You may have seen the flags and Facebook profile filters indicating it’s pride month but you maybe asking yourself what do people do during this month. Pride month is in June every year and it celebrates all those who identify as gender or sexual minorities- also known as the LGBTQ+ community. This began as just a Gay Pride Day for many cities beginning in 1969 to commemorate the Stonewall riots in Manhattan (Library of Congress, 2019). The month is dedicated to celebrate the struggles and successes of those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community and is filled with parties, parades, and community events. You might be asking yourself what a person celebrates for a whole month and I would be happy to answer that! Pride month is not just a month of getting wild and showing off your colors, it’s also a time to reflect on diversity and it’s implications. A time to be thankful that all love and expression is okay. It’s a time to enjoy what makes each of us unique. One great way to celebrate Pride month is to become an ally.
Become An Ally
So, many of you may think that all this stuff is great and all, but you might not identify as part of the LBGTQ+ community. You may want to wish everyone all the happiness in the world but don’t know what to do from there. One thing that you can do is become an ally. An ally is an individual who doesn’t identify as a gender or sexual minority but shows support for equal rights and fair treatment.
Becoming an ally doesn’t have to be an official act- like signing up on a website or registry. It can be as simple as telling others that you are one. The main point of being an ally is to show support, and support can be as vibrant as participating in parades or walks, voting and lobbying, petitioning, seeking out support groups like the Gay-Straight-Alliance, or pushing for more accepting work practices. It could also look like having a rainbow sticker on your car, talking about LGBTQ+ issues with friends, or wearing a button that says ally. Any of these show your support for the community as an ally. We frequently mention being allies at The Counseling Hub, participate in PrideFest in Columbia, offer sexual identity counseling, and enjoy educating on this month!
Why Is Being An Ally So Important?
I will make an assumption here that everyone wants to be loved and accepted for who they are and becoming an ally signals to the LGBTQ+ individuals in your life that you’re accepting them for who they are. Here are some scary statistics:
· In 2012 the National Coalition for the Homeless and The Williams Institute at UCLA found that 40% of the youth being served in homeless shelters identified as LGBTQ+.
· 2010 American Progress Organization reported that LGB youth are 4 to 6 times as likely to attempt suicide. This creates a 30% suicide rate for LGB teens (2018)
· 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey indicated that 41% of trans teens have attempted suicide.
These statistics indicate that individuals of the LGBTQ+ community are in need of people to support them. It’s not unheard of for individuals who identify as a gender or sexual minority to have family members who reject them which can lead to tremendous amounts of mental health, financial, and safety issues. Becoming an ally will signal that you’re a safe person that generally cares about others well being despite their identity.
Thinking About Writing Prompts
Being a counselor, I believe in the power of self-reflection. Spending time thinking deeply about something can be cathartic and peaceful. One way you can celebrate all month (or year) long is by reflecting through writing. Here are some writing prompts to help you maintain mindfulness of support and awareness. There are enough to respond to two a week.
· When did you first hear about gender and sexual minorities (i.e., Lesbian, Gay, Trans, ect)?
· What were your thoughts and feelings after learning that someone you knew identified as a gender or sexual minority?
· What are your thoughts and feelings when someone has been treated unfairly?
· When was a time you were treated unfairly?
· What does it mean to have Pride in something?
· Describe a time when you faced adversity?
· Reflect on how your gender affects your life.
· Reflect on how your sexual orientation affects your life.
· What is your comfortability discussing your sexual orientation/gender? Are there any times you feel uncomfortable?
· Imagine and write about a day if you were a different gender or had a different sexual orientation.
