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Okay, let’s talk about Pride Month! My social media feeds are full of rainbow flags and banners. I absolutely love it, but if you sift through the comments, you’ll find a lot of judgment and criticism. Smiles for Jake is an organization that believes EVERYONE is valued and important. Let’s dig in a little to learn why Pride Month matters.

According to the Trevor Project, 41% of LGBTQ+ young people have seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 56% who wanted mental health services were unable to get them. Let that sink in…almost HALF of those who identify as anything but straight have contemplated taking their life because they feel they would be better off dead than gay.

Several of my very best friends are gay. Some are out, and some still hold their secret from their larger circle of friends and family. Why? Fear. Fear of judgment, excommunication, job loss, ridicule—even physical harm.

A 2021 study done by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center indicates: 50% of transgender people have been sexually assaulted, 44% of lesbian women have experience rape or physical violence, while 26% of gay men have as well (that number increases to 37% for bisexual men). Bisexual women, trans women, and women of color experience higher risks. 70% of LGBTQ+ members of the community have been sexually harassed at work, and 66% were afraid to tell their employer for fear of being outed.

When I Googled “Countries where being gay is…” it auto-filled to “legal.” More people have looked up where it IS legal to be gay than where it isn’t. That’s an interesting factoid in and of itself. But the answer is 64. It’s punishable by law to be gay in 64 countries.

As consenting adults, it’s no one’s business who sleeps with whom or who loves whom. If we love one another as human beings, we might see a little less fear in the world. It may even save the life of someone you know who can’t go on another day simply for being gay—maybe even your child.

All of these are reasons why Pride Month matters.

I will leave you with this. I asked some of my friends what they wish the world knew about being gay, and this is what they had to say:

“If we could change as a society so that everyone realizes that we are all the same, in the sense that we are all trying our very best to navigate life. Everyone has a goal to find happiness and love. That looks different for us, and we should be okay with that.”

“As it relates to mental health, you need to find your “people”—whether that’s family, friends or a counselor. Find people who respect you and who you are. Find people who affirm how you live your life and even beyond—that will help defend you.”

“In my journey, I have learned to know the word ‘should.’ I have learned that when it is used, ‘you SHOULD look like this,’ ‘you SHOULDN’T love that person,’ and ‘your life SHOULD look like this’ –it’s someone else’s conversation—societal norms, religious teachings, etc. Whenever I hear ‘should’ now, I ask myself, whose conversation is this? And would I let that same person or group determine who I am, how I show up, and what makes me happy?”

“Concerning mental health, there are so many people who tell themselves to ignore their feelings, and they will eventually go away, or you can ignore it for the sake of being ‘normal.’ That will not happen, and one needs to figure out how to be authentic.”

“I would hope to break the stigma of it being a disease. It’s not a choice. It’s not cancer. We’re human beings who deserve to be looked at the same as anyone else. Cults shouldn’t dictate anyone’s freedom.”

“One thing I would want the world to know about mental health as a gay person is that acceptance and understanding make a profound difference. Feeling isolated or rejected can exacerbate mental health struggles. So, genuine support and inclusion is critical.”

“As a society, we need to create safe spaces where LGBTQ+ individuals feel valued and understood. This can be through more inclusive education, visible allyship, and policies that protect and affirm our rights. Ensuring that mental health resources are accessible and culturally competent can also make a huge impact.”

And my own 2 cents –I would argue that everywhere should be a safe place for any one of us, gay or straight. We don’t choose who we love; if we know love in our lifetime, we are rich indeed. Who I am to stand in the way of that for anyone?

Happy Pride Month!

With pride and love,

Ginny

Gay ally, Lover of love, and Smile Advocate