Combining Pride and Support
Each June the world gets a little more colorful, as the abundance of rainbows appear in support, alliance, and awareness for our LGBTQ+ friends. Countless community events are planned, offering a safe place to come together for a common crusade of love and freedom. I can feel the sense of relief from many as the atmosphere lifts, providing a safe place to express their true selves at least for the month of June. However, as I look back to where the LGBTQ+ community stood one year ago during pride, it’s deeply unsettling to see the continued uptick in anti-LGBTQ+ bills. I can’t help but agree with the sentiment that pride is so much more than a parade. Efforts need to be focused year-round, and now more than ever we need to support our friends, coworkers, neighbors, and family members of the LGBTQ+ community.
According to the Human Rights Campaign: During the 2023 state legislative session, more than 520 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have been introduced in statehouses across the country. A total of 74 pieces of legislation have been enacted into law so far this year. More than 220 of those bills would specifically restrict the rights of transgender people, the highest number of bills targeting transgender people in a single year to date.
This year, Human Rights Campaign is tracking:
- More than 125 gender-affirming care bans. These bills that would prevent transgender youth from being able to access age-appropriate, medically necessary, best-practice health care. This year 16 bills have already become law in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, South Dakota, Utah, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma, Florida, and Nebraska.
- More than 30 anti-transgender bathroom bills.
- More than 100 anti-LGBTQ+ curriculum censorship bills.
- 45 anti-LGBTQ+ drag performance ban bills.
There is plenty of evidence between the correlation of mental-health issues, suicides, and suicide attempts for this vulnerable population. According to the Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society. LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers.
There is also plenty of evidence showing that gender-affirming care supports the health, mental-health, and well-being of our youth, and it should not be withheld or prohibited from our diverse youth (SAMHSA.gov). See its report titled: “Moving Beyond Change Efforts: Evidence and Action to Support and Affirm LGBTQ+ Youth, gender-affirming care” Among other things, the report:
- Recognizes that variations in sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are normal, healthy aspects of human diversity.
- Supports youth — without seeking any predetermined outcomes related to sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
- Notes the issue is highly individualized.
- Provides education about gender and sexuality that is appropriate to age and developmental level.
- Is appropriate and beneficial for many gender-diverse youth, and may include social transition (e.g., changing one’s name, pronoun, and/or appearance).
- Addresses individual adolescent’s needs that may include some form of medically necessary gender-affirming medical care. Any decisions about providing gender-affirming care should be reached with the involvement of an adolescent’s parent or legal guardian.
According to AAMC.ORG: Gender-affirming care, as defined by the World Health Organization, encompasses a range of social, psychological, behavioral, and medical interventions “designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity” when it conflicts with the gender they were assigned at birth. The interventions help transgender people align various aspects of their lives — emotional, interpersonal, and biological — with their gender identity. As noted by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), that identity can run anywhere along a continuum that includes man, woman, a combination of those, neither of those, and fluid.
Also, according to AAMC.ORG: Numerous studies have found that transgender youths, especially those experiencing gender dysphoria (APA cites dysphoria as “psychological distress” stemming from the incongruence between gender assignment and identity), are significantly more likely than other youths to suffer emotional distress and depression, to experience bullying and other forms of violence, and to harm themselves or attempt suicide. For example, a study led by the University of Minnesota of nearly 82,000 students in that state found that 61% of transgender youths reported suicidal ideation, more than three times the rate among cisgender youths.
Examples of gender affirming care (AAMC.ORG) from a medically and culturally safe environment:
- Counseling about coming out as transgender to family, peers, and others (such as teachers).
- Resources to assist with changing outward appearances and gender presentation. For example, IU Health Care’s LGBTQ Clinic refers interested patients to the hair salon at the university hospital for hair and makeup lessons.
- Speech therapy to help match vocal characteristics (such as pitch and phrasing patterns) with gender identity.
- Hair removal through electrolysis, laser treatment, or waxing.
- Breast binding or padding, genital tucking, and padding of the hips or buttocks.
- Hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and surgical procedures for the right candidates.
Here at Building Hope, we believe that one suicide is too many. While not all suicides are preventable, most are. We believe our community can achieve zero suicides and we will continue to work towards that goal. Improving our system is a matter of life and death for many individuals. This goal is woven into everything we do. We believe in fighting for this goal equally for all members of our community regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or financial status.
While attending a local Pride event, waving your flag at work or home, or purchasing items from a supporting store or corporation is a great start for many to participate, I encourage everyone to translate this enthusiasm from Pride month to the rest of the year as well. Educate yourself and be open to learning about these issues if you feel ignorant or unfamiliar with these terms. Treat everyone you encounter with respect and dignity and do your best to address every individual with the proper pronouns and names. Reach out for help, resources, therapy, or support group information if you are looking for assistance in your own journey. Vote in local and national elections and consider contributing to an organization that supports the LGBTQ+ community. Some examples include:
For more information about being a good ally, check out Summit Allies for the LGBTQ.