Pride Month is an important time in a year dedicated to celebrating the LGBTQ community, remembering their history, and acknowledging their struggles resulting from living in a largely cisgender and heterosexual society. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the difficult situation of queer individuals has been exacerbated, putting them at an even greater risk of experiencing discrimination, stigma, hate crimes, homelessness, lack of employment, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Pride brings visibility to the problems that the LGBTQ minority faces.
It also embraces the beauty, uniqueness, and diversity of queer individuals. In line with Pride Month’s mission, we want to raise awareness regarding the challenges of the LGBTQ minority, stress the importance of being a supportive ally and celebrate Pride more than ever before.
What Is Pride?
June is internationally recognised as Pride Month to commemorate the Stonewall Riots that took place in New York City in June 1969. During these times, it was illegal to wear the clothing of the opposite sex, not to mention being openly gay or transgender. Back then, police raids on gay bars were common. Yet, resisting arrest by queer individuals at Stonewall Inn was quite heroic. These events inspired the LGBTQ community to protest for their rights, and the Stonewall Riots went down in history as the birth of the gay liberation movement, followed by the very first Gay Pride Parade in 1970.
Today, Pride is an opportunity to recognise LGBTQ history, appreciate the progress made so far, and raise awareness on current issues and struggles of the queer community that need to be addressed. It is also time to celebrate love, equality, acceptance, freedom of expression, and camaraderie characterising the LGBTQ community.
Why Celebrating Pride Is Important?
Pride is much more than just a month filled with colourful parades, crazy parties and merchandise with a rainbow on it. Pride creates a myriad of beautiful opportunities such as:
Empowering & supporting the LGBTQ community
Being in the minority is, by definition, a unique and alienating experience. Pride offers a sense of empowerment and joy from being a part of the LGBTQ community. It’s an opportunity to first-hand experience and realise just how beautiful, unique, strong and resilient LGBTQ people are. Pride is also a place for LGBTQ allies to unite and show their support. Such an event can inspire LGBTQ youth to practice authenticity, work towards self-acceptance and boost their confidence or self-esteem.
Providing a safe space for LGBTQ individuals
LGBTQ people can often feel lonely, depressed or unsafe in their immediate environments. Pride events allow these individuals to express themselves freely and authentically, embrace who they are and celebrate whom they love. It’s also an occasion to see representation and meet other queer people, which can be challenging to come across otherwise, especially in more rural areas.
Raising awareness in general society
Raising awareness, bringing more visibility and broadening social support to the queer minority help minimise the stigma and violence directed towards them. According to Pew Research Center, 3 in 4 LGBTQ adults believe that pride events play an important part in making society more accepting of the LGBTQ population. Pride is a declaration of unity and a shared sense of willingness to fight for equal human rights for all, regardless of anyone’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
The Mental Health Challenges Of The LGBTQ Community
Did you know that…
- According to the 2017 Stonewall UK report, around 20% of LGBTQ individuals have been a victim of a hate crime due to their gender identity and/or sexual orientation in the last year, and over 80% of these hate incidents and hate crimes were never reported.
- 4.2 million young people become homeless each year. 40% of them are LGBTQ
- 30-60% of LGBTQ people struggle with depression and anxiety. That’s 1.5-2.5 times more than heterosexual and cisgender individuals.
- 23% of LGBTQ youth attempted suicide compared to 6% of their straight counterparts.
Due to the onset of the pandemic, these issues have been exacerbated, leaving LGBTQ individuals with:
- a stronger sense of isolation
- a growing struggle with depression, anxiety and homelessness.
Just try to imagine being forced to live with your homophobic family and being more afraid of them rather than the virus itself.
How Does Pride Support Mental Health of the LGBTQ Community
Pride provides an opportunity to celebrate queerness in a primarily straight and cisgender world, freeing LGBTQ people from feelings of shame or guilt and minimising the effect of stigma. Group identification has been proven to empower people and boost their self-esteem.
Pride is also a place of radical acceptance and inclusion, which we all can practice by, for example, using correct names and pronouns of our LGBTQ friends and loved ones. Did you know that by doing so, you can contribute to reducing the depressive symptoms and suicide risk by 50% among transgender youth as well as affirm their gender identity?
This 2014 research identified positive factors associated with the well-being of LGBTQ youth, such as:
- fostering a positive identity development,
- having a supportive peer network
- encouraging involvement in the LGBTQ community.
It further highlighted the crucial role of a positive social context that the queer individuals function in, making Pride a fundamental part of supporting the mental well-being of LGBTQ individuals.
4 Ways To Get Involved and Support The LGBTQ Community
Recognise Your Privilege
The first step you can make is to acknowledge one simple fact:
If you’re heterosexual and cisgender, you’ll most likely never fully grasp the gravity of the discrimination that LGBTQ people experience daily.
Take a moment to reflect on the things you might have been taking for granted, which may be unattainable for many queer people, such as:
- Expressing your gender identity through clothing
- Walking down the street and holding hands with your partner
- Showing affection in public
Remember: you are not responsible for the current system, so there’s no need to feel guilt or shame. However, you can take accountability and act on this knowledge, recognising how unfair and hurtful the heterosexual privilege is.
Support starts with understanding someone else’s context, struggles, and circumstances. You can start by learning about depression and anxiety in the LGBT community.
Cultivate an open and empathetic posture when discussing complex issues with your queer friend.
If you don’t know how to use correct pronouns – do your research, stay curious and ask questions as long as they’re respectful. Keep in mind that sometimes, the things you’d like to talk about might be too triggering or painful for LGBTQ individuals to revisit.
Offer Safe Space
One of the most priceless gifts you can offer to your LGBTQ friends and loved ones is a safe space where they can feel loved and accepted for who they truly are.
Exhibit your willingness to stay open-minded and compassionate while inviting them to discuss their experience.
Practice active listening and readiness to learn from your mistakes instead of becoming over-apologetic or too defensive.
Sometimes less is more – when your LGBTQ loved one is not ready to discuss a particular topic, just offering your presence is enough.
Speak Up as a Proud Ally
An LGBTQ ally is a straight and/or cisgender individual who chooses to support, empower and advocate for the queer minority.
Choose to be a proud ally and translate your thoughts and beliefs into action.
Discuss the importance of helping the LGBTQ community with your friends and family, speak up when you witness injustice and be the difference you want to see in the world.
If you’re an LGBTQ individual and you’re struggling with:
Please reach out and contact us for a free 15-minute consultation!