By Alice Kidd, London volunteer

Speaking to PAPYRUS about their lived experience as a non-binary queer person is Lowie. Lowie Trevena is a non-binary, 23-year-old journalist and writer living in Bristol. They have blossomed in various editorial roles writing passionately about the LGBTQIA+ community, government policy and media, and in 2020, were named one of Bristol’s 36 most influential LGBT+ people in Bristol by BristolLive. They are also a passionate advocate for taking care of our mental health, and generally an all-round lovely person.

If you’re comfortable, would you mind sharing a little about your personal identity journey and perhaps any way in which your mental health has suffered as a result of coming out, or of the behaviour of others?

The journey of gender and sexuality is strange. It’s an ongoing process. I came out as pansexual aged 16 and as non-binary aged 18, and I now call myself queer. At 23, I’m still ‘coming out’ all the time and dealing with the long-lasting impacts, emotionally and mentally, of this and of having to start and continue a gender and sexuality journey. Emotionally, it’s exhausting to regularly ‘out’ yourself to new people, have people continually use the wrong pronouns and to fight to be taken seriously as someone who isn’t a man or a woman, but a gender diverse person. It’s so powerful to be unapologetically yourself, even in a world that is still learning to love you, and a society that is unsure of queerness. Mentally, it’s a challenge! There’s a lot of trauma that comes from the queerphobia that UK society continues to perpetuate, from using “so gay” as an insult in secondary school, to the rampant transphobia that the media continues to spew out. Coming out can be traumatic; negative reactions from people you’re close to have a really long-lasting impact. There’s also a darker side to it when it comes to mental health. I can only speak for myself, but I truly tried to destroy myself in the early days of realising I was different and discovering it was because I was queer. We’re still taught, as LGBTQ+ people, that we are lesser, wrong, need fixing, and worse.

Thank you for sharing that, Lowie. How does embracing your identity positively impact your mental wellbeing?

Despite all the challenges that come along with queerness, being LGBTQ+ is truly something I am so thankful for. It’s opened doors to communities, friendships and activism. It’s a ready-made group of people who are (on the whole) lovely.

It was definitely challenging as a teenager, but as a young adult I find power and positivity in my identity. It’s so powerful to be unapologetically yourself, even in a world that is still learning to love you, and a society that is unsure of queerness. To be queer is to be powerful, and that impacts my mental health so positively.

Do you have any examples of communities, groups or resources you have discovered to help you take care of your mental health?

They can be somewhat few and far between (especially in rural areas) but LGBTQ+ youth groups such as Freedom in Bristol are amazing places to find other people like yourself.
Online communities are also really important – I used Tumblr and YouTube a lot when I started on my journey aged 14 or 15 (I am very old lol). Look for things that represent yourself too: books, content creators, films, music, the list goes on.

There are loads of great resources online too. Genderkit.org is great for trans folks, as are charities such as Stonewall and Just Like Us. If there are LGBTQ+ groups or GSA groups at school, college or work, reach out to them. But honestly, the internet is your oyster. Go find yourself.

That is wonderful, Lowie. Do you have any advice for adults who may be working with or raising a young person going through identity changes?

The young person knows themselves best! If someone comes to you for support, take it as a compliment; it means they trust you. And remember, first reactions stick: even if you don’t understand everything they’re saying, trust them to know themselves. The likelihood is that this young person has been thinking about their gender and/or sexuality for a very long time, and it will have taken a lot of courage to tell someone.

Other important things to remember: Do not expect the young person to educate you – do the research yourself. Also, use the correct pronouns and names without hesitation. This may take some practice, and it’s okay to make mistakes, but don’t made a big deal out of it. It’s not about you!

Ensure you don’t ‘out’ the young person – LGBTQ+ people often come out in stages. For example, their friends may know, but they might not have told their parents yet. The best way to avoid accidentally outing someone is to ask them directly who they’re out to, and how you can best support them.

Thank you, Lowie that’s great advice. I have one final question that everyone at PAPYRUS has to answer before they’re allowed to leave… What are you planning to do for self-care this week?

Wholesome! I’ve gotten really back into reading, so spending my evenings doing that instead of doom-scrolling.

Find out more about Lowie by visiting: lowietrevena.carrd.co
Links to resources mentioned in this article:
1. Stonewall Charity (stats in opening paragraph): https://www.stonewall.org.uk/lgbt-britain-health
2. BristolLive “The Pink List 2020: The 36 most influential LGBT+ people in Bristol right now”: https://www.bristolpost.co.uk/news/bristol-news/pinc-list-2020-35-most-4508391
3. Genderkit.org: https://genderkit.org.uk/
4. Stonewall Charity: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/
5. Just Like Us: https://www.justlikeus.org/