Pride Plays a Role – 365 Days a Year
by Ashley Green (she/her), Senior Program Manager, Social-Emotional Health & Brean Witmer (she/her), Senior Program Manager, Monitoring and Evaluation, Youth Risk Behavior Prevention
*If you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis or simply need a safe and supportive space to talk, support is available via phone, text and/or chat through various Support Hotlines. You are not alone.*
The month of June brings with it a new season and warmer days. Summer vacation and… waves of rainbows in honor of Pride month.
Pride Month is an annual observance that honors the efforts that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) and ally Americans have put forth in establishing equality and justice for all. Commemorating the Stonewall uprising of 1969, a multi-day protest led by BIPOC-queer and transgender activists where community members protested the unjust and discriminatory brutality and persecution of LGBTQ+ Americans, Pride events take place all over the world in many forms to proudly celebrate and openly express individual and unique identities and recommit to the continued fight for equality and justice.
Understanding the history, importance and meaning of Pride month and its symbols is crucial to the support of LGBTQ+ youth and should play an important role far beyond the month of June.
Pride plays a role in fighting the child health crisis.
We know that in order for children to lead healthy, happy lives – they need access to the three foundations of lifelong health: optimal nutrition and physical activity, safe and supportive learning environments and nurturing relationships with a trusted adult. An individual’s ability to openly express who they are without fear or shame contributes to one’s mental health and subsequently, physical health. Unfortunately, still today, there are many barriers that stand between LGBTQ+ youth and healthier futures including bullying, fear of rejection, food insecurity and/or homelessness and violence and discrimination.
According to the 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth (age 13-24) and Mental Health conducted by The Trevor Project, 75% of LGBTQ+ youth reported experiencing discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime with more than half having experienced this discrimination in the last year. Additionally, 50% of LGBTQ+ youth reported having access to gender and identity affirming spaces at school while 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ youth reported having these spaces at home.
Research shows that 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youth (age 13-24) contemplate suicide each year. However, access to affirming spaces (where individuals feel safe, respected and seen for who they are) consistently lowers rates of attempted suicide, and access to just one accepting adult reduces this risk of suicide by 40%. The language we use, the practices we teach, and our willingness to stand up against microaggressions, bullying and harassment all send a message. A message that should say to LGBTQ+ and questioning youth – you are seen, you are supported and you are not alone.
Pride plays a role in youth risk behavior prevention.
Social-emotional learning is a lifelong process that helps both children and adults develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to develop and maintain healthy relationships, establish self-confidence, integrate personal and social identities, identify diverse social norms, and stand up against injustices. These same foundational skills ultimately become the base for preventing risky behaviors such as self-harming, bullying, violence and substance misuse.
As reported in the Growing Up LGBTQ+ in America survey, conducted by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) with LGBTQ+ youth age 13-17, when compared to non-LGBTQ+ peers, LGBTQ+ youth report significantly lower levels of happiness and higher levels of substance and alcohol misuse, depression and thoughts of suicide.
LGBTQ+ pride is an enhanced awareness and promotion of self-affirmation, the fight for equality and visibility – and it makes a difference. LGBTQ+ youth who reported high levels of pride had a nearly 20% lower risk of attempted suicide and an even lower risk among transgender and nonbinary youth (The Trevor Project). Positive social, psychological and behavioral development is key to ensuring all children are set up for success by having the tools needed to become thriving, contributing members of society. This enhanced awareness and self-affirmation support the development of a positive self-concept, confidence and sense of purpose – all foundational to the prevention of risky behaviors.
Pride plays a role – 365 days a year.
Identities are part of a person – they cannot be taken off or put away. They are a complex, layered and beautiful expression of what makes each one of us – us. Both at home and school, we must work towards creating safe and supportive environments and reflecting on our role in serving as trusted and nurturing adults for our youth. This begins with turning conversation into action beyond the month of June and into our ongoing efforts to create a happier, healthier world for all children.
Through our efforts, we can empower individuals to foster inclusive and affirming practices for themselves and others, stand up against bullying and discrimination, and most importantly – be proud of exactly who they are.
Whether you are a parent, caregiver, relative, teacher, coach, friend, or another caring adult, you can support LGBTQ+ youth in your life by:
- Modeling inclusive practices and language
- Creating space to explore and share about thoughts, feelings and identity
- Acknowledging that is it okay to not have all of the answers and committing to learning together
Resources and Support for LGBTQ+ Youth
Resources for LGBTQ+ Youth and Allies
- Trevor Support Center (The Trevor Project): Resource center for LGBTQ+ youth and allies including resources for supporting allyship, elevating BIPOC LGBTQ+ voices, etc.
- Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN): Network of opportunities for student leaders to create change at school or in the community.
- It Gets Better Project (It Gets Better): Community-led movement where LGBTQ+ youth can discover and share stories of hope and encouragement from and to other LGBTQ+ peers.
Resources for Adult Allies Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth
- LGBTQ+ Youth Resources (CDC)
- Being an LGBTQ+ Ally (Human Rights Campaign)
- LGBTQ History & Pride: Engaging Lessons and Books (Human Rights Campaign)
- Celebrating Pride: PreK-12 Resources, Lessons and Activities (Share My Lesson)
- LGBTQ+ Inclusivity in Schools Assessment (CDC)