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Transgender author: ‘It’s almost anathema to admit we’re still struggling’

03 March, 2017

Juno Dawson, writer and LGBTQ+ advocate, with, centre, Alessandro Storer, Mind equality and improvement manager and, right, Nikolas Jovcic-Sas, Mind equality improvement leader and activist

A TRANSGENDER author and campaigner made a moving speech at a mental health event in Waterstones Piccadilly, organised by the charity Mind.

Juno Dawson – who last month criticised a Roman Catholic school for pulling its invitation to her to speak about her book, claiming it was “inappro­priate” – spoke about the struggle LGBTQ+ people face growing up with feelings of fear and rejection.

She 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 1980s 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 I 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 – 84 per cent – of transgender people have considered suicide and 50 per cent have actually attempted suicide, compared with 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 with around 25 per cent of the whole population.

They are also more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide.

Ms Dawson said: “I think these fears become very deeply engrained 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 the broadcaster Stephen Fry, president of mental health charity 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.”

The evening was held to profile the work of local Mind groups across England and Wales which offer specialist mental health support and there was a silent auction with exclusive prizes in support of the charity’s LGBTQ+ work.

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