

If you’ve got any advice or found any lovely forums you’d like to share please do so!

You can always get in touch with us here if you want and if you’re in Manchester come to our group too. Whatever you chose to do, take care of yourself, you’re brilliant, honestly 🙂

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