Categories
Gender/ sexuality

Mental health and the need for asexuality inclusion in schools

Image: iStock

Trigger warning: This post deals with suicide and may be triggering for some readers.

In September last year, the worst nightmare for any parent came true. 13 – year – old, Lily Dowling had taken her own life.

Before her death, she wrote letters to her best friends and left them in thier lockers. 

Jane Hansen from Herald Sun described her as a “gorgeous 13 – year  – old with a love for Harry Potter books and the world at her feet…”

When speaking about her daughter, Emma Heeley said:

She was the kindest, most caring girl who was always looking out for others. She attracted really beautiful people and had a lot of friends. 

The warning signs

There were clues that Lily wasn’t coping. Lily had written a poem about her own death nine months before the tragedy. She’d posted it on Instagram. Unfortunately, Ms. Heeley only found the poem after Lily’s death. 

By August 2019, Lily had started to withdraw.

“I knew something was really, really wrong, but she would just close up and not talk to me”, Ms. Heeley said. 

Lily refused to go to therapy.

Lily’s death is only one of a string of suicides among young girls that have gotten worse over the last ten years.

Lily came out as asexual

Three months before her death, Lily came out on Instagram as asexual. (Kudos for Jane Hansen for properly defining it in the article). 

Professor Ian Hickie raised concern about young people feeling the need to put a label on themselves in such a sexualised culture.

It’s true that young people shouldn’t be forced to place a label on themselves before their ready. Sexuality can be complex, especially while growing up.

Having said that, young people, should be able to come out if they feel sure about how they feel. 

How many cases like this out there?

How many young asexual people feel lost, depressed and even suicidal? Studies suggest that young LGBT people are at least 2.5 times more likely to take their own lives than heterosexual peers. However, this data excludes asexual and non binary trans people. 

In a paper, Morag Yule, Lori Brotto and Boris Bolzaka guessed that asexual individuals may suffer worse mental health issues due to stigma than other groups.

It wouldn’t surprise me if this was the case. What I found the hardest growing up was the erasure. I was told that asexuality Leither didn’t exist or it was something that people grew out of. 

I’ve said before that I don’t blame the people that told me these myths. This was in the early 2000’s – from 2005 to 2007. But I do hope things are changing.

School counsellors and other mental health workers need to know about asexuality

Everyone should feel free to go to a counsellor. LGBTQ+ people need to have counsellors that are going to accept and validate their identities and experiences. They need to know they won’t be judged.

This is why acceptance of asexual people is so important. School counsellors, social workers and other mental health workers need to know that asexuality is real. 

 

Maybe this can be included in a professional development program. Or make it a part of social work and psychology degree subjects/ modules. You might be scoffing at this, but the time for erasure and ignorance needs to end. 

 

 

If you feel like you need assistance, you can call Lifeline: 13 11 14.

BeyondBlue: 1300 224 636 (you can also chat online. They also have LGBTQ+ resources. They include asexuality).

If you believe that you or someone you know is in crisis, contact 000 or your country’s emergency number. 

Please leave your thoughts or helpful mental health hotlines in your area in the comments below. 

 

 

Categories
Gender/ sexuality LGBTQ rights

Aromantic: short and sweet explanation

Aromantic pride flag
Image: iStock

About ten years ago, there was  a mini – explosion in aromantic and asexual awareness in the media.

MamaMiaCleo Australia and Ten’s The Project all ran stories about asexual and aromantic people. Of course, they had their detractors.

Now, aromantic people are in the spotlight. This is in part because the Yarra council in Melbourne has placed the aromantic flag over Richmond, Fitzroy and Abbotsford town halls.

What is aromantic?

Think about this: Have you ever had a crush? Have you planned dates, romantic getaways and weddings with a loved one in mind?

Do you get butterflies or nerves, when you see or think of someone in particular?

Well, some people don’t. They don’t feel the ‘butterflies’ or the desire for another person to be their significant other. They are aromantic.

That’s the simplest way I can explain it.

Because romance and sex often go hand in hand in society, there can be confusion for asexual people. How do you define “romantic attraction” when it’s divorced (no pun intended) from sexual attraction?

Here’s what I think about it. Romantic attraction is when you want to take a relationship beyond what is considered friendship. It’s when you want to date, be in  a relationship and maybe marry.

To muddy the waters, some aromantic people are in relationships that, on the outside look like romantic ones. They are known as queer – platonic. So, my personal definition above may not fit everyone.

Grey zones

Romantic (and sexual) attraction can exist on a spectrum. There are a number of terms that describe this spectrum:

  • Grey – romantic: simplest definition is someone who find themselves not 100% aromantic. Someone who is grey – romantic may feel romantic attraction rarely, in only specific circumstances (more on that later), or may be too weak to act on.
  • Demi – romantic: People who identify as demi – romantic don’t form crushes on strangers. They only fall in love with people they are close with, such as a best friend.
  • Fray – romantic: This is a less known grey – romantic orientation. Accoriding to LGBTA Wikia,  fray – romanticism is the opposite to demi – romanticism. They lose romantic interest after a connection has formed.

This is by no means an extensive list. This is only a few terms that are used to describe experiences of people on the aromantic spectrum.

 

My plea to skeptics

I can already sense people rolling their eyes. But please consider this. Many aromantic and/ or asexual people often grow up feeling isolated and “broken”. Having these labels (and more) give people language for what they do (or don’t) experience.

Often, people on the aromantic/ asexual spectrum to fall into self doubt and self – loathing because they don’t fit in. That’s why aromantic and asexual awareness is important.