No doubt we’re all entering our “not another pandemic article” era but bear with me for the next few minutes!
In its infancy, the Australian Government deemed artists and arts workers as not being ‘essential workers’ during the pandemic. This sentiment quickly rippled across the globe, and I noticed a surge of LGBTQIA+ artists and content creators take to various social media platforms – myself included!
Despite the disregard for the arts, it was this industry that many turned to during isolation and quarantine to stay connected and stimulated. During this period, LGBTQIA+ artists were starting their music careers, or self-publishing queer stories. From Instagram to TikTok, I noticed a growing sense of community in mutual LGBTQIA+ artists … and with that, came arts wellbeing. However, the statistics don’t reflect this.
As someone who identifies as bisexual (queer), someone managing their Mixed Anxiety and Depressive Disorder due to childhood PTSD, and an artist – I have found comfort, expression, and relief in arts therapy. Storytelling has been my way of processing difficult moments and understanding my emotional fortitude. Because of this stance, I have joined the ‘Good Arts, Good Mental Health’ Project as a member of their Community Reference Panel. I endeavour to help fill in the blanks in the below research and find common ground for queer youth navigating their journey, to feel safe in expressing their personal stories.
The Arts-Health Systematic Review provides an up-to-date summary, and evidence rating (strong/weak) of recent arts and health publications. There is a section on young people (p11, p28) but the review didn’t find any papers related to the LGBTQIA+ community (noted in the report, p30). The review explains how LGBTQIA+ youth have a higher experience with mental ill-health (because of discrimination) and concedes that no papers could provide insight into methods to improve arts engagement for this group.
After transitioning between two leading arts organisations during the pandemic – the West Australian Ballet and Barking Gecko Theatre Company – I became aware that the arts were a major source of arts wellbeing, even for those who wouldn’t consider themselves artistic or creative.
I witnessed first-hand what expression through the arts brought children and young people – especially those experiencing the early stages of their queer journey – as well as those in senior communities.
Not only were arts practices providing environments that helped foster an individual’s expression, but it also provided a space (sometimes outside of the home) for a queer individual to fully open and be themselves, without discrimination.
In the last few years, I have been comfortable working in the shadows – facilitating opportunities for artists, and providing safe and inclusive environments for those who know me in Western Australia – but maybe it’s time to be a little loud and proud about it?
Join me on this creative journey to inspire the next generation of queer arts practitioners – choose your weapon: paintbrush, eyeliner, microphone, or camera – it’s time to be an agent of change!
Joshua Haines (he/him)
Last Updated on Oct 24, 2022