LGBTQ Pride: Accepting others’ true selves can save lives

As we head into Pride month, there’s a lot to be concerned about for local LGBTQ youth communities. As a group, these youth struggle with mental health challenges more than most, particularly depression and anxiety, and are also one of the hardest hit by the impact of COVID-19 in their lives.


The statistics are staggeringly bad.


In its 2021 national survey of 35,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24, the Trevor Project found that 70% described their mental health as poor most of the time, or always, during COVID-19.


Forty-two percent seriously considered attempting suicide during the past year with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth considering suicide during the same time period.


A still higher number, more than 80%, said the pandemic made their living situations more stressful, and only 1 in 3 described their home as LGBTQ-affirming.


The Trevor Project is a national organization that “provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and question young people under age 25,” according to its website.


The same survey also showed high rates of discrimination among LGBTQ groups for both gender and sexual identity and race and ethnicity.


Of the full group, 75% said they’d been discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime. For youth of color, 50% said they’d been discriminated against because of their race or ethnicity.


But as harsh as these numbers are, there’s hope here too as seen in the difference the act of affirmation and acceptance had for youth.


According to the survey, nonbinary and transgender youth who had their pronouns respected, were able to change their legal name or gender marker, or who had access to networks and environments that affirmed their identities, all reported lower rates of attempting suicide.


In fact, for transgender and nonbinary youth who had their pronouns accepted by all of the people they lived with, suicide attempts were reduced by half over those who did not have their pronouns respected by anyone they lived with, the survey found.


This tremendous opportunity to begin to shift these mental health statistics to a better place was also seen in youth responses about what brings them joy and strength.


When asked, LGBTQ youth gave answers that included affirming parents, feeling seen, finding community online, connecting to others who are LGBTQ, finding others who identify in similar ways, and seeing so much pride from others in being LGBTQ, as well as others.


This quality of resilience and strength demonstrates how much the gift of full acceptance and recognition from families and friends, as well as the larger South Coast community, can have on the overall well-being of LGBTQ youth.


It’s something the South Coast LGBTQ+ Network has surely known for a long time as it offers support through community and an environment where LBGTQ+ community members “can freely, safely, and joyously celebrate their true selves and realize their full potential,” according to the network’s website.


The bottom line seems to be that when we accept each other as we are, we offer others a priceless gift, one that has the power to save lives.


It’s something to think about as we head into Pride month with special festivities designed to help all of us learn and understand more about those who identify as LGBTQ and their experiences.


Looking to participate? See a full calendar of events being held this month on the South Coast LGBTQ+ Network site.


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