LGBTQ+Me. Embracing Our Differences

BY BETTERME

“People of the LGBTQ+ community often face discrimination and lack of understanding from the society…”, said Yuriy Dvizhon, co-founder of UKRAINEPRIDE NGO, who identifies as gay.

75% of LGBTQ+ youth have reported that they have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime, according to The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, a survey of just under 35,000 LGBTQ young people.

We are all humans, and there are no exceptions to this rule. So a question naturally arises: why are we treating some people differently from others?

In the past, gender identity was thought to be influenced solely by social and familial factors. However, growing evidence has led to a new conception of psychosexual development as a result of genetic, hormonal, and psychosocial influences, according to the book “The Plasticity of Sex”. Such things are a part of who we are as human beings, and people’s romantic or sexual orientations are as varied as people’s hair colours or textures.

Society ignored diversity issues for years in most parts of the world, only taking into account so-called “traditional” values. In Christian cultures, it was only in the 21st century that society acknowledged the lack of sex education and non-acceptance of those who were brave enough to think differently, and gradually gave more attention to marginalised communities.

For example, in the last 30 years, Ukraine changed its mindset from total intolerance into a non-discriminatory attitude towards queer people. According to the 2022 report by the Nash Svit Center under the USAID/ENGAGE activity, the issue of equality and protection of LGBTQ+ rights in Ukraine is becoming increasingly important in both the country’s domestic and foreign policies.

BetterMe, a leading Ukrainian healthcare company, which takes care of the physical and mental health of millions of people worldwide, and UKRAINEPRIDE NGO are gathering different life stories from common people to unite those of different sexual orientations and gender identities, and help them better understand each other. For Pride Month, they have created the mental health course “LGBTQ+Me. Embracing Our Differences.”

Through this initiative, six heroes are sharing their experiences of self-identification, coming out, bullying and discrimination; talking with kids about gender and orientation; popular stereotypes; being gay in the military service and more.
“Generally, I disliked traditionally girly things, but at the same time, I was really invested in feminist projects and ideas that focused on the female experience,” said Alem, a queer person. “I am just Alem. Alem means “the Universe” in the Crimean Tatar language, and the Universe has no gender. It just is. And so am I.”

“As a child, my favourite toy was a Barbie doll, which I had to hide from other boys and my parents, while the girls didn’t judge me”, said Julia, a transgender woman. “I’ve been through a lot: toxic relationships, rejection, medical and financial issues… It helped me develop a thick skin… But I also realised that protecting yourself by closing yourself off wasn’t good”.

“My parents never talked to me about my gender. My dad would take me down to the garage, where other men were drinking and fixing their cars — they all thought I was his son. “‘It’s a girl,’ he would tell them with a smirk”, said Alex, a transgender man.

The diversity of people, stories, and emotions that surround us may be astonishing sometimes. The examples of Alem, Julia and Alex highlight that trying to build your own path is not a bad thing, that there are many ways to exist in this world, and that they may cross at one time or another.

These personal stories are shared by Ukrainians who have lived through these experiences, but they could be relevant to queer folks in any corner of the world.

The current war in Ukraine demonstrates really well how united Ukrainians are against any kind of violence, which is also why BetterMe is collaborating with UKRAINEPRIDE.

In the past year, nearly half of LGBTQ+ youth wanted counselling from a mental health professional but did not receive it, according to The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. According to the same survey, having a supportive partner, accepting friends, support in school, university, and educational opportunities is how LGBTQ+ people find joy and strength, despite having a number of challenges in their lives. But for many, it’s hard to find this level of understanding in their environment. The Internet becomes a viable alternative to connecting with like-minded folks who can also give support and advice.

In BetterMe’s “LGBTQ+Me. Embracing Our Differences” course, the six heroes share their experiences, while a mental health counsellor analyses the deep internal feelings behind all of them, and gives practical tips on how to live through those. Broadening horizons is especially important for people outside the LGBTQ+ community. It is crucial to seek out real people who will give a different perspective and challenge preconceived notions.

You can find more hero stories on the BetterMe: Mental Health app.

Download the BetterMe: Mental Health app and listen to the LGBTQ+Me course. BetterMe is a leading Ukraine-based behavioural healthcare company taking care of the physical and mental health of 100M users worldwide. The company headquarters are located in Kyiv, Ukraine. The company has developed two supportive apps, BetterMe: Health Coaching and BetterMe: Mental Health. Recently, BetterMe Store was launched with its sports apparel, which will provide excellent motivation to start exercising. The company is making a healthy lifestyle as inclusive and accessible as possible.
UKRAINEPRIDE NGO is a propatriotic queer movement, that aims to defend and nurture Ukrainian cultural identity and share it with counterparts from different countries, ethnicities, or religions. They preserve and protect our culture, so it is possible to share it with the whole world.