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June has been declared LGBT Pride Month in 2011, but lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues have been going on for quite some time. Although all people are individuals, the LGBT community sometimes has some of its own mental health issues that are hopefully brought to light through this month and through ongoing education and awareness.
Lauren Costine, an associate faculty member and instructor in the LGBT Specialization program at Antioch University Los Angeles, has been a psychologist for over 10 years, working mostly with lesbians. She said in an email interview that many of the unique mental health issues that the LGBT community deals with are because of the way society is set up.
“We grow up in a homophobic, heteronormative, heterosexist, and patriarchal society,” Costine said.
Basically, Costine said she feels there is a focus on heterosexual relationships in society, a denial of other types of relationships and a fear and hatred toward the LGBT community because they are not heterosexual. This obviously can be difficult to live with if you’re not heterosexual, she said, and some develop an unhealthy way of thinking about themselves because of it. For example, some lesbians might have internalized lesbianphobia.
“Internalized lesbianphobia is defined as self-esteem and self-hatred issues due to an internalization of societal and institutionalized homophobia, heterosexism, and genderphobia combined with the insidious effects of internalized misogyny that is inevitable due to growing up in a patriarchal and sexist society,” Costine said.
It sounds like a mouthful, but these self-esteem and self-hatred issues are a result of living in a society that you feel doesn’t accept you for who you are, and then you might start to question if you’re a good person or if you should change.