“Acceptance can be life-changing…”–Anonymous

When I realized I was gay, I immediately thought about how it would affect my life at home, my friendships, my work opportunities–all of the things that I anticipated would affect my everyday life. But the truth of the matter is that there is no way to predict the experiences you will have as an openly gay member of society. Over time I came to recognize how being a member of the LGBTQ+ community would affect my health as a whole. The first few years after coming out were extremely stressful. I didn’t know accept myself and lacked ways to cope with homophobic remarks and other people’s judgement. That is one of the many things I think that is impossible to understand unless you experience it: the feeling of constantly being judged. Granted, I was one of three openly gay students in a high school that lacked diversity, so I may have had different experiences growing up if we had lived somewhere where being gay was more accepted. The stress and anxiety started to affect my physical health. I substituted exercise with laying in bed due to a lack of motivation, and I found myself getting sick often. After about a year of this, I decided to start counseling in hopes that it would help me deal with everything. I remember walking into my counselor’s office for the first time. I was so nervous to talk about my experiences that I forced myself to take a seat so that running for the door was not an option. After sitting down, I noticed a pride flag hanging on the wall. I know this might sound silly, but it instantly comforted me. I felt like it was a space where I could be myself, and that was exactly what I needed in that moment. Five years later, I am thankful to say that I am happy with who I am and the life that I have. I really believe that the help I received played a huge role in that for me. I think it is important for people to recognize that being gay can affect health in a lot of ways, and that access to accepting healthcare professionals can be life-changing. Acceptance can be life-changing.