June commemorates LGBTQ Pride Month worldwide. But what exactly is Pride? Commonly in society, Pride brings up thoughts of a parade, festival and celebration of the LGBTQ community. However, Pride is much more than that. The origins of Pride are very different. The original movement of Pride was not a celebration but a riot. During this time period in the US, individuals from the LGBTQ community were shunned by society. There were no safe places for members to gather together and be in community, due to anti-LGBTQ laws. It was quite common for police to raid establishments where LGBTQ people would gather. In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, members of the LGBTQ community had enough and fought back against the police for raids that took place that evening, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village in New York City. These riots continued for the next few evenings. These individuals stood up for who they were and for the rights of the fellow members of their community to not be persecuted. The work that these individuals did at Stonewall, set the course for the movement in the LGBTQ community that still exists today. Beginning in 1970, members of the LGBTQ community and their allies gathered together and organized Pride marches in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago during the month of June to commemorate the events of the Stonewall riots. As years progressed many other cities organized Pride Marches in the United States and worldwide. While Pride activities vary ranging from memorials, to advocacy to celebration, the message of pride is to promote visibility, equality, dignity and community as well as to take a stance against violence and discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
On an individual level, when thinking about Pride, there is quite a variety of meanings and ways of expression. Pride is defined as, “a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements”. It is also defined as, “being proud of a particular quality in oneself.” In looking at these dictionary definitions and applying them to members of the LGBTQ community, much can be said on both of these points. Part of the message of Pride has been invisibility. Rather than coming from a place of shame and embarrassment, Pride provides a time to be proud of who one is. In society’s eyes, it easy to assume that this is easy to do. Since the time of Stonewall, societal perceptions and laws have begun to shift in the United States and in other parts of the world. It is easy to think that there have been many advances have occurred in the LGBTQ community here in the US, with the fall of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in 2013 and Marriage Equality in 2016. However, there is much work to do in this country and worldwide to increase awareness and safety in the LGBTQ community. In the area of legislation in the United States for example, only 20 states have laws in place workplace protection for LGBTQ individuals, only 15 states allow second parent adoption for LGBTQ couples, only 13 states ban reparative therapy (change therapy) for minors and this month the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Colorado Bakeshop to be able to refuse service to bake a cake for the wedding of a same-sex couple citing religious and artistic freedom. Much violence still continues against members of the LGBTQ community. In the first six months of 2018 in the US, there has been a 12% increase of hate crimes and 12 individuals that have been murdered for identifying as transgender, many who are people of color. Worldwide, there are still 74 countries where it is illegal to identify as LGBTQ, with consequences including imprisonment, beatings and even death. With these statistics, visibility and pride in one’s identity can be very difficult and, in some communities, completely unsafe to express. In addition, due to intersectionality, many individuals who identify with multiple minority identities, may experience difficulty in expression due to various competing interests of groups they identify with. For example, someone who identifies from an ethnic group, is an immigrant and who identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community, may face hardship in coming out as it may not be acceptable in the ethnic community, due to cultural norms. Furthermore, issues such as standing out as an individual amongst a collectivistic culture may not be a cultural norm and may also cast a negative light on the family or the ability for the community to be successful in a host country.
Given these factors, it is not a surprise that there are great mental and physical health disparities present within the LGBTQ Community. LGBTQ people are likely to experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicide (especially amongst youth), substance abuse, become a victim of domestic violence, experience homelessness, experience higher rates of HIV and STIs (especially amongst minority communities) and are less likely to appear for routine medical exams such as a mammograms or pap smears. To further add to the issues with health care disparities, in surveys done in the LGBTQ community, 8% of individuals that identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and 27% of individuals that identify as transgender, have been denied mental or physical health care because of their identification. These statistics, show that there is much work that needs to be done for this community and the need for the message of Pride in raising awareness and breaking down barriers is vital.
So, what can be done to address these issues for the LGBTQ community? The answer lies in being an ally. An ally is someone that provides support to another. An ally can also support equality, civil rights, challenge stereotypes, advocate, educate and raise awareness through participation in social movements. The position of an ally is crucial. Progress in some of the social movements that have come about in the LGBTQ community have been as a result of allies that have assisted to change views within communities that they identify with. The positions of power and privilege that allies have to create change is very important and should not be taken for granted. While responsibilities for allies may seem great, there are things that one can do to be an ally for the LGBTQ community on an everyday basis. Here are a few suggestions of how to be an ally for this community:
If you are an individual that identifies as part of the LGBTQ community and have the ability to be out, consider the importance of your position and your voice, as you can serve an ally in being visible for those that cannot be out.
For individuals that identify as part of the LGBTQ community that cannot be out and visible in terms of who you are, practice self-compassion for your place in life. There may be a variety of reasons why you are not out and that is OK. Do not feel rushed or pushed by anyone to come out as that choice is yours to make, if and when the time is right. There may be ways that you can be an ally in ways that are not as visible or even at later times in your life.
For allies who do not identify as a member of the community, be aware of the unique experiences and issues that LGBTQ people face and consider your position and how you can use your voice to advocate for change in society. This may be in amongst family, peer, community groups and other places where you can raise awareness and speak on issues of support for the community.
Consider positions of privilege when offering advice and suggestions for how an individual who identifies as LGBTQ should be visible. Research shows that it may be easier for certain identities to be more visible and out, who hold membership in various identities versus others. Be empathetic and compassionate to each individual’s experience.
Remember, coming out is life long and not a one-time experience. An LGBTQ individual may face situations of a lack of safety, discrimination and prejudice during times they choose to partner, raise a family, move residences, start a new place of employment and enter into new peer relationships. It is in these times that support from those in and out of the LGBTQ community are important.
Consider being that supportive individual whether that is a friend or pseudo/adopted family member to someone in the LGBTQ community. As research shows, we are relational beings and thrive on receiving support and affirmation from one another. Your support can make a difference in the life of a marginalized individual.
Know what local resources are available in your community to gain further education, offer support and provide important services to the LGBTQ community and their allies. In our community here are a few resources:
It is through our active efforts and commitment, that we can come together as allies, from whatever positions we hold both in and out of the community. Through this work we can support individuals to be proud of who they are and continue the message of Pride for equality, visibility, dignity and community for all. Happy Pride this month and always!