It’s understandable for queer people to have quite strong reactions to the death by suicide of a member of the LGBTQ community.
It’s been a tough start to the year. Bushfires, upsetting stories about the suffering of our native animals, incessant heat, and in the last few days an attack on a drag storytime event and a very public death by suicide of a troubled young man.
Suicide is such an incredibly sad thing. We can never know what is in the heart and mind of a person in the time leading up to their death by suicide. They may seem quite normal, happy even, but their inner turmoil lies hidden deep inside. And although suicides can be meticulously planned, they can also be spur-of-the-moment, an impulsive reaction to a deeply upsetting event. Whether planned or not, they represent a depth of despair that only the individual themselves can ever truly understand.
Sadly, death by suicide is more common amongst LGBTQ people than the general population. There are obvious reasons – the stress of feeling different, of being judged by others, of perhaps not being accepted by friends and family. There is also fear, the fear of rejection and loneliness, the fear of being derided or assaulted when going out, the fear of perhaps never finding true love, and the greatest fear of all, the fear of their own identity.
People talk about internalized homophobia, but do they really understand what this is? I don’t think you can unless you have experienced what it is like, as an emerging young individual, to discover you are different from others, and to feel you need to hide this from the people in your inner circle, your siblings, parents, school buddies, teachers, employers, the world. And when some of those people eventually find out and – hallelujah – are accepting, you crazily feel like you now owe them something for being so good to you. So even when you’ve been “accepted” you still feel the need to prove yourself, and keep proving yourself again and again to maintain that acceptance.
As a young queer person, resilience is a survival skill, but it’s not something we are automatically endowed with. It helps to have supportive people in your inner circle, but sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes you need more than this.
Reaching out and asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you know you’re in trouble and you need a lift up. It takes time to work through feelings, to even acknowledge them in the first place, and then to learn strategies to accept and manage them.
Hearing about someone’s death by suicide is deeply upsetting, and can be a trigger to think about your own feelings. If you need help to work through these, then ask for it. Your self-love is not selfish, it is the care and nourishment of your greatest gift, yourself.