The Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer Women (LBQ) Health Safe Space which took place on the 17th of August, 2019 was attended by 22 women from across Pretoria. It was hosted by OUT LGBT Well-Being’s Love Not Hate campaign and the UNISA Dept of Psychology.
The session was themed around LBQ women’s health needs, how to take a holistic approach in addressing these issues and to celebrate Women’s Month. Topics included mental health, sexual and reproductive health needs and physical health issues pertinent to LBQ Women. The safe space was also used as a platform to celebrate the greatness of LBQ women.
The session was preceded by tea and cake while awaiting a free health screening from OUT LGBT Well-Being’s TEN81 clinic team.
The majority of the women could relate to the below issues which were highlighted as the most prominent causes or contributions to the mental health challenges faced by LBQ Women:
- Invalidation and rejection – Stems from societal norms and gender norms which LBQ women are excluded from and inevitably forced to conform to.
- Historical backgrounds – Cultural, traditional and religious norms which are not progressive and exclude LBQ women.
- Unhealed childhood traumas – Being bullied in school and the inability to speak to family and close friends about it.
- Socio-economic issues (unemployment and “black tax”) – This conversation tied in to the need to feel accepted by family and friends and using material and financial benefits to gain love and acceptance.
- Biological factors – Mental health issues that are genetic and require treatment. This is highly misunderstood within ethnic groups and the need to start engaging about these conversations within cultural contexts.
- The oppressed becoming the oppressor – If one does not address their own internalised issues, it is quite easy for the oppressed to inflict the same abuse upon another person. This can affect the individual’s ability to have long-lasting relations with another person.
- Racism and systematic oppression – The undermining of black LBQ Women struggles (caused by lack of resources, traditional, cultural and societal norms; challenges are relative to the environments one comes from and the opportunities available within those environments).
The above-mentioned factors/contributions cannot be solved with one solution but the women shared different ways that they use to cope/address/tackle these issues:
- Through self-acceptance and being unapologetic about their sexual orientations and gender identities – Not shying away from any opportunities to educate their families, friends and community members about sexuality, gender diversity and the importance of acceptance.
- Raising awareness around harmful and problematic labels – The need for new vernacular terms to refer to LBQ Women and the removal of harmful terms which were chosen for the community.
- The need for constant sensitisation training at a local community level to make the service accessible to underprivileged communities.
- Self-care and reducing toxicity – Ensuring that one surrounds oneself with positive people who are supportive.
- Affirmations to yourself – Being kind to oneself, appreciating oneself and recognising one’s worth.
- Motivating younger LBQ Women and equipping them with the right mindset to allow them to overcome the challenges faced by this generation of LBQ women.
The intense discussions were followed by lunch, where the women got a chance to network and to reflect. The session was closed by a throwback karaoke session where three women walked away with pamper vouchers for their amazing voices, stage presence and great song choices.
Participants also received Women’s Months gifts which would be a reminder of their participation and a recognition of their power, beauty and greatness.