Mentor and LGBTQ+ champion, Janine Holmes, writing in support of LGBT+ history month.
Mind, Body, Spirit
The theme of LGBT+ History Month this year is ‘Body, Mind, Spirit’. We can think of this theme as representing three parts of our selves; body could be considered our physical self, mind our mental self, and spirit our emotional or spiritual self. What the rest of the world see first of all is our physical self, but what’s actually important to who we are may be our mind or spirit.
Some students have been discussing this theme with their link mentors and have kindly agreed to let me share their thoughts with you all. So how do we show our mind or spirit to those around us? We have to find ways to express our true selves, to communicate to others who we are, our feelings and our views. This may be particularly important for members of the LGBT+ community who find that incorrect assumptions are made about them.
There’s no one correct way to express yourself. Many of our students talked about having the freedom to look how they want, from hair to clothes to makeup. Some talked about expressing themselves through doing what they love, especially creative hobbies like art, painting or music. For many of them, they felt the most themselves when they were able to share with others and talk passionately about their interests, without feeling the need to hide or conform to what others expect.
Being able to express yourself in a way that suits you, and then having someone understand that – truly ‘get’ you and see you for who you are, is a powerful thing. Some students shared that that feeling can be weird at first, a bit hard to understand, and almost as if it’s something they don’t deserve. But the truth is, we all deserve to be appreciated for our uniqueness. Often the best parts of us come out when we feel able to show others around us who we truly are. Some of our students had a go at describing how that feels, and here are some of the words they came up with: complete, valid, accepted, at peace, comforted, cherished, free, like you can breathe, like you don’t have to hide.
Helping others feel safe to express themselves
It is clearly an amazing feeling! So how can we help the people around us feel that way? How can we make people feel welcome and safe to express themselves? As one student Orla said:
“wanting to truly get to know someone requires more than most people think.”
But don’t fear, we’ve got some advice here from our young people about ways you can do just that:
- Listen, a lot. Make sure you truly hear them and are present and in the moment when they speak to you. You might be surprised what you learn!
- Be patient and understanding, don’t push or judge them.
- Take an interest in their interests. Make the effort to learn about their hobbies, preferences and passions.
- Have shared experiences, they can help you understand each other better.
- Give it time. Trust grows over time.
If you’d like more information about LGBT+ History Month, then have a look at the LGBT+ history month website.
If you would like advice or support, then we recommend having a look at Stonewall’s excellent page of resources, which provides information on various support lines and services available for young people and adults alike.