Besides marking the beginning of summer and the halfway point of another year gone, the month of June represents hope for the queer community and serves as a time of celebration. For many, Pride Month is seen as a time of reflection as well as a time of triumph for what the LGBTQ+ community has endured after refusing to be silenced any longer.
Many of us equate Pride Month with images from the grand parade, where rainbows paint everything from streets, bodies, and flags, and demonstrations of love between strangers and partners are on full display.
“Pride month means a time for celebrating many things and being thankful for the people who sacrificed so much to make our community what it is today. It’s about celebrating the family that LGBTQ+ members choose among ourselves and celebrating with the people who love and support us. It’s about having FUN but looking forward to the next steps we need to make as a society to increase inclusion for all people.” —Beth
But while society is generally moving in leaps and bounds towards acceptance, there is still much yet to be accomplished.
Where Pride Began
In June of 1969, a gay bar in New York City called the Stonewall Inn was raided by police. Riots quickly broke out protesting the raid and launching what would become the first of many organized marches for gay rights.
A year after the riots, people gathered from near and far to commemorate the community’s response to the raid and stand for gay rights. Since then, June has been recognized as the LGBTQ+ Pride Month to honor those who have been judged, harassed, and marginalized for their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Queer relationships have been criminalized since early colonization in the United States. Until the Liberation movement of the 1960s, LGBTQ+ identities and behaviors remained subject to persecution and censorship for deviating from “the norm.” For instance, those identifying as gay were prohibited from enlisting in the military, magazines could not print articles with “homosexual” content under “obscenity laws,” bars were penalized for serving alcohol to members of the LGBTQ+ community, people who publicly identified as gay could be fired from their job, and same-sex solicitation and acts of affection were illegal in most states.
Although the challenges may differ, the remnants of these policies continue to affect those who inherited the torch of LGBTQ+ progress today.
Pride And Its Shadow Side
For many, their inclusion within the queer community is proudly worn as a badge of honor. For others, they have not yet arrived at a place of such peace within their identity. Mixed with their pride is a deep sense of anxiety and residual shame about hiding their authentic selves from family and friends, or about what their future holds if they come out—or don’t.
This is an important dialectic for people to contend with—how can both pride and shame in who they are exist simultaneously?
While the United States may have come a long way since the Liberation Movement, the reality for this population is that LGBTQ+ people are still at greater risk for developing mental health concerns, particularly due to their experiences with discrimination. Stress of this kind, especially chronic stress, is a leading cause of mental health disorders.
In a national survey done by The Trevor Project, a support center for LGBTQ+ youth, 35,000 teens and young adults who identify as LGBTQ+ were asked about their mental health. Roughly 42% reported that they had considered suicide over the past year. Most also reported that they felt depressed nearly every day. Coping with these stressors could lead to greater depression and more instances of anxiety. While it’s not the case for all who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, members of this group are more likely to experience trauma because of their status.
While many LGBTQ+ persons want to celebrate with pride, it can feel like a betrayal to admit that they’re still struggling and even more difficult to talk about the specifics. Keeping an important and vital part of themselves hidden from public view creates unavoidable stress and self-doubt. They may feel the pull of two cultural groups—or more than two, if they are also part of a minority population or person of color—and feel that there is no place for them, that there is no place where they belong or can call home.
Even the evolution of the LGBTQ+ acronym over time serves as an example of each individual community under the umbrella term fighting to get their recognition and find their place. For example, members in lesser-publicized groups, such as Asexuals, still receive some backlash from the LGBTQ+ community about the amount of discrimination their receive and are still trying to fight for their inclusion.
Seeking the support of trained mental health providers can be helpful. However, the stigma of two or more marginalized identities can make access to care even more difficult.
Gender Affirming Care
Of the identities represented by the pride flag, gender evolution, in particular, has required the most thought and readjustment. Mental Health Treatment Centers are called to consider in very concrete ways how they need to adapt to meet the needs of this population, especially in terms of housing, medical care, and the programming unique to a gender-specific facility.
At THIRA Health, our solution is to do what we believe works with all of our patients: treat them as individuals. Working uniquely with individuals often proves to be incredibly empowering for those in this community who don’t fit naturally into very many service programs.
Providing gender-affirming care is an essential role for mental health providers, where we interact with patients in ways that supports their gender identity. It is about helping support patients to recognize and feel comfortable accepting and expressing their pride in who they are while acknowledging the difficulties such expressions can cause and how these conflicting sets of feelings are wrapped up in their identity. Providing services individualized to each person is an essential component of the holistic healing we offer here at THIRA Health, and could be the right path for you.
Whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or if you’re looking for resources to further your understanding of how to be an ally, we’ve compiled a list that can be of service: