Acceptance, Belonging and Well-being
Think back to a time where you knew you were being loved and accepted just as you are. Where you felt safe and fully seen. What feelings do you recall when you were in that space of love? What memories arise of how those gifts impacted your life? How did you engage with yourself and others during those moments?
The need for acceptance and belonging are part of our core needs as human beings
Human beings need to be loved and accepted. Belonging and acceptance aren't just nice experiences to have, they are major factors in our overall health and wellness. Dr. Marianna Pogosyan said, "The emotional factors of belonging have been well studied. Bonds with other people can become causes of happiness. Supportive social networks can act as buffers against stress. The feeling of being connected to others can be a protective factor against depression."
Many of our LGBTQ+ friends and family are deprived of that gift even from their own families and friends. How can we change that? I invite you to consider the impact that non-acceptance of individuals can have on their well-being, and the value that wholehearted love and acceptance can make in the journey of those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Dr. Caitlin Ryan, director of The Family Acceptance Project, has done extensive research on how a family’s acceptance or rejection of an LGBTQ+ child impacts that child’s well being. Dr. Ryan found that young persons who experience high levels of family rejection were:
- eight times more likely to report having attempted suicide
- nearly six times more likely to report high levels of depression
- more than three times more likely to use drugs or have unprotected sex
Comparatively, Dr. Ryan found in another study that high levels of ACCEPTANCE provide a protective quality to young people. Research data shows that strong family acceptance helps protect adolescents against suicidal behavior, depression, and substance abuse. Young people with accepting families also reported higher self-esteem, social support, and overall health.
What you do matters
More impactful than even the research data, the lived experiences of those around us who are affected by non-acceptance and are deprived of belonging show us is that our attitudes towards LGBTQ+ youth and persons matter. Knowing how important acceptance is, here are 5 easy ways to show acceptance and support of your LGBTQ+ friends and family members.
- Listen and show support when someone shares their story, gender identity, pronouns, or orientation with you. Be sure that you express your love and friendship for them and respect their privacy if they have asked you to not share. Also be sure and use their pronouns correctly, don’t be afraid to ask!
- Shut down the jokes. If you are at a family gathering or with friends and you hear a joke about LGBTQ+ individuals or inappropriate slang, stand up for your LGBTQ+ friends. Be willing to compassionately close down the type of humor that may be meant in jest, but is actually very hurtful.
- Be inclusive. When hosting gatherings, be sure to invite your LGBTQ+ friends’ partners just as you would the partners of your cisgender straight friends.
- Use your social media for good. Repost or share content that supports LGBTQ+ causes and individuals. Let your friends know you are a safe person for them. Comment or like your LGBTQ+ friends’ and family members’ posts.
- Leave them a note! If you feel stuck with what to say, or you are not sure you are ready to post your support on social media, use a love note! Let the LGBTQ+ persons in your life know they are seen, valued and supported. If you want help getting started, click here to sign in or get registered with KBH Connect to get our free, hand illustrated love notes.
Remember that you can make a difference with your support. Your acceptance of and contribution to creating environments of belonging and inclusivity matter to LGBTQ+ friends and family members, especially youth. We all want to be more than tolerated, we want to feel loved, accepted and have a place to belong.