Healthy minds for all

How to Build Resilience for the LGBTQ+ Community


A recent article in Out Magazine revealed that increasing isolation for the LGBTQ+ community has led to an epidemic of loneliness. "People, young and old, have become more depressed, lonely, and sad," writes Matthieu Jost for the article. "The World Health Organization even recently named social isolation one of the biggest public health problems for older folks."

But why is loneliness a problem for our community? "Loneliness has been linked to cardiovascular problems, weakened immune systems, increased mortality rates, chronic health conditions, and even shorter lifespans." Furthermore, if you have feelings of loneliness and experience isolation, you are more susceptible to mental health problems such as depression and anxiety and the lack of engagement may also lead to cognitive decline.

But there has to be a better way. One simple solution for LGBTQ+ folks to avoid the spiraling thoughts of loneliness is to simply get off your phone and engage in activities and events that occur in everyday real life scenarios. It may seem obvious, but the research shows that limiting cell phone use leads to reduced levels of stress and anxiety. There's even research from some neuroscientists that the use of GPS limits our necessity for using the part of the brain that specializes in "spatial memory," leading to cognitive decline that could make us vulnerable to neurological disorders like dementia and Alzheimer's disease. So put away your phone and navigate using your brain the next time you're lost in the city!

But the main takeaway of the epidemic of queer loneliness is rooted in building community. When we nourish connections – from neighbors and roommates, to relatives and yoga friends – we develop resilience for stronger, happier, healthier lives. Community brings us together. It reminds us that we have shared experiences as queer Americans and allows us to bond over commonalities and learn over differences. This is the source of resilience.

Eureka O'Hara, a drag queen featured in the latest season of Max's hit docuseries "We're Here," understands the lesson of turning confrontation into friendship, leading to community and belonging. "I loved working with Chris in Jackson, Mississippi," she shares about an interaction on the show for an interview with The Queer Review.

"Being such a bro guy, when I let [Chris] know that I was uncomfortable with him calling me 'bro,' seeing the way he reacted and his willingness to learn and be cool with it was really powerful. I think that's going to be powerful for people like him to see. That's why we do this show. To show people how easy it is to get along and to intermingle and to thrive together."

The moment highlights how interactions like these build resilience in us and can lead to positive outcomes where more community is created. And when we build community, the collective resilience of the LGBTQ+ community only strengthens.

Other ways you can fight loneliness, strengthen resilience, and ultimately build community is to get out into the neighborhood where you live and participate in activities that are meaningful to you. For example, many cities host intramural team sports leagues for queer people. From volleyball to kickball and soccer to ultimate frisbee, queer intramural sports teams host competitive games, ultimate tournaments, and social events after games for team bonding. Speaking of rec sports, many recreation centers in neighborhoods across the country have sign ups for volleyball, tennis and pickleball courts. Everybody knows pickleball is the new sport to try. And you might make some new friends if you get in on the action!

Many cities also have LGBT Centers where community members can volunteer or sign up for activities. There are also a host of volunteer opportunities to give back to the community and help those who are less fortunate. Finally, plenty of queer folks are "RuPaul's Drag Race" fans. Bars and restaurants in every major city host viewing parties that are a smash hit for the audience. Pro tip: Show up early to a viewing party and mingle with the crowd about your favorite queens. You're bound to make friends with fellow "Drag Race" fans.

Community is the foundation to building resilience. The LGBTQ+ community may face feelings of loneliness and experience isolation, but when we create diverse and inclusive spaces for us to come together as a community, our resilience strengthens and we all thrive.

Sponsored by McDonald's

by Roger Porter

This story is part of our special report: "McDonald's Unity in Diversity and Mentally Strong Editorial Series". Want to read more? Here's the full list.

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