By Laura Kaponer
In 2019, the Lowcountry held its very first Pride Celebration. Pride is about creating awareness and celebration in the LGBTQ+ (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning +) community.
Stories of triumph, challenges and heartache were shared openly in an effort to expand a safe space for those who identify LGBTQ+, as well as their allies. Historically this community has been ostracized while continuing to have to fight for the same basic rights and privileges as their counterparts.
Pride in its essence is about making room at the table for everyone.
Resources to provide adequate mental health services are scarce. Resources to provide these services to the LGBTQ+ community are even more so.
According to Mental Health America (MHA), discrimination against this community has been associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse and suicide. Additionally, MHA explains that mental health professionals’ stigma, lack of cultural sensitivity and unconscious or conscious reluctance to address sexuality may hamper the effectiveness of care.
David Myrick II, MBA, identifies within the community as a black gay male. Myrick serves as the LGBTQ+ subgroup leader for the advocacy organization Rethinkstigma.
In his role he wants to support those in his community to live the most flourishing life possible. He believes the best way to support this population is to provide education to the community at large about the humanity of the LGBTQ+ population. He hopes these efforts can impact those who are being shunned or taking their own lives while trying to live their truth.
There are those who may believe LGBTQ+ is a mental illness and/or a choice.
”I do not believe this is a choice,” Myrick said. “I truly believe we are born to be exactly who we are. However, I do believe it’s a choice to accept who you are and live your truth unapologetically.”
In regards to living one’s truth, the decision of “coming out” can be especially challenging.
“Coming Out” is a term used within the LGBTQ+ community as a way to publicly take ownership of your truth and be proud of who you are. This can be done on several levels from “coming out” to a few trusted individuals to “coming out” to the public. When, where and how are completely an individual’s choice.
“My experience with ‘coming out’ was hard. Growing up in a small town, being part of the LGBTQ+ wasn’t accepted. It was a challenge that could potentially make you or break you,” Myrick said. “I had individuals come into my life and show me that it’s OK to be gay. I learned that I had to accept myself first before anyone else. I decided to live my truth because there’s freedom in living your truth. I’m happy with who I am and I wouldn’t change being part of an amazing community.”
The acronym LGBTQ+ evolved to include transgenders, those questioning their identity and all others to create a rainbow of inclusivity. We as a community can support our peers through opening ourselves up to hear their voices and serving as allies to fight their double stigma.
Laura Kaponer is a mental health advocate, blogger and Certified Peer Support Specialist. You can find her on social media by searching #Laurakaponeris1in5.