June is Pride Month. It commemorates the Stonewall uprising, which occurred in June 1969 in the United States, and marked a historic turning point for gay rights. Pride Month recognizes and celebrates the LGBTTQQ2SA+ community.
This acronym represents a variety of sexual and gender identities including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, queer, questioning, Two-Spirit and allies. The plus sign at the end is intended to encompass other queer identity markers that have not been specifically named.
It is important to understand the difference between sex, gender, gender identity and expression, and sexual orientation. Sex refers to a label typically assigned at birth based on a person’s biological or physical indicators (body parts, internal organs, chromosomes, etc.). Gender is the way a person thinks or feels about themselves, often based on culturally constructed sets of beliefs about roles, characteristics, and behavioural expectations. Gender identity and expression is a person’s inner sense of being male, female, neither, both or something else and how they outwardly show this. Sexual orientation is a person’s desire in relation to intimate, emotional and sexual relationships with other people. It is important to note that a person’s gender identity is not always the same as their biological sex, nor their assumed gender based on their assigned sex. It depends on how they identify as a person which can change over time.
Seventy-four per cent of Canadians know someone who is 2SLGBTQ+, and 40 per cent of the 2SLGBTQ+ community have experienced discrimination, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Coming out or outwardly stating identification as 2SLGBTQ+ is a very personal journey. The fear of being rejected by those you love the most can lead to anxiety, stress, depression and negatively impact mental health.
With these kind of statistics in mind, it is important for us to recognize real ways that we can show support and understanding. Studies have shown positive links between a sense of belonging, acceptance, and unconditional love to greater happiness and overall well-being.
Supportive environments are key to mental health for all people, particularly for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals who may feel especially vulnerable or isolated.
These positive and accepting environments can be created by validating experiences; fostering a community with peers and trusted individuals who allow someone to be themselves; and freeing spaces from bullying, intolerance, and abuse.
Stay connected. Affirm and validate your support through actions.
Use language, names, and words they identify with. Don’t make assumptions. Instead, ask questions non-judgmentally, with curiosity and compassion, and with the willingness to make mistakes and accepting that you may be corrected.
Do your own work. It is not someone else’s job to support you through your own personal learning, growing, healing or other journey towards understanding and acceptance. Explore your feelings and any barriers you may be experiencing. Be curious where messages come from in your upbringing, culture, beliefs, and community and work through it. Seek your own support or counselling if needed.
Advocate on their behalf. Having someone in their corner makes a huge difference.
Get informed. Find resources and 2SLGBTQ+-positive support people for everything from family doctors, daycare staff, to sports teams. Surround yourself and others with people who will celebrate them for who they are.
We can all do our part to show increased kindness, support, and inclusion to one another. The strongest communities are composed of unique individuals who share a sense of belonging.