RP Whitmore-Bard, Behavioral Health Coach at Headspace
Editor’s note: In this post, the acronym LGBTQ and terms like queer or queer-identified are used interchangeably to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning as well as intersex, asexual, polyamorous, and many (many) other terms that could fall under the umbrella of gender and sexual minorities. We acknowledge that there are limitations when using an umbrella-term when this community is so diverse, with many varying needs. We do so in this post to celebrate all of these identities for Pride month and to honor the shared experiences.
In 1970 in New York City, Pride was born. Initially starting out as an act of political resistance, advocating for the rights of LGBTQ or queer-identified people, today it has also become a celebration of queer life and sexuality that spans the month of June. To me personally, Pride is important both as a celebration of queer identity and culture as well as an example of the fierce resilience of the queer community.
In my work as a behavioral health coach with Headspace and as the Community Relations Director with Queer Asterisk, a nonprofit mental health organization in Boulder, Colorado led by queer and transgender therapists, the first thing that comes to my mind about working with this community is the incredible resilience queer and trans folks draw upon in the face of adversity.
I know firsthand how hard it can be to move through the world as a transgender person, and the struggles that marginalization can cause, but a lot of people who aren’t connected to the LGBTQ community might not know a ton about the experience. These daily challenges can range from subtle homophobic or transphobic comments overheard in the breakroom, to not having a gender-neutral bathroom available at work, to just deciding what to wear to work in the morning. Often, these are things that get taken for granted by the mainstream culture, but they can actually be the most stressful. While at a societal level, awareness is increasing, and we’re seeing more visibility in media, politics and the workplace, there’s still a lot of work to be done to protect the basic rights and well-being of queer and transgender people.
If you’re feeling the weight of some of these challenges, here are two things that I’ve found to be helpful.
In the face of challenges, resilience also thrives in the queer community. Research from the Fenway Institute in Boston shows that levels of LGBTQ pride are high among young people, with 82 percent reporting that, on average, they sometimes or often felt good about being LGBTQ and felt a strong sense of belonging to an LGBTQ community. Most youth (60 percent) also strongly agreed that they are looking forward to the future. As the report notes, one of the respondent’s comments clearly demonstrates how resilience can be held in the presence of adversity, stating “I think people hold multiple feelings at one time. Like, you can hold both being depressed and anxious, but also having hope for the future.”
“There is also something uniquely powerful and beautiful and vibrant and magical about folks who have this experience in the world.”
When I think about how I define resilience, what comes to mind is a term that inspires me: queer magic. What queer magic means to me is shifting the narrative from the idea that queer-identified folks are only marginalized and vulnerable. While this is true, there is also something uniquely powerful and beautiful and vibrant and magical about queer folks. I can’t say that I totally understand where this beauty and power comes from, but it’s something that I feel and see in my friends, myself, and the individuals I coach, and I believe that a lot of it has to do with resilience.
A common challenge faced by queer-identified members who I’ve worked with is isolation. If you’re feeling like you can’t be your full self in multiple areas of your life, it can be very isolating and a huge stressor. Maybe it becomes a choice between being close with your family or being in a relationship with someone you care about. A choice between having stable employment or living into the fullness of your gender identity. Handling all of these complexities, even if you are out within your community, can be a lot to bear on your own. Belonging to a community, whether it’s just a few folks you know you can safely confide in, a support group that you attend in person, or an employee resources message board, can help to prevent those feelings of isolation.
Speaking from my personal experience, I feel incredibly grateful to have had a community supporting me when I was first coming out as trans. Hearing the stories and experiences of other queer & trans folks helped me to better understand my own. The real power of community isn’t just the safety and the feeling of belonging, although that’s important too, it’s also the informal storytelling and sharing that happens. Resilience thrives when you have people who you can celebrate your victories with, and who will be sad with you when you’re feeling sad. It’s an antidote to loneliness.
“Community is an antidote to loneliness.”
There are so many daily struggles that people outside the LGBTQ community may not recognize. It takes a tremendous amount of strength and capacity to get through each day and do amazing things in the world while holding these marginalized identities. But alongside these challenges, queer-identified folks continue to lead amazing lives, to persevere and believe in who we are, and to contribute meaningfully to our families, workplaces, and communities. This year for Pride month, let’s celebrate the beauty and strength of all the LGBTQ folks in our lives.