Pro-LGBTQ+ laws boost queer people’s mental health

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Across the United States, the amount of anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced to legislation has skyrocketed. The American Civil Liberties Union has tracked over 52o anti-LGBTQ+ bills this year alone.

Studies have shown that these bills are more likely to harm the mental health of LGBTQ+ people, especially children. But in a story from ABC News, a gay man is speaking out about how laws that protect the rights of gay Americans can have the opposite effect.

Shane Stahl was one of those interviewed. He grew up as a gay man in suburban Ohio and watched Ohio lawmakers introduce and pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, he felt like he couldn’t be his true self.

Stahl said, “It made me want to leave if I could. It makes you feel very isolated.”

“I don’t know that this is everybody’s experience, but my experience always kind of was like, ‘Well, what does that person think about me? Do they have an inclination that maybe I’m gay?” he said to ABC News, “And if they do, are they going to treat me any differently? Are they going to say something to somebody that can have an effect on my job or my ability to rent an apartment or get a car, or any of those things that we all need to do to survive?’ So, yeah, it was definitely very isolating and scary.”

Stahl moved to California a year and a half ago, where he began working for a nonprofit called Equality California, that advocates for queer Californians. The move, he says, helped him tremendously.

“I walk around my city, and I see businesses that have gay pride flags and pride flags in their windows,” he said. “I see people catering specifically to the LGBTQ+ community; I see a wealth of resources; I see a local and a state government that wants the best for me in my community and is actively working to improve the quality of our lives and let us know that we are welcome and we belong.”

Studies back up Stahl’s experience. A 2018 study found that men who belonged to sexual minorities were more likely to report poor/fair health in states with limited protections compared with their heterosexual counterparts. However, the same study found no difference among sexual minority women and heterosexual women.

Likewise, a study of transgender veterans from 2016 found those living in states with employment nondiscrimination protections were 26% less likely to have mood disorders and 43% less likely to practice self-harm.

The mental health of LGBTQ+ Americans has been in the news recently: another recent study found that most same-sex couples worry that marriage equality will be overturned by the Supreme Court, which the study found negatively impacts their mental health.

Stahl emphasized that the goal shouldn’t be for LGBTQ+ Americans to leave, it should be for all of America to be more inclusive, “The goal should not be to relocate these people; the goal should be let’s make their communities inclusive and welcoming.”

“Nobody should feel that they can’t live and call the place they want to call home because of who they are or who they love,” he said. 

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