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Transgender author Juno Dawson: ‘How I grew up in fear’

Campaigner delivers moving speech to audience at Waterstones

09 March, 2017 — By Tom Foot

Juno Dawson with Alessandro Storer, Equality and Improvement Manager at Mind, and Nikolas Jovcic-Sas, Mind equality improvement leader

A TRANSGENDER author and campaigner made a moving speech about coping with fear and rejection at a mental health event organised by the charity Mind.

Juno Dawson – who made national headlines last month after a Catholic school cancelled an invitation for her to speak about her latest book, arguing the talk might be “inappropriate” for pupils – spoke about how LGBTQ+ people often face feelings of fear and rejection in their formative years.

The talk, at Waterstones Piccadilly, was held to profile the work of Mind mental health groups, including Camden’s, which offer specialist mental health support.

Ms Dawson said: “I think LGBTQ people grow up with fear and that fear is manifold. We fear rejection by our parents and peers; we fear harassment, violence and intimidation; we fear discrimination and persecution; as a child of the Eighties I feared death and disease. “I feared those things before I really knew what fear was. I sensed my difference, my otherness. So often, as a child, I was told I was ‘doing it wrong’. I truly believe that if we weren’t so gendered as a society, many children wouldn’t feel like they were failing at something so arbitrary.”

Research shows more than four in five transgender people – 84 per cent – have considered suicide and 50 per cent have actually attempted suicide, compared to an average of less than 6 per cent in the wider population. More than 40 per cent of LGBTQ+ people will experience a significant mental health problem in their lives, compared to around 25 per cent of the whole population. They are also more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide.

Ms Juno said: “I think these fears become very deeply ingrained in LGBTQ people. So much so, we’re almost robotically trained to respond with, ‘I’m fine’, and a rictus grin when anyone asks how we are. “We celebrate our history, our icons and party at Pride marches every year at this time. So much so, it’s almost become anathema to admit we’re still struggling in any way, shape or form. But struggle we do.”

In a filmed message of support, Stephen Fry, president of Mind, said: “As a gay man, as a man with bipolar disorder, I have a very special interest in everything that is happening this evening. It’s a lamentable and melancholy fact that in 2017 the LGBTQ+ community should suffer so much from issues that pertain to mental health, and I’m talking about the most vital issues imaginable.”

 

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