Common LGBTQ Student Issues

 

Identity Development

Like many other underrepresented groups, LGBTQ students are often looking for a space that supports them and reflects their identity.  LGBTQ students often show up as the “only one,” whether in class, in their family, with their friends, in organizations, or in their living situation.  LGBTQ students often seek out opportunities to connect with other LGBTQ students, friends, organizations, history, etc. 

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Mental Health Concerns

Isolation- LGBTQ individuals may feel isolated from their peers. This can be magnified if individuals do not have a support system in place.

Low Self-Esteem- Because of the large amount of misinformation in society about LGBTQ individuals, sometimes LGBTQ individuals internalize negative myths and stereotypes. This internalization can lead to shame and a negative self-image.

Depression- Compacting the low self-esteem with the feelings of isolation make LGBTQ individuals more likely than heterosexual/cisgender individuals to have issues with depression.

Anxiety- Because the LGBTQ population is an invisible minority, LGBTQ individuals may experience a lot of anxiety about who knows their sexual orientation or gender identity and who they can safely share that information with.

Suicidal Ideations- The combination of all these previously mentioned mental health issues in addition to the lack of a positive support system, can lead to suicidal ideation and ultimately suicide. It is well documented that individuals who identify as LGBTQ are often at higher risk for suicide.

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Substance Abuse

Tobacco Use- LGBTQ individuals have higher numbers of individuals that use tobacco products, like cigarettes, than their heterosexual peers. This may be tied to the stress associated with being LGBTQ.

Alcohol Use- Due to the increased depression and anxiety rates in LGBTQ individuals, it should be no surprise that they are often more susceptible to alcohol abuse. LGBTQ individuals may use alcohol as a coping mechanism. In addition alcohol is very readily available in the LGBTQ community in bars and clubs.

Drug Use- Just as with alcohol, drug use (including prescription drug use) may be used by LGBTQ individuals as a coping mechanism. Like alcohol, drugs are also very readily available in the LGBTQ community in bars and clubs.

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Relationship Differences

Friends- A LGBTQ person’s social network may ebb and flow drastically as they come out to individuals they consider “friends.” In other words LGBTQ individuals may lose some friends and gain other friends as they come out, which could drastically change their social network.

Family Problems- LGBTQ individuals often face rejection from their family unit. Sometimes this can be manifested in a loss of financial assistance, being “kicked-out” of the home, or completely cutting off all communications and ties to an individual.

Intimate Relationships- The LGBTQ community has a very interesting dynamic in regards to intimate relationships. Because there is no legalized marriage of LGBTQ couples in North Carolina, there is also no prescribed relationship tract. That means individuals may engage in sexual relationships earlier, or may be less likely to commit to another individual. In addition intimate relationships for same-sex couples are complicated when your “ex-partner” could be the “ex-partner” of your “future partner”. In other words the community is very small and relationships are affected by this intimacy.

Sexual Relationships- Because sexual education to LGBTQ individuals is almost non-existent LGBTQ individuals often experiment with sex without protection. This can lead to increased cases of sexually transmitted infections and diseases, including HIV/AIDS. In addition HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects the gay male community, while HPV (a leading case for cervical cancer) disproportionately affects the lesbian community.

Interpersonal Violence- Same-sex couples are just as prone to interpersonal violence as heterosexual couples. However, in same-sex couples the impact of the coming out process can greatly add to a perpetrator’s control and power over a victim. In other words a victim may be less likely to report violence from a same-sex partner, because they may be fearful of the response and may not wish to disclose their sexual orientation to others. In addition same-sex couples are often ignored by police and are often met with hostility from interpersonal violence support groups.

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Harassment & Discrimination

Intimidation/Bullying- LGBTQ individuals may encounter more negative attitudes, jokes, verbal taunting, or bullying because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition LGBTQ individuals may be intimidated by individuals who threaten to “out” them if they don’t do something.

Harassment- LGBTQ individuals may face harassment in many different forms. They may hear verbal threats, may have their property damaged, or may be sexually harassed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ individuals may also be less likely to report harassing behavior because they do not wish to disclose their own sexual orientation or gender identity to authorities.

Social Avoidance- LGBTQ individuals may be left out of other events, groups, or activities by their heterosexual or cis-gendered peers.  LGBTQ individuals are sometimes discouraged from joining organizations, study groups, or participating in activities.

Discrimination- LGBTQ individuals do not share the same protections as other minority groups in the US.  While it is no longer legal to discriminate on the basis of race, skin color, ethnicity, ability, age, sex, or veteran’s status, it is still legal to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Violence- LGBTQ individuals may be targets of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In addition they may be targeted because they are seen as “weaker” or less likely to either fight back or report the crime/incident.

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Academic Support

Due to some of the factors we have already discussed, including mental health issues, harassment, and discrimination, LGBTQ students often find that they need assistance with their academics here at UNC Charlotte.  This can include seeking approval to miss classes or drop classes to tutoring and supplemental instruction.

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Financial Support

LGBTQ students will sometimes face financial difficulties after coming out.  Sometimes they are disowned and disconnected from their family support system, which may have been providing financial support.  LGBTQ students often have to find financial resources quickly and on their own.  This may include the need to find new housing options, employment opportunities, or new ways to pay for tuition.

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