February is LGBT+ History month and this year the theme is Body, Mind, Spirit.
What is LGBT+?
LGBT+ is a label to refer to people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or anything that doesn’t fit within binary norms of gender, sexual orientation or biological sex (+).
Interestingly, when I undertook my undergraduate dissertation with an LGBT+ youth group one of the things that came up was that the young people involved in the research were not keen on having to label themselves. And I agree.
However, I guess it’s a way of referring to a group of people who share certain socio-political characteristics.
When our identity is built from values and not labels or external things, we can discover an inner peace we have never before experienced.
Body, Mind & Spirit
I think the body and mind are inextricably linked and it’s the reason that in my work with fitness and sport, I think it’s really important to work on the mind as well as the body.
Research suggests that LGBT+ people are more susceptible to low mental wellbeing and mental ill-health than some of our non-LGBT+ peers.
One reason is that I think it can feel difficult to know where we fit in society as someone who sits outside of the heteronormative and binary norms we are presented with growing up.
What do I mean by heteronormative and binary norms?
Heteronormative means we live in a culture that expects everyone to be heterosexual. It can be argued that it is a social construct meaning that it is a socially created norm. Some people would argue that the need to procreate as a species means that heterosexuality is bound in nature. However, humans are able to seek sexual encounters for pleasure purposes and not just for procreation. Research in the animal world has also shown that same-sex pairings and same-sex sexual encounters happen in nature. These points provide a huge counter argument to the view that only heterosexual relationships are right by nature.
In terms of cultural messaging, although TV advertising in the UK has begun to step out in terms of representing a wider range of cultures outside of white British people, we still see very little of relationships outside of the heterosexual variety (not to mention other groups in society!).
Heteronormativity is all around us and it is socially instilled within us all.
Binary norms in this context tell us we must be male or female in respect of biological sex. Intersex people are people who have hormones and/or organs that are not common to being classified as either male or female in biological terms. For example, someone who has female reproductive organs but a much higher level of the hormone testosterone than would be deemed within normal scientific range for a woman. Intersex people challenge the notion of the male-female dichotomy of biological sex.
Binary norms also tell us we must be masculine or feminine in line with our biological sex, such that men should be masculine and women should be feminine. However, gender expression is not set in nature. Skirts and make-up are not naturally occurring things that are attached only to the female of our species! Much of what we know of as masculinity and femininity are social-constructs and hence should not be enforced on all as a naturally occurring norms.
Inner Peace and Values Based Identity
I think one of the reasons some LGBT+ people struggle with their LGBT+ label is because they consume it as a part of their inner identity.
I think it can form part of the coming out process. We consume our LGBT+ label as part of our identity in order to work our way through being able to come out to both ourselves and those around us.
I know that I had a phase in my life where this was true for me. But even at that time in my younger years without my current knowledge and understanding, I realised that consuming my sexual orientation as a part of my identity did not give me the internal peace I was looking for.
I think embedding external things or labels into our personal identity, i.e. how we see ourselves, can cause inner unrest as any challenge to that external thing or label can then pose a problem for us on an emotional level.
The best way for me to explain what I mean is as follows:
I participate and compete in both Olympic Weightlifting & Indoor Rowing, my identity isn’t I’m a Weightlifter or Indoor Rower
I experience symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), my identity isn’t I have PTSD
I am attracted to women, my identity isn’t I’m a lesbian
My identity is built on values:
I value health and wellbeing and want to live a long and enjoyable life
I value love and having nurturing, kind and loving relationships in my life
I value self-development and self-discovery in order to make the most of life
Hence the taglines for my business are actually built upon my core values which make up my identity:
Live Life Love Life 💕
Be the Best You 💪
It doesn’t matter if I get injured or if one sport is taken away from me because I will always seek a new physical challenge that is within the constraints presented to me at any given time. I don’t see myself as an Indoor Rower or Weightlifter. I see myself as someone who values health and wellbeing and being active is a huge part of that.
I can build a happy and enjoyable life because I am not held back by an identity of low mental wellbeing. My PTSD symptoms are just that, symptoms. They are not my identity.
I believe I am more peaceful inside over my sexual orientation because I am comfortable with myself and who I am in a romantic relationship with. The term lesbian is just a label to describe a woman who is attracted to women. It is not my identity. Having nurturing, kind and loving relationships in my life is what’s core to my identity. I don’t need to internalise a label to be comfortable with who I am and who I seek relationships with.
Taking this view point a step further, I think this has helped me to be more peaceful during the lockdown restrictions than many others have been able to. It doesn’t matter if we are in lockdown, I will find ways to still maintain and live up to my core values because they are not built upon external circumstances, they are built from within me.
I wholeheartedly believe that when our identity is built on values and not things or labels we find more inner peace.
It’s a subtle and nuanced difference, but it’s one that I have come to believe is something that means I have peace and happiness inside where others in similar situations may find struggle.
If you are LGBT+ and would like to work with a coach to help you become fitter and healthier in both body and mind, please get in touch to see how I may be able to help you.