Everyone likes to have a good time (again, I am making an assumption). With that said, Pride month is a celebration and therefore there are lots of parties, parades, and get togethers. In most major cities, you’re going to be able to Google and find at least one parade full of rainbows, sparkles, and smiles. For instance, downtown Columbia hosts an annual Mid-MO Pride Fest which is often one Saturday during Pride month. In fact, you may have seen us there before handing out swag and raffling gift baskets! In the larger cities, like St. Louis and Kansas City, they also have annual Pridefests one weekend a month. You can also go bigger! New York has the largest Pride celebration in the United States which spans the entire month of June. If you want to experience Pride, going to a parade and celebrating LGBTQ+ struggles and contributions to society is one very fun way to do it. You will be immersed in a world that you may have no experience in, but it will be awesome!
Join a Group
There are many different groups that show support to the LGBTQ+ community. Groups allow bridges between ally’s and the LGBTQ+ community. Some groups do community outreach, lobbying, or have regular meetings. During meetings education may be given to the friends and family of those who identify as LGBTQ+, dialogue about changes in policies, and feedback about what is going on in the organization or community is discussed. One group you can join is the Gay-Straight-Alliance (GSA) which often occurs at organizational levels (at schools, for example). These groups can be located using the GSA network website. There may also be unofficial groups in your area ran by local individuals.
Another group that you can join is the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). HRC is one of the largest civil rights campaigns which help those who identify as gender or sexual minorities. HRC’s symbol is a blue box with a yellow equal sign (you may have seen it around town on cars) and you can receive free stickers by simply requesting. The HRC was developed in 1980 and works with the legal system for equal care for those who are LGBTQ+. Their website is full of merchandise which help pay for lobbying and supporting those in need, blogs, and annual data reports. Joining a group can not only solidify you as an ally, it can further help support those in your community who identify as LGBTQ+.
Pride month is a celebration for those who identify as gender or sexual minorities. It’s a time to celebrate with friends and family that they might be different, but different isn’t bad. It’s a time to embrace differences of love and gender expressions of all kinds. Celebrating Pride month doesn’t necessarily mean that you identify with the LGBTQ+ community, rather, you’re excited that we live in a world where acceptance is celebrated. Becoming and ally can be one thing you do to celebrate pride month. An ally can help the LGBTQ+ community know they’re not alone on their quest for acceptance. You can be an ally in vibrant or subtle ways, but the important thing is to provide support. Another way that you can celebrate pride month is joining in the festivities, joining a group, and reflecting on your own attitudes and beliefs. Happy Pride Month y’all!
Molly Lyons - PLPC
INDIVIDUAL AND COUPLES COUNSELING
Molly is currently in her final year of the Master of Science in Clinical Counseling at Central Methodist University (CMU) and is a student intern at The Counseling Hub and Boone County Mental Health Coalition, where she will assess and provide mental health interventions and resources for individuals and groups in Boone County schools. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in General Psychology with a minor in Child Development from Central Methodist University directly before enrolling in the counseling program. Prior to pursuing her counseling degree, Molly received an Associates of Science in Early Childhood Education from Moberly Area Community College.
Molly has experience in the Counseling Center at MACC's Columbia campus, providing counseling services for students around the topics of identity crises, school-related stressors, depression issues, and coping with anxiety. Molly has co-facilitated Safe Zone trainings which introduce its members to the LGBTQ+ community terminology and basic information. Molly has also completed on online course in LGBTQ+ Counseling Competencies (College and Career Readiness) through the American Counseling Association (ACA). Molly is an active member of both the ACA and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD).
Molly enjoys working with diverse populations and seeks to always be open to new learning experiences. She works best with individuals who are trying to discover who they are and how they relate to their world, as well as others in their world. Molly believes that a person’s external factors can provide both barriers and resources towards growth and that one must discover these in order to thrive.
Library of Congress. (2019). About Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month.Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/lgbt-pride-month/about/
Center for Disease Control. 2018. LGBTQ Health. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/lgbthealth/youth.htm
National Coalition for the Homeless. 2018. Retrieved from: http://nationalhomeless.org/issues/lgbt/
National Alliance on Mental Illness. 2018. LGBTQ. Retrieved from: https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ
The Williams Institute. 2012. Retrieved from: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Durso-Gates-LGBT-Homeless-Youth-Survey-July-2012.pdf