Expert Health Articles

The Significance of Pride, and How We Can All Be Better Allies

Melinda Williams, M.Ed, LPCC, NCC

Clinical Counselor
Psychiatric Center of Northwest Ohio

Welcome to June, the beginning of summertime, and Pride month. Pride celebrates the LGBTQIA2S+ community and the folks within that community. LGBTQIA2S+ is an acronym meaning: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual or agender, and two-spirit; the plus allows space for a wide spectrum of sexual orientations and gender identities. Pride celebrates the LGBTQIA2S+ community in a positive, affirming way, promoting dignity, equality, and visibility.

The Pride Movement

The roots of the gay rights movement started in the 1900s, but Pride, as a movement, was ignited by and is in memory of the Stonewall Riots of 1969. The Stonewall Inn, a bar in the Greenwich area of New York City, was known to serve alcohol to gay people, at the time illegal, drawing the police’s attention. In June 1969, the patrons, community, and activists fought back. The riots lasted for six days, and when they ended, the gay rights movement had received national attention. Folks started marching at the end of June to commemorate the riots. In 2000, President Bill Clinton officially designated June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month. In 2009, President Barack Obama assigned a more inclusive name: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. Today, Pride is celebrated in most parts of our country and throughout the world.

Current Challenges

Despite recent social, legal, and political advancements, LGBTQIA2S+ members still face significant challenges. Discrimination in housing and employment continues. Health disparities and threats to safety are on the rise. In healthcare, we examine Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) when seeing a patient. SDOH includes access to affordable and safe housing, food, income, education, crime/violence, and environmental conditions. LGBTQIA2S+ individuals experience these determinants or “minority stressors” more acutely. Healthcare disparities are linked to social stigma, discrimination, and denial of basic civil and human rights. Until 2011, hospitals could discriminate based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression.

Mental Health Statistics

According to Mental Health America, 5.8 million people identify as LGBTQIA2S+, 34% of them reported mental health issues in the past year, and 48% of transgender adults have considered suicide compared to just 4% in the general population. Suicidality levels are even worse in the teen LGBTQIA2S+ population; they are six times more likely to experience depression than their straight cohorts. BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color), often ignored in the broader gay rights movement, fare even worse. 

How to Support & Other Resources

There are a few ways you can support friends, family, and community members who identify as LGBTQIA2S+. Be an ally by educating yourself on the history of the movement and the unique challenges faced every day by members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. Become involved in local, state, and national advocacy groups. Volunteer your time or offer financial support to local and national organizations. Advertise your ally-ship by displaying Pride symbols so folks know you offer a safe, affirming space. Pay attention to legislative initiatives seeking to disenfranchise LBGTQIA2S+ individuals and speak out. Treat all people with respect, compassion, and empathy.

Some helpful resources to learn more include The Trevor Project; Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG); Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN); the Human Rights Campaign; and the National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center.

Local resources include LGBTQ+ Spectrum of Findlay, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Hancock County, and Focus Recovery and Wellness Community.