New York, NY – I admit that my generation is different from today’s. No one really talked about sexuality or sexual preferences when I was growing up. As kids, we poked fun at each other. There were different groups and cliques and social pressures to fit in. Meanwhile, there were kids who struggled with who they were. They struggled to talk about their true selves because they were afraid of judgment or worse — they were afraid to be rejected. So therefore, don’t ask, don’t tell. Right?
I admit that my generation’s approach towards the gay community was certainly different from todays. In fact, I hear from parents about their children coming out at younger ages. I think about this and wonder what this looks like in the classrooms and on the playground. I think about my generation and those who grew up with shame because of their preferences. Then, I think about the suicide attempts/ I think about the self-harm and self-hatred because of a life that seemed so shamefully different. Meanwhile, there is nothing shameful about love. There is nothing harmful about desire and there is no reason why anyone should have to hide who they are.
No one asks to be the pariah. No one wants to be rejected because of who they are and no one deserves to be challenged, abused, harassed or discriminated against because of their gender, identity, or preferences. Although laws have updated to allow for same-sex marriage, still, our cultural understanding needs to be updated.
This is Pride Month in the United States. Each year, the month of June, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community bond together to celebrate love, diversity, inclusion and self-pride. Each year, there are marches and parades to celebrate that love is love and that people are people. Additionally, each year there are those who oppose.
June is not only a month of diversity but a celebration of the history of the LBGTQ+ community. However, with all the advancements of our society, nevertheless, the struggles within the community still call for attention. Pride month calls out discrimination in the workplace. Research that suggests openly gay applicants are significantly less likely to receive job interviews. Is this fair?
Pride month points out the need to update thinking and improve culture. For example, more than 50% of LBGTQ+ workers hide their identity to avoid feeling unwelcome or unwanted in the workplace. Additionally, worries of social stigma, harassment, prejudice, rejection and exclusion are all causes for both mental and emotional concerns. Pride month is not only a month of acceptance and tolerance, this month has been set aside to promote freedom to be, think, love, laugh and live exactly as you are.
Some of the unaddressed facts can no longer go without mention. There are facts such as the higher rate of depression within the community. According to the American Psychiatric Association, suicide rates are four times greater for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth and two times greater for questioning youth than heterosexual youth. This is additionally so in the transgender community with an even higher rate, citing that 30.8% of transgender have considered committing suicide. These statistics are undoubtedly connected with shame and exclusionary cultures.
It is important to point out that being LBGTQ+ is not a mental health disorder. According to mental health disparities on the American Psychiatric Association’s webpage, “All major professional mental health organizations have affirmed that homosexuality is NOT a mental disorder. Being transgender or gender variant is NOT a mental illness and does not imply any impairment in judgment, stability, reliability or general social or vocational capabilities.” Although these points have been professionally studied; unfortunately, there are stigmas, social and cultural biases that resist these studies.
This month we celebrate the ability for a community to overcome adversity. We celebrate that whether we are LBGTQ+ or otherwise, together, we can work, grow, and more importantly, we can live together without shaming each other. After all, we’re all born equal.