We should not think of this as just an acronym but remember that there are real people behind each of these letters. What does LGBTQIA stand for, one might ask? The L stands for lesbian. The G stands for gay, the B for bisexual. The T stands for transgender. The Q stands for questioning, those who are questioning their sexuality, may not be sure; they may be bisexual or maybe experimenting. The I stands for intersex. Intersex individuals are those persons with what has been termed ‘ambiguous genitalia.’ Lastly, but certainly not least is A, which is for asexual. Asexuals may feel nothing sexual towards either sex. They do however crave closeness, non-sexual intimacy, deep friendship, and much more. With each of these labels and each of these letters, there are millions of individuals who define themselves by these. They are people, with lives, with loves, with families, who all need respect and love. More recently, the catch-all terms GSM (“Gender and Sexual Minorities“, or “Gender and Sexuality Minorities” for those who include intersexuality), GSRM (“Gender, Sexual, and Romantic Minorities“), and GSD (“Gender and Sexual Diversity“) have been proposed.
According to national reports over a quarter of the population struggles with a mental illness of some kind; that is one in four Americans. Just as with every other population group in the United States, the LGBTQIA community is no different and also has community members who struggle with some type of behavioral health issue. Although there has been much progress made in the LGBTQIA rights suffrage movement, there is still far to go and for those who struggle with a mental illness, there is a double stigma from both within and without the Community. Additionally, teens and young adults are the ones who are in one of the highest risk categories. Reports about teens committing suicide because they were ‘outed’ or young adults who came out to their families and friends and were met with utter rejection and isolation seem to dominate the local and national news. There have been many LGBTQIA Community members who have turned to alcohol and/or drugs as a vehicle of self-medication. There are also members of the community who have not come out to their healthcare providers and are unsure how to approach the issues that they face with their doctors.
Fortunately, times are changing. As more rights are gained and more acceptances are achieved by the general population, one can find help for issues such as mental health, aging, youth, and more. Most LGBTQIA Community Centers offer support groups for a variety of life’s stressful situations. Organizations such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) are recognizing that LGBTQIA Community members need the services that they provide and are happy to include them. Organizations have arisen from within the Community itself, such as SAGE (Services and Advocacy for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Elders) and the Hetrick Martin Institute, both New York-based organizations with offices in New Jersey. The American and New Jersey Self-Help Group Clearinghouses maintain databases of support groups as well as toll-free hotlines, online forums, and web resources which serve the needs of the LGBTQIA Community within the State of New Jersey and across the United States.