Everyone finds it hard figuring out who they are. Especially when you throw doubts about sexuality into the mix. Some people know really clearly, early on, who they’re attracted to or what their gender identity is. For others it can be a real challenge trying to figure it out.

No one really knows yet what determines a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. However, some people find accepting their sexual orientation and/or gender identity difficult.

If you’re LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex*), Takatapui or Fa’afafine, Asexual, or if you don’t identify with the traditional definitions of ‘man’ or ‘woman’ you may be more prone to being labeled, made fun of or abused. It’s a sad fact that people who are seen as different to the ‘norm’ often face discrimination and bullying.

Just to be clear, being LGBTI doesn’t cause mental health problems. Not at all.

However, there are a lot of pressures that go along with being LGBTI that can mess with good mental health. Not all young LBGTI people face the same issues, but there definitely are some in common. Like feeling pressure to deny or change your sexuality or gender identity, being worried about coming out, possibly being rejected or made fun of, or difficulty using wharepaku/bathrooms or changing rooms when not conforming as ‘man’ or ‘woman’.

All these pressures can make life really stressful, and affect other things like school, sleep and your appetite. Also, if you don’t feel understood or supported by friends and whānau, it can make you feel unhappy, angry or frustrated - making it hard to enjoy life.

If your struggles with these pressures seem to be going on for weeks or months it could also be a sign of a bigger problem like depression or anxiety.

Whoever you like and whatever you identify as - it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to figure out how to deal with the mix of feelings and reactions so you can get on with living your life the way you want.

Some LGBTI young people find it especially hard to ask for help – maybe because they felt discriminated against by doctors or counsellors in the past or are worried about privacy. It could just be hard talking to strangers who don’t ‘get’ it.

The OUTLineNZ site can help you find someone who does. It might take a while before you find the right health professional or counsellor that ‘gets you’ - but keep at it.

*Intersex describes a whole range of variations where the chromosomes, appearance or genitals don’t match typical ideas of male or female.

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