There are so many ways LGBTQ+ people find ways to connect with community, often by creating our own spaces to build relationships and feel a sense of belonging. Our communities historically have shown incredible resilience in the face of isolation, discrimination and experiences of loneliness.
However, it’s not always easy. Even when we know we belong, we can still experience feelings of loneliness and isolation, or feel estranged from our friends, chosen family, our specific community at large, or even community spaces/events. Attending to our social health needs is just as important as, and is a contributing factor to, maintaining strong mental and physical health.
Loneliness and social isolation can contribute to depression, use of alcohol and other drugs, and thoughts and feelings of suicide.
There are many reasons why LGBTQ+ people may experience loneliness and/or social isolation at any stage of our lives. These could include big life transitions, limitations due to age, geographical isolation, barriers to health care, and experiences of discrimination and violence.
When we reach out, it is important to remind ourselves that we will not be a burden and there are people who want to help.
A feeling of “mattering” to others is one of the most important protective factors against loneliness and isolation. When we feel like we matter to others we can maintain our social resilience. What this looks like will depend on the individual and what kinds of social interactions bring them most fulfillment.
We might want to establish and nurture connections with
- a few chosen family members or kin
- mentors or teachers
- peers who need caregivers
- elders and seniors seeking connection
- work peers
- a social or sports club
- online friends
- an LGBTQ+ or trans community organisation
- volunteer and civic engagement groups
Our social networks do not have to be large to be supportive and they can change over time as our lives take different paths.
When we feel disconnected and experience barriers to engaging socially, it’s important to know that we can build and learn new social skills to help us feel connected to others.
To cope with the overwhelm of social situations, we can create goals and gradually expose ourselves to the situations that we want to find less stressful.
You can speak with a mental health practitioner about building social skills or take an online course that can help you set goals and understand how your thoughts are shaping your experiences.
- TransHub’s Trans Vitality provides this guide to communication and connection skills
- Trans Vitality also provides self-advocacy scripts
- ACON’s Support Services (counsellors, social workers, and peer workers) can help people dealing with social isolation
- ACON’s Home Based Care options supporting people in their homes or aged care