By Shon Mack, VYP Board Member
Dear everyone, please stop fearing what you do not understand. When I say everyone, I truly mean everyone, especially as it relates to the LGBTQ+ universe, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer. I would be remiss if I did not start with the fact that the LGBTQ+ community has made significant strides in the last decade, including the landmark Supreme Court rulings legalizing same sex marriage in 2015. Other battles are ongoing, such as the rights of transgender people to serve in the military. Despite all challenges in the way of the LGBTQ+ community, I do know one thing. We will prevail and succeed, but we have much further to go both within our community and outside of it.
For many, I think the word FEAR and the impacts from it are intensified both in how people respond to a person’s choice of who they decide to love and/or who they identify as. Unfortunately, fear leads to discrimination and bias, even within our home of safety. How can we expect others to see us without judgement if our LGBTQ+ community is not inclusive? I believe the solution starts with education. Educating ourselves on terminology and what it means to be non-binary, pansexual, trans, queer, genderqueer. Education on how to refer to people so as to not place a bias on them. I am not saying that support and inclusivity is not present in the LGBTQ+ community, but I am saying that there is room for improvement. With this improvement will come increased love and support for one another. This need is intensified since the process of coming out can cause or intensify depression, anxiety, and psychological distress.
The second form of that support comes from outside the LGBTQ+ community. We have already established that fear can be minimized by education, but not everyone is going to take the time to put their ignorance to rest. Enter allyship. An ally, according to a writer from Forbes, “is any person that actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional, positive and conscious efforts that benefit people a whole.” Allies are pillars of strength, advocating for equality and speaking out on issues like discrimination and access to healthcare. Standing up for what we believe in is not an easy task, but there are great resources like PFLAG and the Greater Phoenix Equality Chamber of Commerce (GPECC) to help find ways to be more supportive of the family, friends, and colleagues.
In the month of June, I often see corporations adorn their logos in rainbows. While I hope this gesture comes from a place of promoting inclusion and equality and not their pockets, the issues that the LGBTQ+ community faces go beyond this month. We must all continue this journey to judge less and love more. If you are a parent whose child is questioning who they are or who they want to love, I beg you to love them unconditionally. If you have a friend or co-worker that is transitioning to outwardly express who they are, educate yourself about how to interact with them. If you don’t know anyone who is openly gay, chances are you actually do and just don’t know, so check any biases you may have. If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community and even if you are not, treat those in the queer umbrella with dignity and respect. Love and accept people for who they and do not treat us differently because you don’t understand us. If you take one thing away from this article remember three things: Educate, Love & Support.
Happy Pride Month.