|June is LGBT Pride Month: Let's Celebrate|
by Kate Stewart, Executive Vice President for Public Affairs
"It was a dark and stormy night…" Really, it was a dark and stormy night; the night my 11 year old daughter asked me about what it meant to be gay. We were on our way home from seeing the Hunger Games together and the car got a flat tire. As we waited for AAA, the rain beat down on the car and we both sat in silence until I heard her voice from the backseat ask, “Does being gay mean you will be bullied? Does it mean you will try to commit suicide? That you will be depressed?”
After a few stunned moments, I asked what she meant and where she had heard these things. She told me, “At school there is a poster in the guidance counselor’s office that says kids who are gay or lesbian are likely to be bullied, become depressed and commit suicide.”
“What else have you heard or talked about in school about being gay,” I asked. “Nothing,” was her reply.
We then talked about family and friends who are gay and lesbian and are very happy living their lives – some single, some married, some with kids, old, and young. She was relieved. But, I was anything but relieved. I realized that while we need to raise awareness about bulling and depression among gay and lesbian youth, that perhaps too often we send only a one-sided message.
As a GenXer who grew up in the 80’s, it reminded me about the education I received around HIV and AIDS. The message that public health officials and advocates wanted to send was protect your self don’t get HIV. But, the message I heard, and many of my friends, as well was that sex can kill you. Better to be safe and not have sex. Sex was dangerous and carried disease with it.
Being a parent now, too often I see myself and my friend focus on the problem and what we want to prevent, rather than what we want to promote. It is easy to see why we do this. We do it out of love and caring and a desire to protect young people – protect them from disease, from hateful words, from physical abuse. But, we need to stop and think about how young people internalize our fears and our drive to protect them. Without balancing how we talk and educate about sexual health with messages about pleasure, happiness, fulfillment, we are only painting one very dark and stormy picture. Instead, we should be empowering young people and reminding them to celebrate who they are and who they love.
That's why during June, LGBT Pride Month, we'll be posting stories of the world we'd like to see for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender teens and young adults: one in which our LGBT youth are accepted, valued, and loved for who they are. We'll be celebrating the great capacity of families and friends to love, to honor, and to adapt to new ideas. This June, we're proud of our LGBT youth – and of every family that has welcomed a teen's same-sex Prom date, joined the local P-FLAG branch, or backed up their kid's fight for equal rights.