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Our top self-advocacy tips for LGBTQIA+ teens and young adults

LGBTQIA+

Relationships

Resilience

Teen

June 13, 2024

Being your authentic self is one of the best ways to support your mental health. As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, we’re here to reaffirm that you deserve love, respect, and safety for exactly who you are. That’s why we’re here to help you better understand the importance of living your authentic identity and how you can best seek support from those around you. 

What is identity? 

Identity is a set of unique characteristics that can be used to identify a person. We often use this word in many different ways and contexts, but it generally refers to a person’s sense of self and how they view themselves compared to others. 

Identity categories like race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and economic status are often used to describe other people. For instance, someone may identify as Asian, or Muslim, or female. 

But other identity categories exist as well. You might identify as an artist, a Virgo, a violin player, or bilingual, or in a relationship, or as an athlete. How you describe yourself is up to you. And the words you would use to describe your own identity may change over time. 

If you’re struggling to use certain words to describe your identity, that’s totally okay. One thing to keep in mind is that your sexual orientation and gender identity can be fluid. If you’re going back and forth between believing you might be gay or bisexual, for instance, that’s completely normal.  

How to ask for support from those around you 

  • Communicate clearly and assertively. When you communicate with others clearly, it can help minimize conflict, get your needs met, and build positive relationships with family and friends. Assertiveness means expressing your point of view in a clear and direct way, but still respecting other people. It is not about making demands, refusing to compromise, or raising your voice. 
  • Use “I” statements as much as you can. This is a great way to keep the focus on yourself, without coming across as accusatory. For example, “I really appreciate when you use my correct pronouns. It helps me to feel seen and supported.” 
  • Set boundaries. You are allowed to determine what you’re willing to discuss and what topics you’ll engage in when it comes to your identity. If you know you’re going to be spending time with people who may not be as supportive as you’d like them to be, have some coping mechanisms available like an exit plan so that you can leave the situation if needed, deep breathing techniques, or a trusted friend that you can call. 
  • Surround yourself with people who lift you up. Who in your life helps you to feel your best? Maybe it’s a trusted friend, teacher, coach, or family member. It can be helpful to identify allies in certain situations, like family dinners or social gatherings. Make space for those who help you to feel seen and valued, while distancing yourself from people, interactions, or situations that leave you feeling unsafe or disrespected. Consider joining LGBTQIA+ groups in your community to foster new, enriching relationships. 
  • Prioritize self-care. Navigating unaccepting family members, coworkers, or people that you encounter in your day-to-day life can be emotionally and physically exhausting, so be sure to treat yourself with care and compassion. This can include getting enough rest, eating nourishing foods, taking walks, journaling, or finding a creative outlet that you enjoy. 

Remember that you deserve to feel respected and safe, and to live as your truest self. By learning how to communicate your needs and feelings effectively, you’ll be able to advocate for yourself and have honest, open conversations with family and friends. The team at Bend is always here if you could use some support along the way.

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