57% of LGBTI people lose a friend or family member after coming out, Gay Star News has found.
This heartbreaking statistic adds to previous research about isolation and loneliness in the LGBTI community.
Also, three-quarters (72%) of GSN readers said they ‘always’ or ‘sometimes’ felt lonely.
In contrast, only 20% said they rarely or didn’t ever feel lonely.
GSN readers were polled before and during Digital Pride, the global online movement that takes place on 29 April to 5 May.
Unlike any other Pride event in the world, you can take part in Digital Pride whoever and wherever you are.
Even if you are from a country where being LGBTI is criminalized or leaves you in danger – it’s a Pride festival you can be a part of.H
Loneliness and isolation are serious issues in the LGBTI community | Photo: Flickr/Alachua County
Thousands of people voted in the straw poll available on social media and the website.
Many said they felt it was difficult to make LGBTI friends.
We also asked whether GSN readers have ever felt lonely in a relationship.
We also asked about their friendships.
Loneliness affects us all
Tris Reid-Smith, editor-in-chief of GSN, said: ‘You can be lonely if you live in an isolated place, where you are the only LGBTI person you know. But equally you can live in the world’s biggest city and still feel isolated as an LGBTI person.
‘Loneliness affects us all at some point in our lives.
‘That’s particularly important in a community like ours where people are also more likely to suffer from poor mental health.
‘But there is also something we can do about it.
‘We hope Digital Pride will spark a conversation about how to tackle loneliness and isolation in our community. And we hope it will inspire people to reach out to a friend or acquaintance they think may be lonely or isolated. Digital Pride is a Pride designed to inspire change and that change is something you can start to make happen today.’
These findings add to what we already know about LGBTI loneliness.
The need for support has remained the same across decades
Switchboard, a LGBTI helpline based in the UK, is available if people feel lonely or isolated.
Natasha Walker, the co-chair of Switchboard, said: ‘These statistics solidify a lot of what we already know working within the LGBTI support sector – that loneliness is a pressing issue for people who identify as LGBTI.
‘Looking back throughout our 45 years as a helpline, despite the changes in legislation, the changes in societal and cultural attitudes, the changes within the LGBTQ+ communities…the phone calls for support have remained constant.
‘Whether it was 1975, 1988 or 2003 we received calls from people questioning their identity, with themes of shame, confusion and loneliness. Themes which remain constant in the calls we take today in 2019.’
A Stonewall spokesperson also commented on the findings.
‘Simply being lesbian, gay, bi or trans, shouldn’t mean you’re more likely to experience poor mental health and loneliness,’ they said.
‘Unfortunately, these findings and our own research show this is the case for many in the community.
We know that half of LGBTI people (52%) have experienced depression. Three in five (61%) reported having episodes of anxiety in the last year.
‘The discrimination and rejection LGBTI people can experience from friends and family can lead to disproportionate feelings of loneliness and isolation. Across Britain and worldwide, we want to help create a world where every LGBTI person is supported to lead a happy, healthy life.’
Something has to change
Ian Howley, Chief Executive of LGBT HERO, the parent organisation of GMFA and OutLife, reacted to the findings.
He said: ‘These findings prove again and again that not enough is being done to tackle the high numbers of LGBTI people who are experiencing these issues.
‘Tackling isolation and loneliness is important. It can lead to people making unhealthy choices such as drinking alcohol more, using hard drugs, engaging in chemsex and partaking in riskier sex.
‘But it can also lead to extreme cases of anxiety, depression, self-harm and even suicide. All the statistics also prove the longer someone feels isolated or lonely, the higher the rate they will experience mental illness issues or even consider taking their own life.
‘To me it’s unacceptable that just because we are LGBTI that this is something we have to experience.
‘We as a community need to come together and figure out what realistically can be done to challenge the issues raised here.
‘Nobody should feel isolated in the LGBTI community and there’s more we can all do to stop this.
‘But right now we need to find a way to support those who are currently feeling isolated or lonely while laying down the foundations to eradicate this for future generations.’