Solent Mind are pleased to be celebrating LGBT+ History Month, which has taken place every February in the UK since 1994.
The month celebrates the historic contributions and role models of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as reflection on the difficult past people have experienced through discrimination and stigma. As a mental health charity, we're recapping the historic breakthrough moments for the wellbeing of the LGBTQ+ community, and sharing real stories of how our pasts can effect our mental health, but not dictate our future.
Claudia from Portsmouth identifies as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and remembers how suppressing her sexuality at school affected her wellbeing. "It was a very difficult time. I lacked a lot of self-esteem and I couldn't shake the feeling that there was something wrong with me. I felt like I couldn't talk about it at all, and that had a massive affect on my mental health."
Evidence from the Mental Health Foundation shows that those who identify as LGBTQ+ are at a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health, mainly due to discrimination and isolation. This is particularly true for LGBTQ+ youth who experience higher rates of depression, suicidal thoughts or self-harm as they discover and navigate their own identity.
Sarah from Southampton explains when her own struggle came to a head. "I suffered a nervous breakdown at 16 years old and came out to my Mum, which didn't go well. In my late teens and early 20s, I still I had people shouting vulgar things at me from cars, from building sites, from the other side of the street.
These comments hurt and left their mark in the form of self-hatred. It took everything I had to not go back into hiding and continue to show my true self."
1967: Decriminalisation of Homosexual Acts
Consensual, private sex between two men over the age of 21 was legalised in the UK. Although it was a positive step forward, it was far from full acceptance from the public and liberation for the community. Only two years before, a Daily Mail opinion poll found that 93% of the public agreed that gay men were "in need of medical or psychiatric treatment."
1992: World Health Organisation removes homosexuality from its list of mental disorders
After subjecting the LGBTQ+ community to inhumane treatments and detrimental counselling, WHO declassified homosexuality as a disorder on 17th May. The date was then chosen as the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, although trans people had to wait until 2019 to see WHO no longer recognise transgender as a disorder, too.
1999: LGBT+ mental health charity, MindOut is launched
Brighton-based charity MindOut starts sharing awareness and promotion of positive mental health
and wellbeing for LGBTQ+ communities. The team has now grown to help thousands of LGBTQ+ people across the UK experiencing depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts.
2001: UK Government lifts LGBTQ+ Armed Forces ban
A long overdue reform welcomed lesbian, gay and bisexual people into the UK armed forces, although for military personnel, a culture of discrimination has been harder to end. As of 2019, 26-36% of LGBTQ+ service people have experienced negative comments or conduct at work. As of 2021, ex-military personnel who were dismissed because of their sexuality can now reclaim their service medals.
2003: UK and Wales repeals Section 28
Put into action in 1988, Section 28 banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools, leading to generations of children who suffered the isolation, shame and grief of having to hide who they were.
2003: Criminal Justice Act recognises LGBT+ Hate Crimes
The Crown Prosecution Service instructed UK courts to classify crimes motivated by homophobic, biphobic or transphobic beliefs as hate crimes, which increased the sentence given to an offender. In 2019 however, 14,491 crimes were committed against people because of their sexual orientation and a further 2,333 in transphobic incidents. Stonewall UK states this is only a partial picture: only 1 in 5 LGBTQ+ people report the hate crimes they experience.
2004: Gender Recognition Act
The Act finally allowed people to change their legal gender if experiencing Gender Dysphoria: a term given to those experiencing distress when they feel their gender identity does not align with the sex they were assigned at birth. The process however, has been criticised for being intrusive, emotionally distressing and in need of further reforms.
2016: Prince William on Attitude magazine cover
Members of the LGBTQ+ community were invited to Kensington Palace to share their experiences of bullying and discuss it's consequences for their mental health. The move was considered influential to government and inspired the discussion of further LGBTQ+ rights and legislation.
2017: Alan Turing Law
Formally written into law in the Policing and Crime Act, the 'Alan Turing Law' pardons men who were cautioned or convicted for past homosexual acts in England and Wales. Many of the pardons were posthumous, as thousands had already died with the painful memories of discrimination in their criminal record. An estimated 49,000 men have now been pardoned in the name of the iconic World War Two codebreaker and computer scientist, who ended his own life in 1954 after being convicted for homosexuality and subjected to chemical castration.
Although the UK has come a long way there are still issues of discrimination that effect LGBTQ+ people and have negative impact on their mental health. Take a look at Mind's LGBTQ+ guidance for mental health service providers and sign up to campaign for fair and equal support for all, here.
Emotional support and guidance given to those like Sarah can be a lifeline, and allow people to process their experiences and gain valuable mental health coping skills. Solent Mind have set out a number of priorities to develop tailored support and improve the inclusivity of our services in a number of ways:
Although the devastating historical treatment of the LGBTQ+ community cannot be erased, Sarah and Claudia are making sure to not let the past decide their futures and move forward with pride.
Sarah summarises: "It took years and years for the world around me to catch up and start seeing me as just another person, an anonymity which I truly relish now.
It has been a hard earned freedom, though."
Read Sarah's full blog and top tips for LGBTQ+ mental health, here.
Watch Claudia talk through her experiences on our Instagram channel, @SolentMind.
Supports LGBTQ+ people aged 16-25 who are homeless or living in a hostile environment.
Provides advice and information for LGBTQ+ people under 25.
Directory of services and groups for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.
Offers support to parents, friends and family members of those who identify as LGBT+.
Works to improve the lives of trans and gender non-conforming people of all ages, including those who are non-binary and non-gender.
Charity supporting young trans people aged under 25, and information for their parents and carers.
0300 330 5468
Free, confidential listening service for people identifying as trans or non-binary, and their friends and families.
Online directory of qualified therapists who identify as or are understanding of minority sexual and gender identities.