LGBTQIA+ Affirmation and Safety: ‘Belonging, like Air, is a Fundamental Human Need.’

For LGBTQIA+ People of Color, feeling safe in their own skin is an ongoing struggle. Dr. Kia Darling-Hammond explains why…

In March 2021, The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention for LGBTQIA+ youth, published a report estimating that suicide attempts among U.S. LGBTQIA+ youth are one every 45 seconds. The report cited discrimination, lack of proper formal support, and threats to personal safety as factors contributing to the suicide ideation and mental health impacts experienced by LGBTQIA+ young people in the United States.

Dr. Kia Darling-Hammond, a professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley, talks about the challenges that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQIA+) people face in living safely and with dignity. She also explains why LGBTQIA+ individuals are at such high risk of mental health problems compared to the general population.

According to Dr. Kia Darling-Hammond, a deep sense of belonging is “a fundamental human need.” Having close relationships with family and friends can protect people from psychological distress and strengthen their mental health. The idea that belonging depends on “sameness” is not only conceptually flawed but also dangerous when considering how we differ from one another. Intersectionality goes beyond the additive notion of identities (i.e., Latinx and nonbinary). It refers to considering all identities—gender or racial identity and sexual orientation and class—to explain how discrimination occurs in society.

To show respect for people and their identities, use their proper pronouns and preferred names. This indicates respect for their humanity and authority over their own identities and shows a strong sense of self-awareness, self-love, and self-trust.