Unfortunately, bullying is a common experience in the LGBTQ+ community. It happens online, in school, at work, or even from people who are supposed to love and care for us. And discriminatory laws and practices perpetuate bullying behaviors. No matter the reason for these social attitudes, biases, and prejudice, it hurts and too often causes trauma, fear, and shame.
But none of this defines who you are. You are allowed to be exactly who you are regardless of what others say or think. Identity development is a process, but only you can define who you are. Reflecting on who you are and finding safe places and people in your life can help you heal from the harm that you may have experienced.
Reflecting on your experiences
When we are bullied, our power is taken away from us. We begin to question ourselves and pick apart who we are. We may even begin to feel like there is something wrong with us or that being different is the problem. But that’s not true!
Being LGBTQ+ doesn’t make you any less of a person. And you must continue to remind yourself of this to regain your power back and reconnect with who you are.
It’s also important to reflect on how bullying has changed you. What are you doing differently because of what you have been through or what you have been told by friends, family, and society.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel more isolated from others?
- Did I stop doing things I enjoy?
- Did I stop hanging out with certain people?
- Did it take me longer to come out?
- Am I avoiding certain things, situations, or people because I am afraid I am going to be judged?
Thinking about the answers to these questions helps you see the impact that bullying has had on you. And this can help you change, unlearn these behaviors, create a plan to address the bullying going forward. And help you get back to who you are and become the person you are meant to be.
Online spaces are the best. Going to friends was my only option [because the] LGBTQ center was hours away.
Bullying not only threatens our identity, but also our safety. When this happens, finding spaces and people who accept you for who you are makes you feel safe and supported. And is crucial for healing the harm that you’ve been through.
Finding people who make you feel safe
Finding people who make you feel safe is important to your well-being. These are the people who you feel that you can fully be yourself around. They understand your identity and love and support you for who you are. These are the people who feel like home and provide comfort and trust, and make you feel like you matter.
Safe people can be loved ones like family—like parents, siblings, cousins, etc., friends—both in-person and online, teachers, coaches, coworkers, and others. Just having at least one person in your life who makes you feel safe can help you feel less alone, seen, heard, and valued. They can listen to you and help you overcome any bullying you are experiencing.
Finding safe spaces in-person
It’s also important to find places, spaces, and environments where you feel safe. If you aren’t sure where to start, think about places in your community where you feel safe like a library, community center, LGBTQ center, etc. Is there a place in your community with rainbow flags that let others know it’s a safe space for people who are LGBTQ+? You can also search online and on social media to find nearby safe spaces.
In these spaces, you can find and connect with others who have similar experiences. They can also offer support, resources, and advice.
Finding safe spaces online
You can also find safe spaces online on social media or in online support groups and forums. For example, Q-chat Space is a well-known, available safe space for LGBTQ+ youth. These safe spaces can help you find support if you can’t find it within your community, and connect with people who can help you feel less alone and find resources all over the world.
Remember always to stay safe online. Don’t share addresses or pictures with people you do not know. Setting boundaries is necessary when navigating online spaces. This can include muting or blocking people, taking breaks or time away from the screen, or not engaging in certain platforms. This also means making sure that you are participating in healthy friendships and not getting into relationships with people that you have not met.