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Protecting Your Sexual Mental Health as a Queer Person


In a world which is overly-focused on the physical and the visible, the importance of protecting your sexual mental health can often get lost. This issue rings true even more so in queer communities, with multiple studies reporting queer children and adults to be at a much higher risk of suffering from anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders than heterosexual people.

This National LGBT Health Awareness Week, we’re focusing on an inclusive approach to sexual wellbeing which prioritizes the safety of LGBTQIA+ people, and encourages mindful (but still equally mind-blowing) intimacy.

Protecting Your Sexual Mental Health as a Queer Person

Sexual Self Esteem

A large aspect of sexual mental health comes in the form of your sexual self-esteem. The Healthy Women Organization defines sexual self-esteem as ‘how you view your sense of self as a sexual being’, from attractiveness and image to competency and confidence. Though people of all genders and sexualities can struggle with their sexual self-esteem, people in minority groups are often most affected due to the pressures and preconceptions already placed on their bodies by society and the outside world.

For example, one contributing factor to low sexual self-esteem may come in the form of body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD is a mental health condition in which you can’t stop thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance. A 2020 study published in the journal Body Image found that whilst BDD is seen in approximately 2.2% of heterosexual men, the issue is significantly higher in gay and bisexual men. Of the 268 gay and bisexual men surveyed, BDD was evident in over 49% of participants. Eating disorders are also higher in queer individuals, with 54% of LGBT adolescents having a diagnosed full-syndrome eating disorder during their lifetime, and an additional 21% suspecting that they had an eating disorder at some point.

Protecting Your Sexual Mental Health as a Queer Person

Similar body dissatisfaction was observed in trans communities, with a 2015 study finding body dissatisfaction to be core to the distress trans people experience. Similar reports also suggested that 20 percent of transgender people avoided or postponed receiving healthcare out of fear of discrimination.

Considering such studies attribute these heightened body image issues to the stress of living as a sexual and gender minority, noting homophobia, transphobia, violence, and the fear of rejection as elements involved, it’s easy to see how BDD can affect the action in the bedroom, and lead to an increased awareness of your body and it’s relation to others.

‘Seeking support from empathetic friends, family, or mental health professionals can alleviate self-esteem challenges by offering validation and relief, as social support is known to promote mental well-being and self-esteem’ recommends Coby Baker, Sexology Student and creator in the sexual wellness space.

For further help with body dysmorphia, contact a health professional, and access helpful resources here.

Protecting Your Sexual Mental Health as a Queer Person

The Spectrum of Sexuality

Whilst your sexual mental health can be affected by the sex you’re having, it can also be affected by the sex you’re choosing not to have.

According to the Human Rights Campaign’s analysis of the 2021 LGBTQ+ Community Survey, 82% of asexual people said that their highest priority health concern was addressing challenges in their mental health, many of which derived from stigmas and misconceptions surrounding asexuality.

Up until 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM, considered a lack of sexual desire to be a mental health condition. While the scientific community now acknowledges asexuality as a sexuality rather than a disorder, many healthcare providers still lack knowledge and skills when helping or counseling asexual people.

A fundamental misunderstanding of asexuality means that many on the ace spectrum who experience romantic attraction question their ability to have relationships because of their identity or comfort level. Many asexual people may experience a pressure to perform for their partners, prompting confusion and negative feelings about sex and their own involvement within it, whilst other asexual people who choose to have sex may experience confusion around their sexual identities themselves.

Whether inside or outside of the bedroom, existing as a sexual minority in a heteronormative world always comes with challenges; read more about understanding asexuality here,

Queer Sex Education

In conversation with Forbes Magazine, activist Jennifer Driver explained that “Research shows that when young people fail to receive high-quality, inclusive sex education, they are more likely to experience negative sexual health outcomes’. Whilst she mainly focuses on the physical sexual health, the same can certainly be said for mental sexual health: lack of queer sex education can lead to feelings of uncertainty, anxiety, shame and confusion in young queer people, and leave them at a heightened vulnerability of getting hurt.

‘We need to normalise the experience of feeling anxious about sex, regardless of sexual orientation, and seek education through resources like books, podcasts, and online platforms focused on queer sex education.’ advises Coby Baker. ‘Building knowledge around diverse sexual experiences can boost confidence and alleviate anxiety surrounding sex.’

Some great places to start include resources recommended by The Trevor Project and the GSA Network.

Whilst vast studies and surveys have proven the need for National LGBT Health Awareness Week, sexual mental health difficulties in queer people remain, clearly, an international issue.

By advocating for accessible support systems, responsible resources, and an inclusive approach to sex education, we can help alleviate the pressure placed on queer people to cope with their sexual mental health issues independently.

Everyone deserves pain-free pleasure, if they want it; everyone deserves to feel valid in their identities; and everyone, when dealing with the vulnerable act of sex, deserves to feel safe.

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