As a young teenager, I started to recognize that I was “different” from other males. After finally coming to the realization that I was gay, I started to feel alone. I did not trust that my family or friends would accept me, and I thought I was the only male who had these feelings. I lived in a very small isolated town, and I had no gay role models I could talk to. After confiding in a few high school friends, I became the target of slurs and graffiti on my locker. Although I was resilient and have since devoted much of my life to justice, equality, and protection for LGBT people, I cannot help but reflect on how isolated and alone I felt during that time in my life.
Although that paragraph describes my own personal experiences, I imagine many other LGBT teenagers feel/felt the same way. In fact, discussing this topic with gay and lesbian friends revealed they had near identical experiences. This curiosity led me to one of my first projects in my PhD program on exploring the concept of isolation in LGBT youth. The paper describing this project was recently published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing. With the recent blog by Dr. Mona Shattell, I thought a brief overview of my findings was timely.
Briefly, this concept analysis revealed five dimensions and four sub-dimensions.
- Social Isolation: This refers to LGBT youth who are not able to talk to anyone about his or her sexuality. Moreover, this concept is made up of four sub-dimensions, including lack of social support, no contact with LGBT community, social withdrawal, and victimization.
- Emotional Isolation: This refers to LGBT youth who feel separated (emotionally) from social networks, including the family. They are often guarded about their sexuality which may heighten the feelings of emotional isolation.
- Cognitive Isolation: LGBT youth often do not have access to LGBT-specific information or LGBT role models. Much of the information they are exposed to is negative and harmful, and thus only reinforces the feeling of isolation.
- Concealment of Identity: Because of the pressures to be “normal”, LGBT youth will often try to conform to heteronormative expectations. Some LGBT youth are described as isolating themselves from other people who may outwardly appear LGBT to avoid being discovered.
- Recognition that Self is Different From Heteronormative Society: LGBT youth probably recognize that they are different than societal expectations as soon as they acknowledge their own sexual and/or gender identity. Knowing that oneself is “different” can be an extremely isolating feeling.
If interested, I encourage you to go to the Journal of Advanced Nursing website and retrieve the article. However, I wanted to present some of this information here so that others understand the challenges and feelings LGBT youth may be feeling. Teachers, parents, or other adults may not understand the feelings of isolation in LGBT youth. I recognize that not all LGBT youth will experience the feelings of isolation; however, this information can hopefully be a starting point for you.
Here are numerous online resources that may be of help to LGBT youth and their families:
Questions and Answers: LGBTQ Youth Issues
For more information, do not hesitate to contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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