What comes to mind for you when you think about the LGBTQ+ community? Is it brightly colored flags being waved by smiling people in rainbow attire? Or maybe your vision is a lot simpler. Just a same-gender-loving couple holding hands at the breakfast table. Or maybe your mind’s eye is showing a little of both. Do you ever imagine a person, holed up in their room, googling ‘x’ sexuality or gender secretly? Do you imagine the person who’s in the classroom, constantly being misgendered because the idea of their parents finding out prevents them from telling their teacher the proper name and pronouns? The real question I’m asking is, do you ever imagine us closeted folx? We may be unable to be loud and proud, like most in the community, but we matter.
Because social support and self-esteem go hand in hand, and people in the closet often lack the former, their self-esteem can hang in the balance. However, I want to remind everyone in the closet of an important quote by Tenae Stewart: “Your mind is the tool and sacred space you always have on hand.”
Even if there are no people uplifting you, I want you to remember the ways in which you can uplift yourself:
1. Be kind to yourself: As @ajarae put it on Twitter, “Don’t be stingy with your self-love. You deserve every bit of it.” Use positive affirmations to soften your self-talk. (See this article for more details on where to find them!) Try naming or writing down three things you like about yourself.
2. Celebrate the small wins: Consider cheering for yourself all the time. Even for simple things like getting out of bed or eating breakfast.
3. Do what makes you happy: A few days after making an epic playlist, my friend told me she was making a Gender Euphoric Bliss board. Can you make yourself a playlist that represents your inner self? Can you make art that reflects your pride in subtle ways? Try scheduling in a little “you” time every day.
4. Expand your inner world: If you can, try volunteering or getting out the word for a good cause. Studies show that being kind to others can help improve your own mental health and happiness.
5. Focus on what you can change: Restricting part of who you are can be entirely difficult and frustrating. See if you can focus on what you can control in your life – try writing out your thoughts or talking to a counselor at The Trevor Project. And remember, it’s OK if you’re not ready to come out. You matter. You’re important. And you are very much loved.