Being your true self while also being what society expects you to be can be difficult. Our Youth Culture Uncovered research highlights this tension for young people. Ninety three percent of respondents felt 'being true to myself’ was important, while 2 in 3 worried about 'what people think of me’. Similarly, 58% of 16 to 35-year-olds say that they 'struggle to live up to society's expectations'. This figure increases the younger you go, up to 68% for 16 to 18 year-olds.
"LGBTI+ people have started coming out at a younger age. People used to come out around 18 or 21 but now, people are coming out at 12. Coming out is still difficult for LGBTI+ people, despite all the progress that has been made surrounding the LGBTI+ community. I came out to my parents when I was 13, 3 years ago. I planned on coming out through a letter, but they found out by going through my texts. I still gave the letter I wrote to try to help them understand." - Dylan, 16, The Love Network
Naturally LGBTI+ youth consider all possible outcomes to their coming out, and still very much fear rejection from family members, friends and peers. While society has progressed in many areas inspiring young people to come out at younger ages, they recognise that life is not going to be easy. As Dylan says, "Some people may have voted yes for marriage equality but may not actively stand up for LGBTI+ people who are facing discrimination."
DISCOVERING THE REAL ME
For a lot of young LGBTI+ people there is a pressure to conform to type. To play the part.
"Many feel the need to fit into society’s expectations of what they should be/do to be a “real” LGBTI+ person. To be a 'real' trans person you have to dress and act as much like the gender you identify as, or to be a 'real' bisexual person you have to have dated both men and women in your life. I think people feel the need to fit into these stereotypes around being LGBT+ to try to prove to other people their gender and/or sexuality. Many people also feel the need to fit into these stereotypes because they’ve been hiding a part of them for so long and are finally able to let it out and try to let other people see." - Dylan, 16, The Love Network
The internet has been really helpful in enabling LGBTI+ youth to explore their identity and gender through other people's stories. It shows them that there is no cookie-cutter identity that they're supposed to be because they're gay or trans. However they feel, and however unique their situation is, there is someone who has experienced similar feelings to them. Anne, 27, another member of The Love Network, highlights the positive side of social media in her journey of 'coming out';
"I was Googling stuff, trying to find where my place was. YouTube was amazing. I found this couple on YouTube that made videos about their life and it was so normal. One of them was quite girly and the other was more of a tomboy. It was so helpful to see that you could be girly and gay. It made me feel like, 'yay I actually do fit somewhere!' "
YouTubers like Alex Bertie and Chase Ross and Instagrammers Miles McKenna and Daniel Szagorski arepositive role models helping young people transition, simply by offering advice on binding your chest, the best stand-to-pee devices on the market, and even just sharing their journey and offering a support system.